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

1 comment:

Terry Clark said...

This is I call a "momma memo" words of wisdom from my mother, who spent thousands of hours volunteering and organizing great events in every community we lived in.

Momma said,

" Treat your employees like "gold", treat your volunteers like "platinum". "

And she did too.

Terry Clark
Medical Reserve Corps
Island County