Digital Skills used in Digital Volunteerism
Prepared by Deborah Abrahams
Since the emergence of the COVID-19 as a global pandemic, the obligations of a volunteer have shifted from physical to digital. Many non-profit organisations (NPOs) are encouraged to migrate to digital platforms in order to manage their volunteer programmes and fundraisers remotely. They are increasingly reliant on digital volunteers who possess the requisite digital abilities to create a social impact. But what are the digital skills that volunteers can learn and apply in order to volunteer digitally? Do you want to learn more about digital volunteerism? Read on to discover more about it, including the benefits and more!
Table of Contents
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many non-profit organisations (NPOs) to shift towards digital platforms to run their volunteer programs and fundraisers remotely. With that, the responsibilities of a volunteer have also changed from physical volunteering such as helping out at food drives, to digital volunteering which involves working on digital platforms such as social media to promote organisations. Many NPOs now rely on digital volunteers who have the necessary digital skills required to make a social impact. This article discusses the meaning of digital volunteerism, the digital skills that volunteers can learn and use to volunteer digitally, and the benefits of digital volunteerism. It will also discuss a few case studies on how organisations have successfully used digital volunteers.
Digital volunteerism refers to using digital skills for social good through social media as well as other digital platforms which can be virtual or physical. These skills vary from technical skills such as coding to more accessible skills such as graphic design. Some of these digital skills include coding for websites, utilising drag-and-drop programs for web development, creating graphic content, handling social media, audio and video editing, and raising funds through social platforms.
Digital Skills Volunteers Can Use
Digital skills are crucial for individuals who want to volunteer digitally to ensure they fulfil the requirements of the volunteer position. Here are some digital skills that volunteers can learn or use in digital volunteerism:
Computer programmes are essentially instructions written by programmers in specialised languages such as Java, HTML, Python, and more to create web pages and software applications. Volunteers with knowledge and experience in computer programming can use these skills to build or update web pages for NPOs. Most of the time, non-profits lack good Information Technology (IT) resources and a proper budget to update their websites periodically. Updating their websites ensures that organisations can attract more sponsors and build brand awareness.
Additionally, students and junior programmers can volunteer at non-profit organisations to teach computer programming to different groups of people. Some organisations such as CodeYourFuture have online courses that teach future volunteers the coding syllabus which prepares them to teach others.
Low Code and No Code Web Development
Low Code/No Code (LC/NC) is a way of developing applications and processes for individuals who have minimal or no knowledge on coding but want to help NPOs in web development. LC/NC uses Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to assist users through the programming process, through a drag-and-drop system that contains pre-made templates instead of programming languages to build websites and software applications efficiently.
ThunderQuote recently published an article entitled “Demystifying Low Code and No Code Platforms”, talking about the difference between Low Code and No Code and why using LC/NC can be beneficial. Essentially, LC/NC benefits non-coders and NPOs in updating websites quickly and improving common business workflows.
NPOs are always looking for volunteers with technical design skills to help them create eye-catching images and logos for their social media, branding, and websites. Unfortunately, many people turn away from graphic design because design software can be expensive and difficult to learn unless they have background knowledge in graphic design. However, websites such as Canva and Visme have allowed designers and non-designers to create marketing collaterals through a drag-and-drop system with a wide array of pre-made templates and tools to create attractive images and graphics. That being said, graphic design volunteers need to have a keen eye for detail and an understanding of an organisation’s brand identity to accurately portray its brand image.
Graphic design volunteers can also teach leaders and other volunteers how to design websites and create marketing collaterals. It not only helps the individuals within an organisation to develop new skills but also ensures that the NPO has the necessary skills to create graphics in the future, especially if the graphic design volunteer is working on a short-term basis.
Social Media Management
Social media is one of the most effective, if not the most effective, ways that organisations can market themselves. It is also a platform that many people, especially young people, are aware of and utilise daily. It makes it easier for those who want to use their social media literacy skills for social good and create an online presence for NPOs. One of the biggest things non-profits struggle with is time, so producing and managing multiple social media accounts may not be feasible for them.
Being social media managers, volunteers have the opportunity to create and post social media content that drives engagement, design social media feeds, and do live streams, among other things. Social media managers act as a voice for non-profit organisations to communicate their cause and social impact to the intended audience. An added advantage to volunteering as a social media manager is that volunteers don’t have to be proficient in social media. It can be used to build social media skills and to learn how social media works while supporting causes for social good.
Audio and Video Editing
For many non-profits, recording videos and audio is easy enough, but editing them to tell a captivating story about their organisations can be difficult. With time and budget constraints, editing is not on their priority list but volunteers with some video and audio editing knowledge can help to create videos and audio clips for the organisation’s website and social media pages.
While professional editing software may not be suitable for beginners and can be expensive, many applications and software like Filmora and Audacity are user-friendly and cost-effective. Many laptops in the market also come with a built-in video editor, iMovie for Mac and Windows Movie Maker for Windows laptops. Nowadays, there are mobile editing applications such as InShot and CapCut, which are perfect for volunteers who are not familiar with editing but want to gain experience through volunteering for causes that they are passionate about.
Volunteering in tech support does not require extensive background knowledge in technology and IT. Volunteers may need to assist staff members and fellow volunteers of NPOs to set up virtual rooms for meetings and support groups on platforms such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Google Meets. They may also assist in basic troubleshooting in case participants are not able to access the virtual meeting room. In other non-profit organisations, tech support volunteers help those in need, such as disabled people and the elderly, helping them connect to the Internet, and basic troubleshooting to detect and remove malware and other issues.
An added advantage to volunteering in tech support is that volunteers can do it completely remotely. Except for a working mobile device and a strong Internet connection, volunteers do not require any other tools to offer tech support services.
Raising funds is crucial to NPOs because funds are an essential resource to carry out their initiatives. Without money, non-profits would not be able to hold food drives, offer financial aid, and provide other forms of assistance to support their causes. Today, NPOs benefit from digital fundraising tools to raise money for their charity programs. Volunteering in digital fundraising involves building relationships with potential partners and donors and organising fundraising events, physically or on virtual platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Teams.
Volunteering in digital fundraising also helps to develop volunteers’ communications skills, teaching them to communicate strategically and effectively to build and maintain relationships with individuals and organisations for future fundraising partnerships.
Benefits of Digital Volunteerism
Volunteering can be difficult for some people due to packed schedules and timing issues. Digital volunteering allows individuals to volunteer for NPOs according to their desired workflows. Many digital volunteer positions now also allow volunteers to work remotely, giving back to the community anywhere and at any time of the day.
Furthermore, digital volunteerism also allows volunteers to choose how involved they want to be in the organisation and how long they want to volunteer. Most NPOs, such as Code.org have different volunteer programs for long-term and short-term volunteering.
Based on the different forms of digital skills mentioned in this article, digital volunteerism relies on skills such as graphic design, computer programming, and editing. Thus, volunteering helps individuals with these skills to sharpen them by using them in a social good context.
Additionally, digital volunteerism also benefits individuals interested in a specific skill by enabling them to practice and learn how to use it. For example, if a person wants to learn web development but does not have the funds to enrol in a course, digital volunteerism allows them to do so without having to spend money. Volunteering at non-profit organisations that teach volunteers to code or use Low Code/No Code platforms to develop websites for NPOs will benefit these individuals.
Improve Resume & CV
The skills acquired and developed during digital volunteerism can benefit people professionally. They can improve their resumes and CVs if the volunteer work reflects the job positions that they are applying for.
For example, if someone wants to apply for a position at an event management company, working as a digital fundraising volunteer will equip them with the necessary skills to plan events, and reach out to potential event partners.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced New York-based non-profit organisation HCCI to cancel its annual fundraising event and left it blindsided by the sudden digital shift, the organisation worked with Verizon to develop a plan to replace the lost funds. A group of volunteers provided the NPO with a 30-60-90-day plan with tactics to maximise engagement and measure results. The group worked on content creation for social media and provided support on how to use crowdfunding platforms such as AmazonSmile and Facebook. The result? HCCI accumulated $7,500 on social return on investment during its digital fundraiser and they are also equipped to plan future digital fundraisers thanks to the foundation laid out by the volunteer group.
In 2013, two paediatricians saw a growing problem of parents not bringing their sick children to the doctor but instead waiting to see if the symptoms persisted. Dr Foo Chee Hoe and Dr Zahilah Filzah Zulkifli established Doktorbudak.com, a website dedicated to encourage parents to bring their children for early treatment. The website ran on a question-and-answer system, where parents wrote in questions about symptoms their children are experiencing. The doctors would then reply to provide solutions to treat the symptoms. Currently, the website is run by a group of volunteer doctors who answer parents’ queries every day. Although the website is convenient, the doctors suggest parents still take their children to get physical treatment.
When the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC) in the U.S. was looking to upgrade its word-of-mouth branding and advertising, the NPO worked with Taproot Foundation, an online platform for non-profits to connect with skilled volunteers to build a strong Communications and Marketing strategy that will build awareness around MMCC. Now, the organisation is working on using its new art integration system to assist in the communication abilities of patients with dementia, autism, and Alzheimer’s.
- Digital volunteerism refers to using digital skills virtually or physically for social good through social media and virtual platforms.
- Some valuable skills for volunteers are computer programming, Low Code/No Code web development, graphic design, social media management, audio and video editing, tech support, and digital fundraising.
- The benefits of digital volunteerism include flexibility, sharpening of skills, and improved resumes and CVs.
- Case studies on the Harlem Congregation for Community Improvement (HCCI), DoktorBudak.com, and the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC) found that digital volunteerism can be beneficial for organisations.