Hi, my name is Laura, I’m 19, from Ebbw Vale and currently studying for a BA degree in Advertising Design at University of South Wales in Cardiff.

 Like the majority of people living in and around the valleys, I’d heard of the Hospice of the Valleys and knew they were a charitable organisation who provided free health care and support for people in the area and I became even more aware when my own grandmother became a patient and benefited from their invaluable services, which supported both my parents and grandmother, enabling her to spend her final months at home rather than in hospital. After this, I was much more informed of the ways in which the hospice helps patients and their families and why fundraising, donations and any help the charity can get is so crucial.
I felt I wanted to give something back to the hospice and help out in some way so decided to apply to become a volunteer – initially within the events and fundraising department. However, after completing my application and hearing more about the opportunities available to me, it became clear that I was a better fit for a new role within digital media and e-commerce due to the knowledge and skills learnt from my university course as well as this being a very flexible role that I would be able to fit around my studies. With the rise of digital media in today’s society and the growing number of active users across various social media platforms, it is important that companies incorporate such sites with their business activities to reach a wider audience. This is why promoting The Hospice of the Valleys across social media is such a great way to raise more awareness of the charity and their work.

As a digital media volunteer, my role involves going into the Ebbw Vale charity shop on a weekly basis and liaising with the store manager and other shop volunteers to decide which products in the store that particular week are likely to be of interest to a lot of people. I then take various photographs of these products to be posted on the charity shops’ social media pages.

When taking the photos, I ensure that I capture a number of different angles of each product as well as close up shots so that any details or patterns are visible. By doing this, the customer will get a good idea of what they will be purchasing and the quality of the item just by looking at the social media post. If an item takes someone’s interest, each post includes details of the store and a phone number, meaning it is easy to make the purchase.

With each post, I also include a caption that describes the product, which I try to write in a way which will engage the reader. I ensure to point out any benefits of the products as well as its main features and colours so that customers are able to make an informed decision on whether the product is right for them.

So far, I have shared around 4 – 5 posts per week since beginning volunteering. Due to the large amounts of great quality furniture being brought into store, I have been focussing on promoting these pieces and encouraging more sales. Due to the target audience of the furniture being older, I have utilised the Facebook page rather than Instagram for the majority of posts as this is where the target demographic is most likely to be active. However, if there was a product that would be better suited to the younger generation, it is important to consider which platform would be the most appropriate.

Sharing these posts to social media is beneficial in more ways than one. For example, people who may not have otherwise gone into store will be able to see some of the great quality pieces currently available to purchase. In addition to this, social media has the ability to reach a wide range of people outside of the local area and target audience. With interactions such as likes, comments and shares, each post is able to reach a much larger audience and is likely to end up on more potential customers’ social media feeds. With more people seeing the products on sale, this will result in more sales for the charity shops and therefore, more profits going towards the Hospice to provide services for those who need it most.

Some of my social media posts have reached over 1000 people which again shows the benefit of sharing these products on social media to reach more people and increase the chance of sales.

In addition to the important benefits to the Hospice of the Valleys, my volunteering role is also beneficial to me personally. As I am currently studying advertising design, learning about social media marketing and product promotion is a massive part of my work. As well as this, work in social media is becoming much more popular in many businesses and agencies meaning it is definitely a career path I am interested in following. Coming up with ideas to promote the products for the charity shop and writing the captions is helping to improve my creativity and copywriting skills which will aid me massively in many of my upcoming university modules and is great work experience for the career I am aiming for in the future. Due to the flexibility of my role and the excellent cooperation from any members of HOV staff that I have worked with, I am able to continue volunteering around my university work, meaning this is a great opportunity for me and I would highly recommend others with similar interests to get involved with one of these new and exciting digital roles or look into the wide range of alternative voluntary positions that may suit you best in order to help the charity as well as improving your own skillset.