In 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and created what many have called the largest housing disaster in American history. Before the rain even ended, faith-based groups from all over the Houston area began responding with offers to help.
Initially flooded homes needed debris removal and “mucking and gutting,” which involves removing dangerous debris, cleaning floors and cutting out drywall to prevent mold from doing further damage. For some homeowners, this was sufficient until they could tap insurance claims or savings to start returning their homes to “normal.”
Unfortunately, for many the “mucking and gutting” wasn’t enough to make it livable. Residents who lacked flood insurance or savings, or faced other challenges, had a difficult road to recovery. They still needed help, but in different ways. Houston Responds is a nonprofit organization that emerged from this evolving need. Its mission is to grow, unite and mobilize coalitions of faith-based groups who want to help their neighbors in times of disaster.
“FEMA told us that it would take 11.97 years to recover from Harvey. That’s too long! We need to find a way to do it in 3-5 years,”says Gary Flaharty, Director of Knowledge for Houston Responds. “Our faith-based communities are answering that challenge, and Houston Responds is helping to coordinate and expand that effort.”
Salesforce Helps Track Influx of Volunteers
Houston Responds quickly realized they needed technology to help coordinate and track the large number of volunteers coming from around Houston and the entire state. They selected KELL Partners to help them implement the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack and Volunteers for Salesforce.
Their requirements around volunteer management were unique. Instead of volunteers signing up individually for predefined job shifts, most signed up as part of larger groups. Volunteer times were also atypical, with groups volunteering for an entire weekend rather than a few hours. During the course of a weekend of work, a group of 20 volunteers may work on 4 different houses, so volunteers were also working across properties.
KELL and Houston Responds worked together to customize Volunteers for Salesforce to help automate the process. Their configuration allowed them to match groups of volunteers (people, days, skills and preferences) with specific projects at specific houses that needed help during that time.
Looking Ahead – A Bolder Vision
Once Houston Responds had Salesforce up and running, their momentum didn’t slow. Instead, “the light bulb came on,” says Flaharty. In building a system to track and organize volunteers to help with Harvey recovery, Houston Responds also created a database of skilled, already-trained volunteers and local organizations who wanted to help their neighbors.
“We looked around wondering who would help in the next disaster, and realized that the answer was us!”
The outpouring of support from faith communities around the region, combined with the technical infrastructure of Salesforce, will allow Houston Responds to play a pivotal role in helping organize recovery efforts for future disasters. With the help of city, regional and state agencies, Houston Responds is working to organize, train and prepare its network of volunteers to support a faster, more effective and better coordinated response to future disasters.
“If we wait until the next depression forms
in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s too late.”
Gary Flaharty, Houston Responds
How to Get Involved
If you’re a nonprofit interested in learning more about how Salesforce can help your organization address today’s challenges and imagine a bolder vision, contact KELL Partners today!