Coordinating volunteers can either be done by a full-time Volunteer Coordinator or by a teacher with a certain amount of time designated to the coordination. Some teachers, however, will prefer to have coordination managed by an independent third party for the added support and accountability that this provides.
Matching volunteers and activities
The matching of a new volunteer with an activity or task depends both on where their interests lie (what tasks they want to do) and their availability (when and how often they’re able to give their time). Experience and skills also are a factor here.
One-to-one language support
If the volunteer is interested in being matched one-to-one with a refugee it is preferable that the volunteer is experienced (perhaps the volunteer has already experience with one-to-one meetings or has participated in a conversation club) as they will be alone with the learner. Personal factors can also be important for making a good match, especially where volunteers will be working closely with individuals. The volunteer’s gender, religion, age, interest, study and or work experience may play an important role when matching. The next step in matching volunteers with learners one-to-one is a face-to-face meeting between the volunteer, the volunteer coordinator and the learner, where the volunteer gets introduced to the learner and the structure and ground rules or principles for future one-to-one meetings are established.
If the new volunteer is interested in classroom support, then the match between the volunteer and the teacher is important as the teacher and the volunteer are going to work closely together.
Volunteers’ involvement as classroom support should always be based on the wishes of the teacher. The process starts by the teacher asking the coordinator for a volunteer or expressing enthusiasm for the idea. The coordinator then needs as much information as possible from the teacher about the class (day, time, level, the volunteer’s role). The coordinator can then find a suitable volunteer who is available at the time required.
Once a potential class is found for the volunteer, the coordinator can then organise the first meeting between the volunteer and the teacher.
Job clubs and conversation clubs
For those volunteers interested in supporting job seeking, it’s preferable to find people with up-to-date knowledge of the job market and how to apply for jobs.
For both job and conversation clubs, it’s worth involving a variety of volunteers (in terms of gender, age, work experience) in order to reach a varied target group.
No relevant opportunities
If no match is possible at the time that an otherwise suitable volunteer applies, the volunteer coordinator might want to stay in touch with the prospective volunteer, as they may be available to do volunteer work in the organisation when other opportunities arise. It is therefore important that the coordinator makes as many notes about the volunteer as possible so the coordinator knows who to contact when the need for a new volunteer arise.
Think about what data you need to collect from your new volunteer for your coordination and how this will be stored and accessed. As well as the contact and background information you’ll have likely gathered in the recruitment process, you will need to keep records on which volunteers are active in the organisation. This can include what task the volunteer is doing, day and time they attend, when they joined. An overview of the volunteers’ coming and going in the organisation is important for organisation, accountability and for contacting volunteers en masse.
There may be teachers who have experience of working with volunteers and therefore need less support to get started. However, there may also be teachers who want to work with a volunteer but aren’t sure how best to involve them. This is where the volunteer coordinator’s support can be particularly helpful. You can also refer the teacher to our Toolkit for Teachers for guidance and ideas for classroom activities that make good use of volunteers.
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“Here every student is a teacher and every teacher is a student. Even though each course has a facilitator, we work according to the principles of critical pedagogy – everyone is actively involved in shaping the learning process.”
Project Coordinator, London