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Volunteering: An unexpected way to market your dental practice

July 7, 2020
For dental professionals, the benefits of volunteering are tremendous. Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH, shares how giving back to your community could yield personal, professional, and even financial rewards.

With editorial assistance from Sylvia Tan

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.”

Throughout my time doing philanthropic work, these words from Barbara De Angelis have always rung true. Philanthropy, simply put, refers to charitable deeds that help others.1 Examples include donations, fundraising efforts, sponsorship of charitable events, and volunteering—the last of which is dear to my heart.

Volunteering favors all

When people think of volunteering, most think of it as a way to give back to the less fortunate around them. Indeed, your services may be life changing for children who have never had the privilege of dental care. However, from my experience, the impact volunteering has on the volunteers themselves can be equally transformative. Professionally, volunteering gives us the opportunity to develop clinical expertise.2 Personally, it offers us the chance to make meaningful connections with others and build a sense of purpose.3

On the business side, volunteering can also have enormous marketing potential. Volunteering in nearby neighborhoods boosts brand visibility,4 shows a positive side to your brand,5 and allows your community to get to know you better. When people feel closer to you, they are more likely to trust you with their oral health.5 Volunteering can be one of the best ways to build your practice’s reputation and client base.

Boost your marketing efforts by going digital

A whopping 91% of today’s consumers worldwide are likely to prefer brands linked to a meaningful cause.6 In light of this fact, why not share your volunteering efforts online and connect with like-minded patients through philanthropic marketing? 

Start by collecting photos or videos showing your support for a cause.5 With these, you can curate a page on your company website highlighting your enthusiasm for your community and detailing the causes your team stands for.9 You can also share frequent updates through posts and stories on both the company’s and your staff’s social media accounts,5 regular newsletters, or even in a marketing campaign. 

These communication strategies help patients relate to you better and become more familiar with the people behind your brand. Now you’re able to leverage the unparalleled reach of digital marketing while bringing about real change in your community–a win-win!

Incorporating volunteering into your practice

If you’ve decided to hop aboard the volunteer train, here are a few steps you can take.

1. Choose a cause 

There are countless ways to be a dental volunteer, so focus on choosing something that your team finds meaningful.7 People can tell if you’re doing something you’re passionate about, or if you’re in it solely to promote your practice.5 Since many organizations are in great need of dental volunteers, most of them would love to have you. Here are some examples to get you started:

Provide dental services to low-income families at free clinics.8

Conduct oral health education at schools or senior centers.7

Help out with oral cancer screening at local centers, events, or programs.9

Embark on dental mission trips to areas that have limited access to dental care.8 

2. Find a suitable organization8

When selecting an organization, look for one that’s well managed and has a good reputation, as you’ll be associating your practice’s name with theirs. Also, find an organization whose volunteering schedule is optimal for your practice—be it an ad-hoc or regular commitment. 

3. Draw up a sustainable volunteering schedule

Small service-based businesses such as dental practices often face a workforce shortage. Try creating a rotating schedule for volunteering, so there’ll always be staff at your office.10

If your team needs extra help at a large-scale volunteering event, consider hiring temporary hygienists. Although their hourly rates are comparable to the costs of marketing efforts, their human touch is irreplaceable and can shore up goodwill to attract more patients.

My life has been made all the richer because of volunteering–both personally and professionally. It requires commitment, but the fulfillment you get in return is more than worth your while.  

References

1. Hayes A. Philanthropy defined. Investopedia. Updated January 23, 2020. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/philanthropy.asp

2. Dental volunteering. Dental protection. August 31, 2014. Updated November 14, 2018. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://www.dentalprotection.org/uk/articles/dental-volunteering

3. Segal J, Robinson L. Volunteering and its surprising benefits. Help Guide. Updated June 2019. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

4. Porter ME, Kramer MR. The competitive advantage of corporate philanthropy. Harvard Business Review. December 2002. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://hbr.org/2002/12/the-competitive-advantage-of-corporate-philanthropy

5. Anderson MN, Davis S. 5 dental marketing strategies that actually work. DentistryIQ. April 6, 2018. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://www.dentistryiq.com/practice-management/marketing/article/16367864/5-dental-marketing-strategies-that-actually-work

6. Messina V. Cause marketing for dental practices. MDPM Dental Marketing. June 22, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://mdpmdentalmarketing.com/2015/06/22/cause-marketing-for-dental-practices/ 

7. Callos N. Dental volunteer abroad & medical mission trips | Dentists & students. Volunteer Forever. January 5, 2020. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://www.volunteerforever.com/article_post/dental-volunteer-abroad-medical-mission-trips-dentists-students/

8. Cooper N. Giving back: Top ways for dentists to volunteer in their communities. Minoa Marketing. November 18, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2020. http://minoamarketing.com/giving-back-top-ways-dentists-volunteer-communities/

9. Give kids a smile. ADA Foundation. Accessed March 5, 2020. http://givekidsasmile.ada.org/

10. Tishman S. How to design a volunteer program for your small business. Volunteering is CSR Blog. October 15, 2014. Accessed March 5, 2020. https://blogs.volunteermatch.org/volunteeringiscsr/2014/10/15/how-to-design-a-volunteer-program-for-your-small-business/

Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH, has been a dental clinician since 2000 and is currently a practicing hygienist, speaker, writer, content developer, consultant, and podcast cohost for A Tale of Two Hygienists. With a master’s in dental hygiene education and a belief in lifelong learning, she hopes to continue to learn and grow within the dental profession and one day see the gap bridged between medicine and dentistry.
About the Author

Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH

Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH, has more than two decades of dental expertise, beginning as a dental assistant and completing a bachelor’s degree in health science from the Medical University of South Carolina and a master’s in dental hygiene education from the University of Bridgeport. She continues to invest in ongoing education, gaining certifications such as her Certificate in Dental Infection Prevention and Control. Her community and global endeavors demonstrate her passion for dentistry, from volunteer work to worldwide missions. She is the owner of Level Up Infection Prevention, MichelleStrangeRDH, a practicing dental hygienist, and was the cofounder and the fire and energy that made A Tale of Two Hygienists podcast.

Read Strange's DE Editorial Advisory Board profile here. 

Updated October 10, 2022

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