Thursday, December 29, 2011

3,000 volunteers what to do with them ?

An amazing story of Volunteers in Joplin and the spirit of volunteerism following the Joplin tornado disaster.  But if you are a volunteer manager, then you must be thinking what I'm thinking:
  • Where did they house them?
  • Who fed them?
  • How did they provide direction and supervision?
  • What about liability for spontaneous volunteers with no disaster training operating heavy/dangerous equipment over long hours in trying times.
  • And what about screening to keep the bad people away! They do come when things go wrong.
Truly these were amazing people coming to help, but many probably did not come with food and shelter for the first 72 hours. The article talks about 60,000 registered volunteers, that's great those come (most of the time) with a built in supply line and support system like the Red Cross and the Southern baptist.  But what about the 20,000 spontaneous volunteers?
So the question is - does your municipality have a volunteer management system/program ready to go?
Has it been tested? Table top or full exercise?
Again thank you to all the volunteers who show up in the aftermath of any disaster, but we have to have  a plan and a system so those 20,000 SUV's don't become the second disaster.

disaster dave

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Volunteer Fire Fighters Pay to Volunteer?

Just saw a tweet from the Spokane Fire Department and thought, Those folks in Olympia couldn't be that dumb!  But they are.  Yes the state of Washington is in a pickle of not having enough revenue to cover the services to run the state. How we got there is another story and not one I care to jump into.
But it seems that Olympia has decided to charge volunteer firefighters and paramedics for their licensing so they can volunteer their time to help their community. Don't believe it, me either but House Bill 2141 See Line 22 on page 3 tells the tale.
According to a King Five Article from February,  3/4 of the states firefighters are volunteers! Imagine what it would cost to staff all those positions with paid positions. Remember these are folks who take time from their paid jobs to help protect their communities, and now  Olympia wants them to pay for that honor?
Is this really anyway to encourage volunteerism? I think not, you might want it drop your representative a note while they are on Holiday Break!

Disaster Dave

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where to find Volunteers 2?

A few resources for finding volunteers:
  • Volunteer Match - a great place to advertise, be specific but don't use a traditional job description
  • Trade Websites
  • Colleges & Universities- in my current program, we walk the campus and hang up take ones in the appropriate places (with the permission of the school)
  • Giveaways for your volunteers with your organization printed on them
  •  Newsletter - emailed to the volunteer pool, makes it easy to forward
  • Face Book page - yes not everyone is comfortable on FB, but many are
  • A web page (make sure it has search terms in the header and in the copy)
  • Events- get your volunteers involved in events that match their mission - walking advertisement
There are more ideas out there, please feel free to add your ideas

disaster dave

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where to find volunteers?

I think as volunteer managers we sit and wait for the volunteers to find us, if you are stocked with all the volunteers you can utilize (more on that later) fine. If not go out and find them; look where your market is.
I believe one of our best recruiting tools is unused or not used effectively.  I run a volunteer corps that I have increased from just above 150 to over 400 in about a year with zero advertising budget or media attention. I didn't do it, my volunteers did that!  At the end of every presentation beginning with their orientation, I tell them if they enjoy what they are doing with us to tell five people. 
Now this part is important, I don't tell them to get 5 people or bring me 5 people, just simply tell 5 people.
Selling and asking for a commitment is stressful and many people won’t want to do that. But telling someone about what they did last weekend or the great exercise they went to, over dinner or at church or during the game that’s easy. And then make sure it’s easy to find you.
Some specifics:
If you are looking for:
Sand baggers for flood season, try to high school football coach (for his team, what a great workout)!
People to run shelters look at church congregations or large businesses
Feed people, look at the local technical college; they probably have culinary school
Medical volunteers look at your local college that has medical training!
And of course in your volunteer base (ask them)

disaster dave

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who volunteers?

Who volunteers? This is a large question that you need to look at from a couple of different views, I'll try to not make this too long but its important.
First look at the profile of volunteers over all in your area. Try starting here. Do two things, look at the percentages by age groups and then look at your volunteers. Look at your advertising material. Do they match? Does the demographic match what you see? If so, you aren't done. If not you have some work to do.
You should look at the type of volunteers you want (age, skills, time to give) and go get them! In volunteer management we often recruit in the same old way; because its the way we do it.  Remember it's advertising; if you advertise and only show gray hairs (like me) that is what you will attract. Advertise and use photos of a mix of age, race and sex.  That is what you want to attract.

Now don't send me hate mail saying I am advocating for not attracting baby boomers and older, that's not the point. The point is many people equate volunteer with older Americans! Yes the retiree has more time to volunteer, and they have a great amount of experience. But who will they pass the knowledge to?
And if you are looking for sand baggers for flood season, AARP may not be the group you want to focus on.

So what does your city profile look like?

Disaster Dave

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What is a volunteer ?

According to  a volunteer is "a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking."
A volunteer is not an employee, nor a person doing work under contract.  A volunteer for many reasons is a person who decides on their own to work for your organization in some capacity. Seems pretty simple doesn't it?  Well yes it does! Which brings us to Why are they there asking to do work for you?
When I am with other volunteer managers this is a topic of conversation with many levels of understanding. And why is this important? 
It is important so you look in the right place for the type of volunteer you want!
It is important so you know what your volunteers expect from you!
It is important so you know what your volunteers will do for you!

These are some of the themes I will explore over the next few weeks, in an effort to help those in emergency management who are not full time volunteer managers (few of us are). So that when you need those disaster volunteers they will be there and you will have the processes and relationships in place to make it happen.

Disaster Dave

Why Disaster Volunteers?

For a while now I have had a couple of holes in what I do and how I feel about my work. This blog is a chance for me to fill one of those holes.  I read other blogs on volunteers in museums, hospital, etc.  What I don't see is anyone talking about disaster volunteers, who I think have as many differences as similarities with all other volunteer groups.
For the last six years I have been a volunteer with the Red Cross (and still am), been a volunteer program manager with the Red Cross and now manage the volunteer program for a local government.
Two caveats:
  1. I don't have all the answers, so feel free to jump in and join the conversation
  2. While much of what I have learned about volunteer program management these are my own thoughts and opinions, not my past or present employers.
This blog will cover four areas (to begin with):
  1. Part one: Why volunteers volunteer
  2. Part two: Volunteer program management
  3. Part three: How to make a volunteer program self-sustaining with minimal support
  4. Part four: Issues & Challenges and how to fix them

I hope that I am informative and interesting enough to hold your attention.
Disaster Dave