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Volunteer Spotlight: A Conversation with Marketing Coordinator Magdalena Buchwald

Originally from Germany, Magdalena became motivated to help forcibly displaced families after witnessing the European refugee crisis. She holds a Master’s degree in Sport, Media and Communication Research and uses her broad practical experience in communications and marketing to help spread the word about One Digital World’s mission and vision.

Why did you decide to become involved with One Digital World?

I was searching for a nonprofit to volunteer with for a while. I asked myself this question: what comes very easily and naturally to you? What is your privilege? For me, I have a marketing background. So I wanted to find out how I could help others who don’t have that same privilege or natural ability. When I met Casey, she told me she needed support in that area. I also think that by doing marketing work, I am helping to give a voice to those who are living in camps that don’t have the access to communication points [like computers]. So I joined the cause because I think it’s important to help those that don’t have a voice to give them a voice.

What do you think is special about One Digital World? What has been the most impactful aspect of working with the organization?

When I first learned about One Digital World, I didn’t know much about the refugee situation. I knew it was bad, and I knew it was getting worse, but I wasn’t aware of the extent of the problems that refugees are dealing with. I had assumed that there was already a lot of infrastructure in place to help refugees and asylum seekers, such as programs or support systems. But what I learned from working with One Digital World is that there is just not enough. And what’s special about the organization is that by addressing one issue (lack of access to and knowledge of technology), it helps with a lot of other things. Giving access to computers and the internet solves a lot of other problems. It’s kind of a catalyst for refugee support. I think it’s a very smart way to do it. It’s like that saying, when you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.

I’ve heard that saying taken further by adding that you also need to give the man a fishing pole. I think that’s something else that One Digital World does really well. We provide training, but we also provide equipment.

Exactly. I think that’s something a lot of people are not aware of. One Digital World builds that infrastructure, supports classes and builds curriculum. But it also creates a safe space. For example, when the computer classes are not happening, people living in the shelters can still come and use our computers. That’s the fishing rod piece. It allows them to start doing the work on their own time and connecting the dots on their own. We give sort of a “starter kit” through our curriculum and classes, but then they have the opportunity to develop those skills and make them useful in the long term.

How long have you been in marketing?

I actually have a Bachelor’s in sociology, but I started working in marketing while getting a Master’s degree in media and communication research. During that time, I worked for an internal communication consultancy. So I’ve seen the agency side of things. Then, when I moved to the U.S, I worked mostly in nonprofits and did a few marketing internships, and then I went into corporate. That’s where I learned how to build foundations for flexible marketing. You have to have a solid foundation so that you can respond to changing circumstances.

Can you talk more about that foundation?

The environment in the nonprofit world is very flexible and constantly changing. So what I’m trying to do at One Digital World is to build a foundation for our marketing and our organizational processes that we will always have, even if things change. That’s something Casey and I have been working on for the last year. Because fundraisers happen, special initiatives come up, you create partnerships, and you get distracted. We can focus on those things in the meantime, but we always come back to asking ourselves, what have we learned? How does this reflect back on our mission, goals, and brand? I think that is very important--to give yourself time to always go back to that. Don't get too caught up in everyday business, because then you do “headless marketing;” you do things, but you don’t know why you do them or how to measure them, which is also really important for marketing. It’s always important to measure your goals and compare your results with your original goals.

What are some of those goals?

My personal goal for One Digital World is to build a marketing machine that supports our operations by driving traffic towards our organization, raising awareness, collecting funds, and enabling operations. Casey is the driving force behind our partnerships, our classes, and our curriculum, and all of that needs to be distributed and advertised online and in person. We need to feed our system of operations through the marketing stream, so that we can bring in more resources. That theory came from seeing that I need to enable Casey to be freer in her work. I think marketing can do that by supporting operations in these ways. Marketing is an enabler.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to get involved with nonprofit or marketing work?

Ask yourself, in what way do you have a surplus? What comes easily and naturally to you? It might be something that you don’t even recognize as a talent or privilege. For me, I’ve been told that I’m good at connecting with people, making them feel comfortable, and that I’m very empathetic. So I asked myself, how can I use my communications skills, my talents, and my marketing background? Where are people that don’t have those privileges or those abilities? I think if everyone asked themselves that question, they could find some place where they can make use of their own surplus--even if that thing doesn’t exist yet. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, think of ways that you can produce something. It doesn’t have to be big, like your own nonprofit, but through that way of thinking you will find a good use of your talents.

How can readers support you in your work?

Tell people about One Digital World. If everyone who follows our pages (on social media) invites one person, we would be able to spread our message further. If you think what we do is valuable and makes sense, tell someone. If you spread the knowledge and the ideas, that can help a lot. Because people aren’t really aware that a lot of refugees don’t have access to computers. It’s that simple. Growing up in Germany and witnessing the refugee crisis there, I thought that people had a handle on this, but they do not. They need someone like Casey who sees that demand and actually does something about it. Because our world is so connected.

Magdalena serves as Marketing & Communications Coordinator for One Digital World. She is currently based in San Diego.

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