After Irene: 5 Things Organizations Involved in Disaster Response Should Be Doing at VolunteerMatch

Following Tropical Storm Irene, like many disasters, the real work will begin after the storm settles. Widespread flooding and wavering federal support for cleanup means the communities affected by the storm will also need help from the independent sector.

If your organization is involved in disaster preparation and response, here are a few tips for making the most of VolunteerMatch following the disaster:

1. Update your opportunities to make them discoverable and relevant right now.
Use keywords like “Irene” and “disaster relief” to make sure your listings are coming up in important searches, including our Disaster Relief Map where these opportunities are compiled.

2. Emphasize the importance of training as a stepping stone.
Many prospective volunteers are not aware how important is to be trained. A message such as “this training is an important step to being deployed during future crises.”

3. Plan for spontaneous volunteers.
While trained volunteers are integral to disaster relief efforts, many untrained volunteers will still be knocking at your door. Determine tasks to give these willing participants that don’t require additional training, such as organizing supply donations, manning the phones or documenting the relief process with photos or videos.

4. Remind volunteers that most emergencies are local.
If your focus is local emergency response and recovery, remind prospective trainees that training in areas like trauma treatment, rescue, coordinated response, etc., are important for helping out in our own backyards.

5. Don’t forget to use your tools.
Your VolunteerMatch account has some important tools that can help you save time and recruit more effectively:

  • Email All allows you to send email communications to everyone who has ever referred to your opportunities. Even if referrals never became official volunteers, during an emergency you may want to activate those folks as a network for getting things done.
  • The Syndication Tool lets you avoid duplicate data entry while keeping your own website updated with VolunteerMatch listings. Use the tool to create a code snippet you can give your Web master. Once it’s in place on your website, your VolunteerMatch listings will automatically show there.
  • Custom Questions lets you prescreen referrals with questions of your choice. If a referral requires specific skills, ability or experience, you can ask those questions up-front.
  • Document Manager lets you automatically attach important forms, waivers or training materials to your emails to prospective referrals.
  • If you have active social networks, use the Social Media Icons at the end of the listing process to easily send out links to your VolunteerMatch listings.
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