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Business Roundtable/Red Cross Employee Disaster Volunteer Workshop

April 18th, 2008 · 3 Comments

On Wednesday, I had the terrific opportunity to be the moderator at a very interesting and spirited workshop held at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The workshop, “Training Your Employees to Volunteer During A Disaster” was sponsored by the Business Roundtable’s Partnership for Disaster Response along with the Red Cross.

The Partnership for Disaster Response ( was set up by the Roundtable to expand the private sector’s disaster response efforts. The goal of this workshop was to highlight best practices and discuss some of the challenges faced by companies developing employee volunteerism programs. The Partnership will be creating a report based on the workshop that will be distributed to businesses across the nation.

Among some of the thoughts expressed during the discussion that I found particularly interesting:

*employees tend to be very supportive of corporate disaster volunteer programs. in fact, they often are very vocal in asking their companies to get involved;

*commitment from the top is crucial, though finding program champions throughout the organization is instrumental in mobilizing and implementing things successfully;

*recognition for employee involvement — both small and large — can be very helpful in creating and sustaining these programs;

*aligning incentives and company objectives with the volunteer effort can be key in making the program a success; there isn’t anything wrong — and in fact it is optimal — to make these efforts as much a win-win-win for the company, the non-profit and the beneficiaries;

*corporate volunteerism in response to a disaster can help bring together a far flung corporation spread all over the world in a unique way.

There were many other insights and ideas which will be collected in the report to be distributed by the Partnership with the hope of helping other companies develop and expand their own corporate disaster volunteer programs.

One of the most notable examples of employee disaster volunteerism discussed was the Red Cross’ Ready When The Time Comes program. As a CERT member, I recently had the opportunity to see the program up close when I worked with some corporate volunteers from the Red Cross in Greater New York at the recent Manhattan crane accident.

It was informative and even inspiring to me to hear about other activities within the private sector. These programs provide models and guidance as the nation continues to figure out ways to best utilize the great asset that is the American people on the crucial challenge of disaster preparedness and response.

Due to the interest and excitement about the topic in the room, the discussion ran right through lunch. As the Roundtable’s Tom Lehner summed up: “the sign of a successful workshop is that people don’t want to leave.”

Below is a photo of the event:

From left facing the camera: Roger Campbell, National Chair of the Red Cross’ Ready When The Time Comes program; Suzy DeFrancis, the Red Cross’ Chief Public Affairs Officer; Tom Lehner, Business Roundtable’s Director of Public Policy; myself; Janis Tratnik, W.W. Grainger’s Senior Director of Global Communications; Erin Ptacek, Grainger’s Director of Public Affairs; and Miriam Parel, Points of Light’s Vice President for Strategic Partnerships.

The other panelists not pictured were Antonio Boyd, Hope Worldwide, Jennifer Farland, Fannie Mae; Diane Melley, IBM; and Eileen Sweeney, Motorola.

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Tags: Preparedness and Business

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