2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Preparing Your Community for an Emergency

At the 2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in New York City we welcomed a handful of experts and thought leaders in the fields of CSR and employee engagement to hold “Best Practice Café” sessions with our client attendees.
Jun 20, 2013 8:00 AM ET


At the 2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in New York City we welcomed a handful of experts and thought leaders in the fields of CSR and employee engagement to hold “Best Practice Café”sessions with our client attendees. Stay tuned as we share the major themes and knowledgeshared during these discussions.

In Case of Emergency: Engaging the Community in Disaster Response

Stacie Kronthal, Network for Good
James Rooney, Microsoft
Jim Starr, American Red Cross

Summary of Session

We covered three main topics regarding disaster response:

  • Overall Trends
  • American Red Cross Engaging the Community
  • Microsoft Corporate Citizenship

Why is This Topic Important?

It is critical for companies to have a plan to respond to disasters, we saw that in particular with Hurricane Sandy, and it is top of mind as we enter hurricane season. All the research shows that employees want to work for companies that have a thoughtful corporate citizenship approach; disaster response and engaging employees as volunteers is a timely and visible way to demonstrate that commitment both internally and externally.

Big Ideas from the Session:

Network for GoodYou need to have a personal plan as an individual for how to prepare and connect with your family during times of disaster. This helps your company make sure their workforce can be activated. In addition, your company needs to have a plan to respond during times of disaster. Your company’s plan should contemplate things like when to respond, setting the scope, having the right cause partners, etc.

It’s important to be very concrete & specific about the types of disasters you’ll respond to, how you’ll respond, and when. Detailing this takes much of the guess work out and allows clear communications and expectations for all stakeholders.

American Red Cross: American Red Cross has done a tremendous amount of work to engage both spontaneous volunteers and also workforce training:

  • Red Cross had 17,000 volunteers for Superstorm Sandy, and 6,500 of them were first-time volunteers. AND over 50% of these volunteers came from the impacted areas.
  • Training of disaster response volunteers has been restructured to focus on specific tasks, to enable faster assignment of spontaneous volunteers in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Being able to engage more spontaneous volunteers allows the Red Cross to be better stewards of donations, as the expense shifts away from transportation and lodging of volunteers, and to direct assistance of the victims.
  • A key to success is setting and managing expectations. Disasters are by their nature chaotic events. Flexibility, teamwork and client focus are incredibly important attributes for volunteers. These are just as important for spontaneous volunteers as they are for pre-trained volunteers.

Microsoft: Microsoft has a detailed plan for their own corporate response, but they also activate through local subsidiaries and employee driven initiatives:

  • We engage with the general public via our HelpBridge app allowing them to connect with friends & family and engage with ways to help those in need. We also provide general disaster related information via our websites and blogs to keep our customers and stakeholders informed of what’s happening.
  • Most of the work we do is via our nonprofit partners – primarily via NetHope and its members. This allows us to have a broad reach and maximize our impact since we’re not a disaster relief organization. Instead we try to empower and provide resources to those on the ground providing direct relief.
  • We find that engaging our employees is one of the most effective ways we can have a positive impact during a disaster. Through our corporate matching programs we multiply the generosity of our employees and we also provide the flexibility for employee-led initiatives.
  • Our local subsidiary employees are often the most effective at providing direct relief to those who need it most. They have the relationships and the knowledge to act quickly, providing relief when it’s needed and where.

Does your company have disaster preparedness and response programs in place? Share it at VolunteeringIsCSR.org here