At Reach, we have experience of working with some great volunteers remotely – some of whom we never meet in person! It’s been my privilege to have recruited graphic designers, case study writers, search engine and social media experts through our platform, and to have worked with them successfully to create real impact for Reach. And that’s why I can say with every confidence it can work.
Making the role very specific
Back in 2018, after we relaunched our website, we wanted to improve how people found out about us. We knew lots of charities and volunteers found success using the website and we wanted to maximise people finding us via organic search – by typing us into google. The first time I advertised led to me having a useful phone conversation with a potential volunteer, clarifying the role a little as a result of that conversation (being more specific) and then advertising again.
That’s when we met Damon. I say met, but to begin with we had a phone conversation about the role and work started with weekly phone calls including my fellow Reach colleague Sarah Dewe.
Damon talked us through the issues, things we needed to try and grew his own knowledge of what we were trying to achieve. Each week we took away a list of actions/things to attempt and then came back the following week to catch up on the results, challenges, questions. We learned a great deal, he coached us through the process and he took away tasks he could do for us. We had some great results – a 150% increase in internet traffic from Google. We also brought knowledge into the organisation and we benefited from the extra pair of expert hands to help us deliver!
The process wasn’t just one way traffic, as Damon makes clear in some feedback by email he gave us: `I think that many successful people want to give back to the community, enjoy new challenges, and volunteering their skills is an easy way to make a big difference.
`It’s also great to have a charity on your CV – I’ve had a lot of people mention it to me, and if you're in a full time role, it’s great to get out of rut and approach something new.’
Making remote working 'work'
We put some of the free tools available to charities to good use – using Google docs to record shared actions and information. And we made sure we communicated regularly and openly. We benefited from the fact that Damon had worked with paid clients remotely before, as he explains: ‘I actually work remotely for many of my clients – in fact I’ve had several clients who I’ve never even met! In my experience there is a big difference between skills-based volunteering and on the ground volunteering. Because all my volunteer roles have been completed remotely, I’ve been able to work them around my existing commitments and it makes the whole process a lot easier.’ We've been lucky that despite joining us to do a very specific piece of work, Damon has gone on to do more with us and is supporting us with amongst other things, our Google Adwords account.
While remote volunteering and remote working from home is new to many teams in charities, now more than ever, it’s clear it can help charities access the skills they need. There is so much I could not have achieved with volunteers like Damon (there have been others too, Phil, Tim, Ariadne…) and we’ve learned so much along the way that has helped us grow and develop as an organisation.