This past year’s brought out the best in a lot of people - over ten million of them, in fact.
Last year’s study from Legal & General and the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that one in five UK adults (19%) volunteered their time for community activities since the start of the first lockdown on 23 March.
Of those who’d given up their time, (67%) did grocery shopping for neighbours, friends and others, while a quarter (26%) collected and delivered medicines or prescriptions.
But as the world readjusts and - dare we say it - returns to some sense of normality, there’s more of a need for digital volunteers than ever before.
So whether you’ve got an eye for design or comms is your thing, here’s how and where you can spare your skills this Volunteers Week.
Digital marketing – the forgotten frontier for volunteers
For whatever reason, digital isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about volunteering. However, today it’s where the modern professional can make the biggest impact.
In 2017, NHS hospitals were among many organisations rocked by ransomware hackers. However, one of the first to have their computers back up and running was the Lister Hospital in Stevenage.
Hertfordshire police sent a young team of tech-savvy volunteers to save the day. And, consequently, the hospital came away unscathed - and didn’t pay a penny.
“The talented techies who restored the Lister Hospital’s computer system provide a stunning example of what can be achieved,” says Peter Keller, Chair of NCVO.
Currently, “...only 6% of volunteering is done exclusively online; but as much as 57% is done through a mix of online and offline activities. The opportunities are plainly huge,” he said.
Don’t give up your day job - utilise it
With so many charities, start-ups and befriending schemes crying out for volunteers, it’s difficult to know where to spare your time - especially with a full-time job.
In fact, according to the UK Civil Society Almanac 2020, having work commitments is the biggest barrier for not taking part in formal volunteering or not volunteering more frequently (49%). NCVO’s Time Well Spent research also reported a widespread perception that volunteering is too time-consuming and not flexible enough.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the past 12-months, it’s how to be more flexible. So why should volunteering be any different?
For Jackie Menjivar, Content & Creative Strategist at DoSomething.org, volunteering online is more convenient without being any less fulfilling.
“The coronavirus pandemic has kept a lot of us at home for longer than anyone could’ve expected, and with all that extra time indoors, it’s easy to feel a little aimless. If you’re looking for a sense of purpose amid the chaos, consider safely online volunteering from the comfort of your home,” she said.
And evidence suggests the appetite to share our professional skills is already there. The Time Well Spent research revealed that 52% surveyed said they would want to make use of their existing skills or experience when volunteering. And with 81% already volunteering locally in their neighbourhoods, there seems to be a real opportunity for marketing professionals to utilise their day jobs.
But where do you start?
Catchafire is a great resource for finding opportunities to volunteer virtually. The organisation is currently focussing on nonprofits that are most at risk following COVID and you can provide skills in everything from branding to business development. Their mantra is “give what you’re good at” and you can find specific examples of where digital professionals have made an impact here.
Similarly, you can sign up to Digital Boost for free as a volunteer and they’ll match your skills with an organisation in need of some help. You can register to volunteer your skills here.
The changing face of charity – volunteering goes virtual
From transcribing to befriending, virtual volunteering has come a long way in the past few years. However, with SMEs, public sector services and charities having to radically readjust and juggle their resources as of late, digital skill sets are in demand like never before.
And one area that’s screaming out for support is social.
“Limited budgets, small teams, and overwhelming workloads prevent many nonprofits from creating a social media strategy,” say the authors at VOMO in ‘Is Technology Changing The Way We Volunteer?’
This is despite research showing that 55% of people who engage with a cause via social media will take subsequent action.
Skilled social media volunteers not only amplify an organisation’s message and reach, they ensure their voice feels authentic and consistent, too. Crucial for non-profits that find themselves battling for donations in an ever-crowded space. The American Red Cross made great use of their social media volunteers during the pandemic when they asked them to rally up blood donors during shortages; nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives were canceled in the US due to coronavirus concerns, leading to 86,000 less blood donations.
But there are so many organisations looking for help with their social accounts.
For any climate conscious communicators, Tree Action UK is currently looking for a volunteer social media marketing manager. You can register your interest here.
Giving up your time’s unquestionably selfless - but volunteering doesn’t have to be a one-way street.
What’s in it for me? How volunteering helps everyone grow (including you)
Besides the obvious “this feels good for the soul” benefits of volunteering, it can actually be a great way of gaining experience as well
Something that’s become a lot harder to gain when, according to Studenteer, 83% of the young people surveyed lost their jobs or had their internships revoked last year.
Connecting students and recent graduates to charities, Studenteer is a non-profit organisation that helps young people find “placements with purpose”.
“The projects Studenteer provides are tailored on both ends, so both the students’ skills and interests, and the charities needs are taken into consideration personally both by a dedicated project assistant and matching assistant at Studenteer HQ,” said Anna-Karina Yuill, a volunteer at Studenteer in a spotlight on the organisation.
This benefits everyone involved because it “...enables students’ career-aspirations to play a key role, which can help in narrowing the opportunity gap as their passions and skills are considered just as much as their degree and any previous experience they may have,” she says.
So if you’re new to the industry and are looking to do some good, this is the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone.
But what if you’ve got the experience and you’re ready to go? Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do online.
Online volunteering opportunities for the meaningful marketer - (job satisfaction guaranteed)
Benefits include: an even greater sense of purpose
- Media Trust has 53 opportunities at the time of writing; they’re looking for website designers, developers, content creators and much more. So, lend a hand if you can.
- Reach Volunteering is looking for a PR professional to spread the gospel. If you’re good with comms, this one’s for you.
- Eco-friendly clothing brand Smarter Uniforms is recruiting a Creative Social Media and Marketing Director. Great for families, schools and the environment - it’s a win win.
- Ignite Mental Health is seeking a senior designer to join its ranks on a volunteer basis. Good cause this (if you’ve got 6-9 hours per week to spare).
In terms of volunteer marketing, this is just a small taste of what’s out there. Today, organisations - large and small - are trying to adapt and would welcome your expertise. So if you’ve got the time and feel like a little something’s missing inbetween the daily grind and evening stream-athon, now’s your chance to do something great.
Written by Andy Baker
Andy is a creative copywriter, content strategist and vegan pizza connoisseur. When he’s not helping brands channel their tone of voices, he’s probably sketching, listening to records or throwing pebbles on the beach for his dog, Eric. Good boy.