How Nonprofits Are Organizing Oil Spill Volunteers

Guest post by Holly Logan

Along the Gulf, reports are starting to come in about smells, dead animals and fish, and some blackened coastlines. But with the bulk of the Deepwater Horizon oil slick still off shore, opportunities for volunteers to get involved are still in preliminary stages.

In the affected areas — primarily South Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle — impressive efforts are underway by nonprofit organizations to sign up local volunteers now rather than wait until things get much worse. As was also the case following Hurricane Katrina, volunteers with specialized training in disaster recovery are being sought first, followed by those who are willing to get training first, or who can help in support roles.

What Are Nonprofits Doing Right Now to Facilitate Oil Spill Volunteering?

Nonprofit recruitment efforts right now seems to be devoted to either direct response and clean up, or else doing advocacy work — presumably to encourage regulation of the oil industry. Here are a few of the most visible nonprofits working to organize those who are interested in helping:

  • American Continental 2000 –  American Continental is looking for local volunteers interested in helping to clean up the beach as well as those who would be interested in becoming a volunteer coordinator in Mobile, AL. Explore this opportunity further at VolunteerMatch.
  • American Red Cross of the Central Panhandle – Joining Continental 2000, ARC’s Panama City, Fla. chapter has been singing up dozens of volunteers per day at VolunteerMatch. The currently posted opportunity is to get local individuals registered for later recovery efforts. Special training may be required.
  • National Audubon Society – The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is currently gathering contact information to coordinate with public and private organizations to aid in the recovery efforts. For non-locals, they are encouraging individuals to either make a donation or take action by asking Congress for help.
  • Matter of Trust: Phill McCrory, a hairstylist from Alabama, discovered that hair can be used as an absorbent material to collect and contain spills! Since then his program to use this “Natural Surplus” for good has been administered with help from Matter of Trust. Given the specialized nature of the disaster, this program has gotten tremendous press attention over the last week, and will likely emerge from the spill as a household name. Volunteers are signing up to donate hair, fur clippings and nylons.
  • Alabama Coastal Foundation – The ACF aims to protect and improve the quality of Alabama’s coast. Currently they are taking contact information from all individuals interested in volunteering.
  • National Wildlife Federation – The NWF is currently taking donations to help protect the wildlife and their habitats from the crisis.
  • Sierra Club – Although many local chapters of the Sierra Club are using VolunteerMatch to recruit, the organization is coordinating its oil spill volunteer recruitment through its own Web site. The sign-up form hints that volunteers will either be asked to provide materials, or else give time for virtual roles like blogging, sending letters, and phone banking.
  • Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research – Tri-State is working with different organizations to aid in the wildlife rehabilitation process.
  • Save Our Seabirds, Inc. – Save our Seabirds is committed to helping injured and disabled seabirds, something so critical in this current crisis.

VolunteerMatch Can Help Agencies Involved in Clean-up Efforts

Since 2005, when VolunteerMatch began to work closely with the American Red Cross following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, we’ve developed more resources to help recruit volunteers for events like oil spills, floods, wildfires, and other disaster.

When disasters occur, our network spikes with new visitors on top of the 8 million we normally see each year. We channel the surge of traffic to specific actions, including searching for a local volunteer role using our Disaster Response Volunteering Map. We also highlight specific organizations that are doing important work that volunteers should know about.

Working on the Spill? Here’s Free Access to Our Premium Service

If your organization is currently recruiting volunteers to work on the oil spill, we can help.

Right now we’re offering any organization that’s working on coastal clean up in the affected areas free access to our most effective tool set, which we call our Community Leader service. It gives nonprofits access to more tools and apps to save time and reach more volunteers, including better screening tools, Web publishing tools, ability to include photos and logos in your listing, and more. Contact me to learn more.

Not for you? Then please spread the word to organizations doing oil recovery work.
(Photo: / CC BY-SA 2.0)

* Holly Logan is a volunteer blogger for VolunteerMatch. She’s is pursuing her MA in Communications at SF State University.