Saturday, January 28, 2012

Go where the volunteers are

Many of us have offices set up to process volunteers that make it easy for us because everything is in one place. But, have you considered going where the volunteers are? I am not talking about going door to door (that would be silly); but many programs won't consider leaving the office to sign people up.

 As many programs do in the normal course of business, we do presentations at colleges and universities, but those are just presentations not sign ups. We leave web addresses to sign-up but don't actually process any papers there.

 Here is what we did
A year ago, we began talking with a local association of RN's. Now we could have just written emails to the organization; but we thought it would be more effective to work with them to tag onto one of their regular monthly meeting. And we did! Not only did we do a presentation, we processed 18 new RN's into our program on a Saturday morning (almost twice our monthly sign up rate).   After our early morning sign up, we attended the rest of the meeting so we could interact with the nurses who didn't sign up (100 nurses) and got great visibility.

I live in a county that is 2,000 square miles with 37 cities. In the spring, I will be going to the cities that are not Seattle and do advertising, and a sign up of volunteers.
 To Do List:
  • Get interviewed in the local paper (its free)
  • Work with the local EM to advertise your date 
  • Work with the online world to advertise your date
  • Work with your current volunteers to get the word out
  • Think about where your "type" of disaster volunteer frequents and flyer the place
  • Put on your best face and go for it!
Think this will work for you? Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.

disaster dave

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why having a SUV plan is important II

This time its only 2,500 ! So since I wrote in December about the 3,000 volunteers who descended on Joplin, how far have you gotten on your plan to register and put to work Spontaneous Volunteers? Now we have Alabama; A couple of learning points to add to our quiver!
  • Work with EM to make sure they direct the people driving in to help to your wonderfully set up volunteer processing station.
  • Work with local companies to get protective gear; gloves, eye protection, steel toe boots.
Not only is it important to register volunteers for control and to offset claims; but like Joplin you could utilize volunteers help  offset your portion of the match for federal funds.

Keep moving forward

disaster dave

Saturday, January 14, 2012

But who is creating programs to keep volunteer spirit long term?

A recent article from Japan Times I posted on Twitter talked about the disaster "kick starting long dormant volunteerism".  @krobertory asked the question in the title above, which gave me pause.  If you are a disaster volunteer manager you have a challenge! Keeping your volunteers engaged after (or before) a disaster is that challenge.
I manage a Medical Reserve Corps and keeping them as busy as they want to be is my task.
In order to accomplish the question above I do the following:
  • Look at my volunteers capabilities (how much time can they really put in)
  • Ask them what they want to do (within reason)
  • Connect with others in our space (Public Health & Preparedness)
  • Put in the time to schedule and manage these events
  • Post articles that are about what we do on our FB page
Yes that's the big one, the time to manage events for your volunteers. Not the actual disasters, those are what its about, but it takes time to put training missions together,get the volunteers & answer their questions, get them there and report on it.

So what did I do for my volunteers this year to keep them interested and moving forward? 
14 missions (where they actually helped someone) 236 volunteers for 1,232 hours
12 trainings (one per month- where they learned something) 93 volunteers for 212 hours.

What do you do to keep your volunteers spirit up long term? We have a big job keeping the volunteer spirit alive long term.

Disaster Dave

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to treat disaster volunteers

I often get this question: "How do we use/treat volunteers?" My answer is "like employees".

We have discussed why volunteers do what they do; now once you get them what do you do with them.
First be prepared 
The volunteer brings with them skills and expectations of what they will do.  One of the first conversations is the talk about what is expected and what they expect.  Doing this first sets the tone for the whole life of that volunteer.
Have a Job Description
Job descriptions are important; by sitting down and writing job descriptions, you define what you want.  Then the volunteer can look at that job description and decide if this works for them.  Now I am not saying the job description is hard and fast (they are volunteering after all) but stray too far or you will end up with someone who is not doing enough.
Depending on your particular space in a disaster, they can fill lots of tasks; both in planning, maintaining equipment and responding.
Train/ Set Expectations/ Provide Tools
One of my favorite groups in my time at the Red Cross was "The Pump House Gang".  They began as a few guys that came in once per week sat around and drank coffee and chatted and eventually went to one facility where we stored stuff (A pump-house).  As we defined the team and began setting tasks, they changed from what I described above (with a few people leaving and joining the team) to a solid logistics team.  They came in the same day every week picked up tasks from the Logistics Manager, moved out, and took care of things, inspecting facilities, moving supplies around, driving trucks to keep them ready, reporting problems.  They were/are a solid team. What changed?
 Show appreciation for what they do
We moved from a coffee clutch to a team with expectations and assigned tasks, and that team is still active today and some of the most solid disaster logistics responders both locally and nationally.
Set expectations, give them the tools to do the job and get out of their way! Supervise and thank them, and they will do wonders for your organization.

 10 Ways to make volunteers happy- great tips!

Happy Volunteer Management
disaster dave

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Medical Volunteer Protection

As you may know I work with many medical volunteers, both in the MRC system and some who curiously are trying to organize on their own.  Every state has different laws and levels of coverage for their medical volunteers.  I am lucky (so are my volunteers) in that if they are in an organized unit and registered  as emergency workers they are immune from suit as are their regular employer, and place of employment.

Not so much in other states, this is the reason we need a national law to provide protection for all volunteers.  This article is written by lawyers and describes the problem and the need
 Volunteer Protection under the law

Worth a read and if you don't know what your laws and protections are for your volunteers take some time and do a little research; being able to quote the law will make your recruiting easier if they don't have to worry about suit.

disaster dave

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mental Health benefits of volunteering

I saw the linked article this week and thought lets look into this a little more volunteering-benefits-emotional-health!
I have always felt I had much to be thankful for and that I should be giving back, its just part of me.  But it turns out its good for me too.  I have always felt a calming and good feeling after leaving a disaster operation and knowing I helped, but it looks like there is scientific evidence that its helping keep me healthy too.
 The reasons are many, the immediate effect of helping, bringing control to chaos (mine), giving back.  There has been much written and I think we will see more as disasters (more research opportunities) increase.

Below are the links to some articles and studies you can read and quote in your recruiting effort.  It never hurts to tell our volunteers of the benefits to them, especially if its something they may not see immediately.
Benefits of
Benefits of volunteerism: How everybody gains

Disaster Dave