Start a degree program at American Public University.
By Dr. Jessica Sapp
Associate Professor, School of Health Sciences, American Public University
Technology has revolutionized how we perform many activities. We are seeing this revolution now especially in remote jobs, online degree programs and social media.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 70% of adult Americans use social media. That study is evidence that social media channels are a great way to reach people, a major contributor to creating online communities and a relatively new opportunity for volunteerism.
Increasingly, organizations are adopting digital volunteering to supplement their staffing needs. For example, the American Red Cross uses digital volunteers during disasters to monitor online calls from disaster-affected people and to share important disaster updates through social media sites. There are other uses of digital volunteers as well.
Five Ways You Can Use Digital Volunteers in Your Organization
1. Social media promotion: There are so many social media platforms today that it can be a full-time job to monitor and promote them. Digital volunteers can help with this endeavor.
As part of an APUS-funded research grant, the university recently launched a public health Facebook page designed to provide reliable health information to our online community. Digital volunteers and interns assist by providing content.
2. Blogging and material development: Blogging and online newsletters are a good way to inform readers about various topics. Digital volunteers can write blog articles or create various health-related materials like brochures or flyers.
3. Data entry: Data and metrics are valuable in practically all industries. In public health, we depend on data to evaluate our programs. Digital volunteers can perform data entry tasks, freeing staff to continue providing health services.
4. Fundraising emails and phone calls: Many non-profit or community-based organizations rely on outside funding to underwrite their programs. Digital volunteers can assist this effort by contacting potential donors.
5. Virtual staff support: All organizations perform required daily operations. Digital volunteers can assist with scheduling, recording meeting minutes, preparing presentation slides, responding to online inquiries and providing customer service.
How to Recruit Digital Volunteers
A productive way to recruit digital volunteers is to start by looking online because you want individuals who are familiar with the online environment. Posting announcements on your social media accounts will target your current followers. You can also create Facebook advertisements to recruit volunteers, budget permitting.
Students are eager to learn and grow professionally. Some programs like public health require a practicum, but the practicum typically occurs in the final semester.
Underclassmen or even high school students can gain valuable experience by volunteering, which tends to have fewer entry requirements than internships. In addition, digital volunteering time is flexible and can fit into school schedules.
Moreover, college recruiters view volunteering as a plus on student applications. Some college scholarships even require community service during high school.
Collaborating with your local community is an excellent way to recruit digital volunteers. Many public community bulletin boards permit help-wanted announcements.
Also, local businesses often allow community postings or rack cards. Some communities with a newsletter or an online magazine will provide space for a story or advertisement for digital volunteers.
Online networking is an important component of marketing, but it doesn’t necessarily replace other forms of networking. If you are an organization with a physical presence in the community, you need to network with professionals, businesses, organizations, schools and anyone who is interested in your goals and products. The more people who are in your network, the more potential digital volunteers they will generate.
Conferences, Expos and Health Fairs
Recruiting digital volunteers does not have to be done solely online. Anytime you meet with someone is an opportunity to recruit digital volunteers. If you attend conferences, expos or health fairs, you have an audience to explore for recruits. Be creative and discover new groups to contact.
Digital volunteering provides great opportunities for people who work or are full-time students. Making use of digital volunteers will expand your organization’s capabilities.
As we continue to make progress in technology and on the Web, the need for digital volunteers will only continue to grow.
About the Author
Dr. Jessica Sapp is an associate professor in the School of Health Sciences at APUS. She has over 13 years of experience in public health, working in various environments including government, hospitals, health insurance, community, international, corporate and academia. Jessica earned her D.P.H. in health policy and management at Georgia Southern University and a M.P.H. in health promotion, education and behavior at the University of South Carolina. She also has a B.S. in health science education from the University of Florida.