Top Tips for Remote Volunteering

This new resource is for media and creative industry professionals looking to volunteer their skills to give back to charities at this critical time. Due to COVID-19, many of us are working remotely, temporarily furloughed or out of work due to projects being on hold. Volunteering is a brilliant way you can help, by using your skills for good.

We know from our recent COVID-19 charity communications survey that a lot of the charity support needed can be done remotely – from helping charities use online platforms to reach and serve their beneficiaries who are used to face to face interactions, to creating digital content including online copy, short films and infographics, to advice on social media and digital fundraising.

And if you don’t think you have much to contribute, bear in mind something we always hear from charities is that having someone experienced to talk to is incredibly valuable in it itself.

1. Check you’re the right fit

Before putting your hand up to volunteer, ask yourself what motivates you and what it is about this opportunity that excites you, whether you have the required skills and experience and whether you can devote the time needed. Make sure to do your homework on the charity – research and read up on them and what they do online via their website, blogs, YouTube channels and Twitter feed to get a sense of their values and their voice.

2. Do you have the right tech?

Ensure you have a good internet connection. Establish upfront the charities preference for communicating, whether they have access to Google Hangouts, Teams or Zoom for video calls, or would prefer an old school phone call. Agree a system and protocol for sharing documents and make sure you’re GDPR compliant.

3. Get to know each other

Volunteering remotely means you need to establish and build your relationship online. Take time to introduce yourself and get to know the person/people you’ll be supporting. Share something personal about yourself, why you’re interested in their work and cause, as well as the skills and experience you have.

4. Agree the brief

Start by setting up a call with the charity to ensure you fully understand their brief. It may be that you need to help them refine their brief, or that once you delve deeper it turns out they need a different skill set to yours. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure you are on the right track – it will save you both time in the long-run and if you don’t think you have the skills needed be honest. Putting the agreed brief in writing to ensure you’re all on the same page at the start helps everyone kick off on the same page and keep on track.

5. Be realistic about time

Remember the charity isn’t an expert in your area which is why they are asking for help so it’s possible they don’t appreciate how long the task might take. Make sure you think realistically about how long something might take to complete and agree this upfront with them. Also, make sure you keep the charity posted on your progress – agree when and how you will share updates to let them know how you’re getting on, and if your estimated timeline has changed.

6. Agree the legals upfront

Agree who will own the intellectual property in any creative ideas, designs, software and materials developed by you for the charity and make sure this is documented upfront. The typical scenario would see the volunteer assign all intellectual property rights to the charity provided they agree to acknowledge the author/designer. You might also want to retain the right to display the work in portfolios, exhibitions and other promotional channels. Charities should also set limits on how you can use any confidential information – if the charity you’re working with doesn’t think to bring it up, you should proactively initiate a discussion and come to a joint agreement.

7. Resolve issues quickly with a phone call

Email, text, DM and other written methods of communication can be prone to misunderstandings. When you sense this is happening, be quick to pick up the phone to resolve issues.

8. Put yourself in the charity’s shoes

Be patient and forgiving if the charity is slow to respond or you run into other frustrations. Be mindful of the fact that many smaller charities don’t have the capacity to properly manage volunteers. Media Trust are here to support you if any challenges arise, get in touch, we’re here to help.

9. Ensure volunteering is the same standard as client work

Too often, charities are let down by volunteers who cancel at the last minute and/or don’t deliver as expected. Sometimes this is because volunteers are flaky – other times it’s because of the pressure of their day jobs. Of course, there will be times when this is unavoidable and business imperatives have to come first but you need to be committed to producing work of the same standard as client work. It is your reputation after all.

10. Share the love

Let people know about the charity you are supporting and help build visibility of their work by sharing it with your networks on social, WhatsApp, with friends and family. The more people that know about the charity, the bigger impact they can have. If you love your volunteering experience with your charity, let other people know about Media Trust’s Volunteering Platform so more charities can support service users, raise their profile, campaign and fundraise when their help is needed most.

We have some more great tips on how to get the most out of volunteering in general which you can read here.

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