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Digital Engagement at Huddersfield SU

Posted on 8 Feb 2016

How Digital Engagement through UnionCloud transformed Huddersfield SU’s Volunteering Offer

Today on the blog we hear from Becky Milne, NUS Digital Community Engagement Manager. She used to work at Huddersfield SU, and is sharing her experience of how technology can transform volunteering engagement .

I think it’s fair to say when beginning my role at Huddersfield SU we didn’t have a strong volunteering offer. We were trying to manage a brokerage service as you’d manage memberships on UnionCloud, and for those of you on the platform you’ll appreciate and understand how this was far from ideal.

On starting my role I was tasked initially to launch student-led volunteering projects. After a lot of effort and time was spent in the establishment of these projects it soon became clear that student led volunteering projects weren’t popular or in demand by Huddersfield’s students, with only a few projects that are still going strong today.

With Student Volunteering Week 2014 around the corner I took the opportunity to host our first ‘one off volunteering day’ known as ‘Students at the Heart of Hud’ in an attempt to try something new, a one-off volunteering day concept that seemed to work well elsewhere. The day turned out to be an incredible success, with close to over 100 students in attendance, over five different exciting community projects benefitting, we received fantastic feedback from students and had some great press coverage. Students at the Heart of Hud is now a regular and reoccurring feature to the Huddersfield Students’ Union diary and was recently nominated for a community award.

However no matter of the success generated from either of these volunteering options, there was no denying it that both were heavily time and resource intensive, both required a lot of input but neither yielded the greatest long term engagement for student volunteering. Since realising we didn’t have an effective way to manage or broker opportunities online with external volunteering organisations, as a Union we remained on the lookout for something that would fit our needs. Hearing about the development of a new volunteering module for UnionCloud came at the right time and with Huddersfield already celebrating the success of using UnionCloud, the volunteering module was news well received.

"Within 6 months at Huddersfield with a relatively small staff team and not much time dedicated to the online platform we had over 50 organisations registered, 100 volunteering opportunities uploaded, 300 students registered and over 1000 volunteering hours recorded."

The volunteering platform gave us more than a solution, it transformed our whole volunteering provision. Organisations became responsible for registering themselves, managing their own account details, uploading their own opportunities and directly contacting students on receiving their applications. Students could complete a volunteer profile, enabling them to better identify volunteering opportunities most relevant to them and easily navigate and search for opportunities through a user friendly interface. As staff we could easily monitor and track all this activity, including student volunteer hours, generate reports and more. The platform proved efficient and effective enabling us to engage with a large number of students in a short space of time. Within 6 months at Huddersfield with a relatively small staff team and not much time dedicated to the online platform we had over 50 organisations registered, 100 volunteering opportunities uploaded, 300 students registered and over 1000 volunteering hours recorded.

Testimonials from students and organisations involved in the Volunteering Module:

  • Action on Hearing Loss: “I have been a Fundraising Ambassador for Action on Hearing Loss for over six months and have thoroughly enjoyed working with the charity and helping the cause. In the past two organised events I managed to raise over £140 which will go to helping local services such as the Hear to Meet groups in Kirklees and helping in development and research. The voluntary work that I have been carrying out is exciting, enriching and valuable to many of those suffering with deafness or hearing loss.” - Natasha Harvey, Final Year Journalism Student
  • Yorkshire Children’s Centre: “The volunteers are a breath of fresh air! They are caring, fun and supportive and work great as a team. Yorkshire Children’s Centre really appreciated their help, thank you!” - Yorkshire Children’s Centre

With so much success gained in a small amount of time and little effort, the volunteering module made us readdress our volunteering offer. Through a submission of a report to the management committee it was accepted that the volunteering department’s focus should be spent more on the use and promotion of the volunteering module. Pulling together a proposal with various ideas in how to further improve and increase the success of the volunteering platform ballooned the continued success of the volunteering module and student engagement through volunteering.

Although no longer at Huddersfield I still continue to follow the development of the volunteering department. To date, with the volunteering module almost serving it’s one year anniversary at Huddersfield, over 100 organisations have registered, over 200 volunteering opportunities have been uploaded and over 600 students have registered.

It’s certain that the volunteering module was the catalyst to the change and main reason to the success of increased student engagement in volunteering at Huddersfield. However it’s key to note that it’s the additional work that is carried out alongside this module and others that ultimately determines how far your success will go.

Becky Milne

Becky is NUS Community Engagement Manager, Digital. Before joining NUS, Becky was the Volunteering and Development Manager at Huddersfield SU. Get in touch with her at rebecca.milne@nus.org.uk

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