Does your organization have a plan in place for how to coordinate volunteers in times of crisis or natural disaster? A 2011 report published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), called A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action acknowledges that catastrophic disasters are occurring more frequently in America. Disasters, both manmade and natural, are causing widespread damage at unprecedented levels. At the same time, shrinking budgets mean there are less resources on hand for the government to respond adequately to large-scale emergencies.

Now more than ever, government agencies want to forge partnerships with community groups to help prepare for and mitigate disasters. FEMA defines the “Whole Community” approach as a new philosophy of emergency management that encourages greater reliance on the resources of local groups. This program acknowledges that local businesses, service groups, and non-profit organizations are a source of invaluable knowledge about how to coordinate volunteers in their home communities. Even if your mission statement makes no mention of emergency management, FEMA suggests that your organization can play an instrumental role in preparing for disasters and aiding in emergency management when catastrophic situations arise.

The Whole Community philosophy discussed by FEMA does not give specific guidelines or mandates for how to coordinate volunteers before, during or after emergency situations. FEMA does, however suggest that every private business and community group, including religious organizations and non-profits, develop partnerships, discuss strategies and craft action plans for how to help their communities when disasters occur.  

When hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and other catastrophic events occur, your organization will most likely be overwhelmed with new volunteers who need to register, current volunteers who want to help out, and vulnerable populations who need immediate help. If your organization has not done so already, make advanced preparations that answer the question of how to coordinate volunteers in times of crisis.

Create a Plan for How To Coordinate Volunteers 

To coordinate volunteers effectively in times of crisis you will need to be able to quickly:

* Process new volunteers

* Identify needs

* Assign volunteers to jobs they have the skills to do

* Track volunteers

* Communicate effectively

To help local groups create and implement a plan for how to coordinate volunteers in emergency situations, Galaxy Digital developed a Disaster Response Module ( that works with our Get Connected volunteer management platform. We collaborated with United Way organizations and local governments in the coastal regions of North Carolina and South Carolina during the development of the Disaster Response Module. This collaboration combines their real world experience evacuating coastal regions during hurricanes with our own expertise in creating web based solutions for matching volunteers with organizational needs. If you are interested in learning more about how the Disaster Response Module can help you plan how to coordinate volunteers during emergency situations, please contact us to set up a demonstration.