Home » Using Galaxy Digital’s Connect Sites for Disaster Response
On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey touched ground in a rural area of southeast Texas. Over the next four days, parts of Texas received over 40 inches of rain, causing unprecedented flooding and displacing over 30,000 people. Volunteer assistance was needed–and fast. Many volunteer efforts seemed to spring up overnight, with churches, corporations, other organizations, and individuals stepping up to help. One such effort was by Volunteer Houston, who mobilized its Disaster Response Module (DRM) in Get Connected to register and manage disaster volunteers.
As I write this, a much bigger hurricane–Hurricane Irma–is bearing down on Florida. Predicted to be even more catastrophic than Harvey, Irma will require untold numbers of volunteers help with response and recovery. As with any hurricane, Irma’s path is unpredictable, and we don’t yet know what communities will experience flooding or where volunteers will be needed.
If your organization serves a community that may be facing disaster, your Connect site may soon face a significant increase in both needs and volunteers. Your site may experience higher traffic, as Volunteer Houston did, and that can be overwhelming, so it’s important to be prepared. Even if you don’t have the DRM, your Connect site can still be an effective tool in managing and mobilizing volunteers. This article offers ideas and best practices for effectively managing disaster-response volunteer opportunities by using tools outside of the DRM—tools that are available to all Connect site clients.
Did you know that your volunteers can update their profiles to say that they’d like to be contacted in case of a disaster? You can also ask new volunteers to provide this information as well. Here are some ways to learn who wants to be notified of volunteer opportunities during a disaster:
Later on, you can send disaster-response email blasts to only those volunteers who have indicated that they’d like to be contacted, or who meet certain custo1 criteria. See “Contact Your Volunteers” below for more information.
To ensure that your disaster-response needs are both easy to find and easily recognizable as disaster response needs, you’ll want to begin by setting up an initiative for disaster response. Here are some things to keep in mind as you set up the initiative:
You want your disaster needs to be easy to find, so go ahead and set up a spotlight and link it to your disaster-response initiative. Even if you aren’t yet ready to begin posting needs, it’s good to prepare a spotlight in advance. Keep the spotlight inactive until you’re ready for people to begin responding to the initiative’s needs. Here are a few tips for setting up your disaster-response spotlight:
Once the time for disaster-response is over, simply deactivate the spotlight.
Let your agencies know that they can continue to use your Connect site to post volunteer opportunities. Here are some steps you may want to take in order to manage agency-posted disaster-response needs effectively:
To contact your agencies using the email blast, begin by running a filter on Volunteer > Agency Manager > is an Agency Manager.
Let your volunteers know that, should they wish to help with disaster response, they can find needs on your site. Post the link to the disaster-response initiative on social media and on your main website to let everyone know. Send out a press release, and make sure the initiative link is included on other sites that list ways to help support the community during this time.
You can also send specific messages to those volunteers on your site who are particularly interested in disaster response.
Has your site been collecting profile data on whether volunteers would like to be notified in case of a disaster? If so, you can set up an email blast filter for only those volunteers who wish to be notified. To do this, run a filter on Disaster Response > Disaster notification > volunteers who wish to be notified.
Another option is to email only those volunteers who have indicated disaster response as one of their preferred causes; to do this, run the filter on User Data > User Causes > is > Disaster Response. (If you’ve overridden this default cause with another one, you won’t have this option.)
Later on, you use the user filter to reach out to all of the volunteers who responded to needs within this initiative.
Even if you don’t have the DRM, you can still use your Connect site for disaster-response needs. While initiatives wasn’t specifically designed for disaster response, this tool does offer a number of features that you can harness for that purpose. By setting aside an area of your site for disaster-response needs, customizing questions for disaster volunteers, and setting up a spotlight so that the needs are easy to find, you can help to make the process of gathering and managing volunteers a little easier.
If your community is facing a disaster and you have questions or need further guidance in managing disaster-response volunteerism on your Connect site, send our support team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include the words “disaster response” in the subject line. Your request will go to the top of our priority list, and you’ll hear back quickly from one of our Connect site experts.
Author: Annelise Ferry
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