Meet Tamsin Vigar, a recent intern with DCF. We asked Tamsin to help us pilot the use of telephone conversations in lieu of paper-based end-of-grant reporting forms for some of our grantholders. The Covid crisis meant she needed to do all her work remotely. Here’s her account of how it went!
Having just completed my 2-week internship with Devon Community Foundation, I decided to take a moment to reflect upon the day it started. I went into the process with some knowledge of the interviewing process and data collection from my social sciences degree, however I had only ever conducted interviews with friends and family. I was up for the challenge though, as the charity sector is of great interest to me and I’ve always loved working with and for others. Although it hasn’t been a long time since my first day, the number of people I’ve spoken to and the confidence I’ve built in doing so has been incredible.
Monday, 15th June 2020
I’ve woken up nervous. I don’t know what sorts of people I’ll be talking to today, or how they will react to the questions I’ll be asking. I’ve set up my desk as neatly as possible, given all the print-outs and furiously scribbled notes that yesterday’s Tamsin must have thought was necessary for my short induction meeting with Nicola. Already on my third cup of tea, half past nine rolls around quickly and it’s time to zoom.
After chatting to Nicola, I’m feeling much more prepared. We clarified the key information that I need to get from each interview, and brainstormed some ways of presenting it. Despite previous interviewing experience as part of my anthropology degree, I had never picked up the phone to call a specific stranger before. It’s all fine talking to my open, friendly manager about the process and what needs to be found out, however picking up the phone and morphing into the character of confident interviewer is still daunting. No time like the present…
After a productive morning of sending e-mails, arranging interview slots and printing prompt sheets I took a lunch break and composed myself before my first interview of the week – and just to make it that bit more intimidating it’s with a policeman! However, none of my worry was justified. As expected, he was very passionate about the work that his department were doing to better the lives of young people in the area. I found myself frantically typing notes and quotes as he spoke, wanting to record every detail of his work. As the week went on, I found myself becoming more able to just extract the necessary information and being much more relaxed as an interviewer.
I continued on to do three more interviews during the afternoon, all of which went as smoothly as they could have! The conversations were generally led by the specific experiences of the grant-receivers, making each one very different but equally interesting. I had to direct the conversation a lot less than expected, as each person was more than willing to share anecdotes and challenges that their group had experienced.
To finish the day I wrote up my notes in a neater, more structured way in order to lay out the key information from each chat. This really put into perspective just how different each organisation that I’d spoken to is. I then replied to any outstanding e-mails and sent one off to Nicola to let her know what a great first day I’d had. Bring on Tuesday!
So, what tips would I give to anyone looking to take on this role? Don’t be nervous (I know, easier said than done). Everyone that I called was willing, if not eager, to share their stories about how money from DCF had enabled them to help others. Most also commented at the end of their calls that they’d really enjoyed having an interview as opposed to filling out a feedback form, proving how you’re not being a nuisance by calling – people are passionate about talking about their work! In terms of preparation, the best you can do is plan out your time to allow for any lateness or overrun in conversations, as well as taking into account the time that you’ll need to spend collating and writing-out the relevant information from each chat. Finally, make sure you know some background on what the organisation does – most have a website with a short video explaining this, or even a Facebook page with images! Knowing some context will allow for more informative conversations. Aside from this, the most important thing is to keep an open mind and really listen to what people have to say – I definitely learnt lots this past two weeks and hope to do similar work in the future.
Tamsin came to DCF through the University of Exeter’s Pathways Programme, which provides a full-time wage for students to undertake a week’s worth of work experience with an organisation. DCF is working with the University to improve opportunities for students and community organisations to benefit from this kind of relationship.
30th June 2020