Sunday, January 27, 2013

Opportunities to serve or how not to sit on a database

Want your volunteers to be there when you really need them (disasters)? 

Then find ways to engage them today. I often repeat, "Volunteers don't join an organization to sit in a database".  Yet that is one of the most common complaints I here from volunteers. "I did all this training, paperwork and now what..."

So again I don't have all the answers, but you might.
I began by looking at my organizations mission and seeing what wasn't getting done, or who needed help. And low and behold there was work for my volunteers to do.  
  • Our volunteers currently hold medical clinics for the homeless once per month in two separate locations.
  • Our volunteers (Hams) are currently working on identifying rally locations in our county that have good communications paths.  It will be a place we roll out to all of our volunteers (400+) this summer and test.  After we have proven the viability we will offer this site to our employee network.
  • We support Red Cross shelters during times of need (Nurses & EMTs).
  • We have used support volunteers to help us repackage some critical supplies in our warehouse.

All of this takes time and project management , yes and weekends on my part. But I believe in my program and my volunteers and they want to be useful now, they want to do now, so I continue to look for opportunities to put them to work.

After all that's why they joined, not to sit on a database !


Sunday, January 20, 2013

So you found them, now what?

You have done the work to find your new volunteer(s), what do you do next?
 Have them read a rule book (yawn), talk on the phone (not personal enough); have them watch an online orientation from home (seriously). Now I know there may be good reasons to use one of these methods; but I can't think of any!
Your volunteers came to you because of two things: 
1. They want to do, to be, to make a difference
 and/or 2. In a small way depending on your recruiting system, they came because of you and want to meet you
I am a firm believer in looking my new folks in the eye and telling them what I expect of them and what they can expect of me/my program. I want to see them and they want to see me.
And yes we have a lot to do as volunteer managers, so I am going to outline what I do and then some riffs you can use to help if you think its too much. 
My program has no advertising budget, and virtually no support from our internal public affairs group. Yet with a group of over 400 volunteers we still orient 10-20 new volunteers every month. The important distinction is orient; only about 75% of those who attend orientation finish the process and I'm okay with that (more later). Once a month (Thursday night twice per quarter and Saturday mid morning for the other) we hold an orientation beginning at 530 and ending around 700 PM (Saturday 1000-1130). 
What my PowerPoint orientation looks like:
  • ·      Where the MRC came from

  • ·      What it is

  • ·      What it isn't

  • ·      How our unit functions and fits into the big picture

  • ·      Why its important they register now - not after something happens
  • ·      What we expect from them
  • ·      What they can expect from us (Our promise)
  • ·      
Protection under the laws (Very important for licensed volunteers)
  • ·      Personal & Family preparedness
  • ·      What our unit does (activities so far this year & planned)
  • ·      Reoccurring medical missions

  • ·      Training and exercise
  • ·      
What kind of equipment we have to serve
  • ·      Partnerships for deployments - Red Cross and City disaster sheltering (Last year our volunteers served over 1,200 hours touching people that needed help- not training)
  • ·      Questions
  • ·      My last ask is join us on Face book - talks to us (ideas, complaints)
  • ·      If you like what you hear tell your friends and co workers about us (My advertising is here)
I feel like this gives my potential volunteers enough information to know what they are getting into.
So now to the 25% drop rate; they must go home and complete IS 100 and IS 700 before they can become active. Once that is completed, we do the background check and issue a badge with an EW # on it (and a cool fleece MRC Vest). I remind them a couple of times, if no response I transfer them to the ESAR VHP and let them know they can rejoin at any time. It is better to know I have a smaller number of committed volunteers than think I have 4,000 volunteers. 
(More later about how I am sure I really have 400+ volunteers)
  • My area is too big for me to go to all the volunteers- then how can you provide supervision? Oh you use a senior volunteer in that county, area, cool. Let them do the Face-to-Face orientation- great connection point.
  • The volunteer is too busy - Then I submit if they can't give up a couple of hours, they won't show up for a real disaster.
  • I'm too busy- Suck it up, this is what we do, some days are longer than others, take an extra hour for lunch. Sorry, don't mean to be harsh, but I consider this 1.5 hours a month the best part of my job!
I don't have all the answers, but this works for me and my organization, how do I know? When I call them to serve I have to turn people away. I also am constantly looking for ways to give them a chance to serve while we wait (another blog)
Want to see my orientation? - Connect with me

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Who is Vulnerable?

It is important to understand that to be young or old, a woman or a person with a disability or HIV does not, of itself, make a person vulnerable or at increased risk. Rather, it is the interplay of factors that does so... (The Sphere Project- Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response)

I find I am often in conversations about how to serve people after a disaster and I hear planners talk about vulnerable populations; I wonder through what lens they are looking through?
In most cases it is often new immigrants, people with obvious disabilities and the poor.  While those are the usual suspects as the movie line goes, I believe it is important realize being from one of those categories is not what makes you vulnerable, it is the addition (or subtraction) of something.
Our daily lives are fairly comfortable by most means in the first world, but when something happens like Sandy, it quickly can become a 3rd world working area.  And with the subtraction of electricity, and easy access to the grocer, doctor and other support systems we depend on, someone can quickly become vulnerable.
As you look at your community whether you are a Emergency Manager, a CERT leader, an MRC member or any neighborhood program, look deeper than the pre identified "Vulnerable Pop" look at the family with a single parent, look at the older couple down the street who walk their dog, and seem to get along pretty well for their age, look at the new comer who just moved here and doesn't have connections to the community yet. Look at the UN definition above and as you view your population through that lens ask yourself " If that person (family) lost one of the following - power for a week, or access to the grocery store, drug store, or clean water or anything we take for granted would they become vulnerable?"  If the answer is yes, you have some more planning and teaching to do.