Volunteer Digital Champions

A volunteer Digital Champion is someone who supports family, friends, colleagues, customers or people in the community to enjoy all the benefits that having Essential Digital Skills can bring.

“I think without the [Digital Champion] support I would have been completely lost. I look upon the iPad as in the same category as my dog… it is a very big thing in my life at the moment, it is really really important. It gives me access to people.”

quote from an Age UK One Digital learner

What do they do?

Volunteer Digital Champions provide support both 1-1 and group sessions in a relaxed, informal environment. They provide person-centred support which is learner-led.

“I’ve learnt that people have different needs. Some people can operate their mobile but not switch on their computer”

Noor, Volunteer Digital Champion at Sanctuary Digital Inclusion Hub

“I’ve learnt to communicate with people from different age groups, cultures and backgrounds.”

Maureen, Volunteer Digital Champion at The Observatory Digital Inclusion Hub

Volunteer Digital Champions give up their time in places such as:

  • Local libraries
  • Local community hubs
  • Local councils or GP surgeries
  • Social housing landlords
  • Local charities and community groups
  • Local businesses

What skills do they need?

The most important skill a volunteer Digital Champion can have is to be enthusiastic about the benefits of being online and be willing to share this with others.

“…actually it’s about developing your relationship with them because building people’s confidence and trust is absolutely key”

quote from John Thompson, Best Volunteer Digital Champion 2019

Other skills include:

  • Being a good communicator and active listener
  • Patient and able to build up trust with learners
  • Good at working and connecting with local communities
  • Motivated to be able to help others to learn
  • Confident enough in your own ability

Pros and cons of using volunteer Digital Champions

  • Peer learning can increase trust and engagement of learners
  • Well-being benefits for volunteers
  • Employability benefits for volunteers
  • Potential for large cohorts of volunteers
  • Potential for large scale recruitment through Corporate Social Responsibility programmes
  • Variations in skill levels of volunteers and quality of support
  • May be harder to develop skills of volunteers
  • Recording of learner activity
  • Travel and time availability
  • May be difficult to recruit volunteers into areas where needed
  • Costs of managing volunteers
  • May be high turnover of volunteers without high levels of support

This video presentation by Sarah Parkes, Project Manager with Age UK, provides an in-depth look into volunteer Digital Champions.

The role of a volunteer coordinator or volunteer manager

In order to provide a professional and efficient service it is critical that volunteer Digital Champions are supported.

Volunteers require training and mentoring to help develop their understanding and knowledge. Volunteer Digital Champions also need to be given a clear understanding of their role and its boundaries. This is vital to avoid “role creep” in which they begin to provide support other than digital learning. 

It can be a challenge to manage and develop volunteers, so employing a volunteer co-ordinator or volunteer manager is often required, especially for larger projects. You can find out more information in our professional Digital Champions model.

quote from Marika, volunteer coordinator with Yes Manchester “I really enjoy my role as a Volunteer Coordinator. It is very rewarding when I see our champions flourish and build confidence in their own skills.”

“One of the big successes for me is seeing the confidence of the volunteers grow from strength to strength”

James Pickup, Project Coordinator, Torus Foundation

Find out more about volunteer Digital Champions…