After Haiti: 4 Things Organizations Involved in Disaster Preparedness Should Be Doing at VolunteerMatch

How to use VolunteerMatch more effectively to recruit disaster relief volunteers

(Note: The following post was written for organizations that recruit and manage volunteer disaster relief workers. If you would like to volunteer, visit

The urgent stories coming from Haiti are having an impact: Visits from volunteers who want to get involved in the Haitian relief effort helped make last week the busiest at in nearly five years.

For organizations that do disaster preparedness and relief work, the days and weeks following major disasters are critical times. As the crisis in Haiti shows, the need for independent sector organizations to work with affected governments to save lives, care for the sick, house the homeless, and help lead the long haul toward recovery is massive. If you work with one of the hundreds of other emergency response and recovery organizations in our network, there is no better time to demonstrate the importance of getting involved than right now.

Here are a few tips for making the most of VolunteerMatch for organizations that are involved in disaster preparation:

Update your opportunities to make them discoverable and relevant right now.
Use keywords like “Haiti” and “disaster” to make sure your listings are coming up in important searches.

Emphasize the importance of training as a stepping stone.
Many prospective volunteers aren’t aware how important is to be trained. A message such as “This training is an important step to being deployed during future crisis.”

Remind volunteers that most emergencies are local.
Few communities are completely spared of disasters. If your focus is one local emergency response and recovery, you can use Haiti (or any international disaster) to remind prospective trainees that getting preparedness training in areas like trauma treatment, rescue, coordinated response, and many other important skills are important for helping out in our own backyards.

Use your tools.
Within your VolunteerMatch account are some important tools that can help you save time and recruit more effectively – two things that are even more important before and after emergencies:

  • 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 Web site 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 Web site, 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.

(Note: Some of these tools come with our free Basic account; some require a Community Leader account ($8.95/month). Click here to see the different account features.)

The list above is just the start of how nonprofits can use their VolunteerMatch account more effectively to engage disaster and emergency volunteers. We’d also love to hear your ideas for how to do this.

(Photo credit: FlickrCC BY 2.0)