Case study: How GVI manages participant expectations
Taking the step toward making an impact with GVI is a big commitment. It requires a large time, emotional and financial investment that is not often made casually or on the spur of the moment.
Many participants will spend months speaking with GVI Enrolment Managers and doing extensive research to decide on the program that they want to participate in most. From our side, this period of engagement involves matching the participant to a program that is best suited to their passions and goals.
Once we’ve achieved this, it’s the role of our Enrolment Managers, Support Coordinators, marketing and field teams to set the right expectations for participants. Because try though we might, it’s often impossible to not create expectations, especially when making such a big commitment.
For the most part, participants arrive at their base knowing exactly what it’s about. Unfortunately, there are sometimes unforeseen circumstances that lead to false expectations being created. When this happens, it’s time to leap into action to ensure that the participant is cared for and the situation is rectified to the best of our ability.
Cassie Windows is currently a happy, thriving GVI Scholar at our coastal and wildlife conservation base on the island of Curieuse in Seychelles. But her story at GVI Seychelles Curieuse didn’t start on quite the right foot. This is the story of how Cassie’s expectations weren’t set right and how GVI staff worked to make it all okay.
How expectations were set up incorrectly
“When I first booked with GVI I was adamant I wanted to go to South Africa and volunteer on a reserve,” said Cassie.
“The Enrolment Manager I was talking to at the time explained everything [about the] GVI South Africa Limpopo program very well, and mentioned that there was a combined program which I could do that included a month Seychelles before Limpopo.
“There wasn’t much talk about this add-on program, so I went to look at the GVI Seychelles Facebook page. It had tortoises, scuba diving, sharks, more scuba diving, turtles, mangroves, and yet again more scuba diving.
“For someone who [didn’t] initially know anything about the different GVI base[s] on different islands in Seychelles, it is awfully confusing to see the content from two different base[s] on the same Facebook page.
“I was sold on all of the photographs on the Facebook page, especially the scuba diving ones, so I called back and booked it.”
As Cassie was to find out, we have two separate bases on two different islands in Seychelles. The base and program she was interested in most – due to all the images and videos of scuba diving – was the marine conservation base on the island of Mahe.
The program that the Enrolment Manager had been talking about, was the coastal and wildlife conservation base on the island of Curieuse. We don’t do diving at GVI Seychelles Curieuse.
“I would say it was partly my fault [for] having not asked more in depth questions about the program in the Seychelles,” said Cassie. “But the Facebook page was very misleading.”
Arriving on the wrong base
When Cassie arrived at GVI Seychelles Curieuse, she asked one of the staff members when they would start scuba diving. Our staff member replied that on Curieuse we don’t do scuba diving, and that it was the other base on Mahe island that scuba diving takes place.
“I was a little upset about not being able to do scuba diving every day. But as I slowly learnt about this program, I started to fall in love with the island of Curieuse and the conservation that happens on the island.
“The staff apologized, but I knew that it wasn’t their fault. To try to make things better, they helped me organize a scuba dive on Praslin for my day off, which I was very excited about.
“I am very happy that I ended up at Curieuse instead of Mahe. The island of Curieuse itself and the conservation that happens here is amazing. All the staff members are welcoming, excited about their jobs, and keen to teach the volunteers as much as they can.
“The other volunteers made my stay at Curieuse amazing. We all had the same interests and passions. After my month-long stay at Curieuse, it felt like I was a part of a small family.
“We have all of our meals together, we go on hikes together, and we spend all of our free time together. I met one of my best friends here on the GVI Curieuse program.”
“It’s nice to have expectations and know what you are walking into, but sometimes when you don’t have expectations of a place it is always better.
“[When] things don’t go exactly as you had planned, not having expectations can always work out better. I thought I was going to Mahe, but instead I went to Curieuse.
“It may sound like it was a bit of a mistake but really, me ending up on Curieuse was a great thing. I learnt so much more that I could apply towards my university degree, as well as being lucky enough to receive a volunteer Scholar position to return to Curieuse for three months, a year later.
“I would tell future participants who might have their expectations set falsely to speak to someone about it, but try not to be too upset.
“All of GVI’s programs have roughly the same layout and mixture of duty days and educational components, and maybe something really good can come out of it. If I had gone to Mahe for my program, I wouldn’t have returned to Curieuse as a volunteer Scholar.”
Cassie’s experience turned out to be one of the best of her life and she wouldn’t change a thing. However, we always strive to set the right expectations so that no participant will ever feel upset or disappointed. The happiness and well-being of our participants is of the utmost importance to us.
GVI Enrolment Managers, Support Coordinators, and marketing team members have, at the time of this case study, been through extensive training on each of GVI’s 20+ bases, and hundreds of programs.
Similarly, we always strive to improve the flow of information between every staff member worldwide so that everyone is informed and always has the right knowledge to set proper expectations.
Interested in volunteering abroad? Speak to a member of our team today.
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