06.02.2020Rosterfy | A Guide to Emergency Volunteer Management

The need for effective emergency management is critical. With natural disasters becoming an all too regular occurrence, communities and governing bodies worldwide are feeling the effects of climate change with land savaged, homes destroyed and our precious wildlife seeing countless losses.

In times of crisis, we have seen the best in people with communities banding together to do what they can to support the recovery efforts, giving up their time to help those in need. More often than not, this comes in the form of volunteering.

While the larger, more established not for profits including the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the CFA have systems in place to manage their volunteers, smaller volunteer organisations which are established out of a crisis tend to be reactive and as such, often don’t have the existing infrastructure to effectively manage their volunteers.

With a few simple steps however, all volunteer organisations (big or small) can put in place some measures to ensure they are getting the most out of their workforce and that their workforce in turn is being recognised and rewarded for their time. This is easily remembered with the acronym SCALE.


While it’s difficult to plan effectively during a crisis, spending the time to develop a well thought out volunteer management strategy will help to engage and retain your volunteer workforce. The easiest way to do this is through a centralised workforce management strategy, which can assist with:

A registration page – This should capture information including contact details as well as skills (i.e forklift licence), location and availability to assist

Shift requirements – Think about the jobs available and how many volunteers are required for each ‘shift’

Communication – Communicate ‘shifts’ with your volunteers in a clear and concise manner including details such as times, locations, contacts and attire. If possible, it is best if these can be centralised via an online platform or, failing that, post it on your website or somewhere your volunteers will frequently visit.

Hint: We’ve all received that bcc email that has so much information in it that it’s difficult to find the parts that relate to you, leaving you frustrated and simply bored. First impressions are important, and they count so where possible, personalise communications so that volunteers are receiving only the information that is relevant to their shift.


By building a centralised volunteer platform your volunteers will have a central reference point for all relevant information including shift times, locations, key contacts and briefings.

Without a centralised platform for all relevant content, inevitably detail is missed, which can often result in a negative volunteer experience.

Volunteer Managers understand what it’s like trying to answer hundreds of emails asking the same question. Make your life easier by ensuring that all relevant information is housed in one central location to reduce wasted hours.

Rosterfy’s Thoughts: As published in Shannan Gove’s opinion piece on Emergency Management of the Australian bushfires last week, we are encouraging the State Government to implement a centralised volunteer management platform that local councils can have access to for managing community members in times of crisis. This will allow communities to create a central database of volunteers that can be used across various not for profits in times of need.


Automation helps to expand the reach of your program. By investing in an online volunteer management platform you essentially make your volunteers their own managers, thus removing hours of administration and allowing you to spend your time doing what is important. With requirements for shifts pre-populated, briefs uploaded and communications auto scheduled, the system becomes automated and thus more effective.


We understand that recruiting volunteers is hard work, which is why it’s so important to look after the ones you have.

Think about the legacy of your volunteer program and think long term gains. While looking at your immediate requirements you (and your volunteers) will get so much more out of your workforce if you think about how your volunteers will be utilised at this event and the next and so on. By creating a sustainable program with ongoing opportunities, you will ensure that the volunteers on your database are engaged and retained and that they continue to work alongside your organisation for many years to come.


Education is power. If you have the ability to upskill and train your volunteers, you will help to cement them within your organisation. Always remember that volunteers are donating their time, so anything you can do to give back goes a long way.

Hint: As an example, given the interest in the bushfires at the moment, try and find sponsors who are willing to provide goodies to reward your volunteers for their time.

To learn more about how Rosterfy can help with automating your volunteer management, visit their website.

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