Disaster Services

Leading in Times of Need

Disaster Volunteering in the Modern Era

As disasters become more frequent and destructive, volunteering management systems that drive the way in which communities mitigate them must evolve. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the volunteer response was overwhelming and exposed both the positive power of community altruism and the ways in which the existing disaster volunteer ecosystem was not equipped to take advantage of the response.

Co-authored by IBM and Points of Light, this white paper highlights the accomplishments and challenges of the existing ecosystem and calls for participants to collaboratively work towards even greater efficiency and effectiveness by refining the current structure and recommending key actions moving forward.


How Points of Light Responds to Disasters


Points of Light and our network of affiliates around the world work to mobilize and engage people’s time, talent and resources to meet critical needs in disaster preparedness and recovery.

When a disaster strikes, Points of Light supports partners that are first responders and plays an active role in situation assessments.

Once the community transitions to the immediate recovery phase, our team of disaster experts helps direct corporate resources to impacted communities and provides technical and management support to affiliates and partner organizations in affected areas to recruit, train, manage and deploy volunteers.

Points of Light affiliates are critical in both short-term and long-term recovery efforts, including development, coordination, and execution of service- and site-restoration plans for impacted communities. Points of Light and our affiliates take a lead role in assessing damage, hosting and managing a volunteer reception center, training local and/or visiting volunteers, matching volunteers with local community needs, organizing donation distribution centers and conducting mold remediation.

On an ongoing basis, Points of Light also creates disaster-resilient communities through Ready Corps, our signature disaster services AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps members serving in this program mobilize in communities to educate individuals and strengthen local disaster networks, ensuring the community is ready to respond and recover from disaster.

As experts in volunteer management, Points of Light’s disaster services team also offers regular trainings and shares best practices on the deployment of spontaneous and unaffiliated volunteers in times of disaster and throughout the recovery process.

Corporate engagement is a key driver in this initiative, with a focus on engaging employees and consumers. Points of Light helps companies create volunteer projects that prepare communities for disaster. Making sure individuals and communities are ready includes preparing volunteers to be ready to help in disaster response and in long-term recovery work.

More than ever, we have seen the importance of volunteers as a positive indicator for resilient communities. This work helps build a network of skilled volunteers and volunteer leaders in a community and builds neighborhood connectivity that contributes to community resiliency and faster recovery after disaster.