National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters


The phrase “Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters” refers to both the individual organizations and associations that respond in a time of crisis and to the network that is formed by many VOADs coming together at the local, state/territorial or national level.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (National VOAD), “an association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters; provides a forum promoting cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration; and fosters more effective delivery of services to communities affected by disaster” (from About Us). National VOAD understands that effective service delivery during a disaster begins with collaboration and relationship building during “blue skies.”

NVOAD logoNational VOAD membership is divided into National Members, State Members and Partners. The organization has nearly 70 National Member nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters across the entire country. Each state/territory has a State VOAD which also belongs to National VOAD; there are approximately 56 State Members. These members provide coordination during a local or regional disaster, often having a seat at the state or county/city Emergency Operations Center. The Partner membership categories include: Foundation, Corporate, Nonprofit, Government, Academic and Associations. (The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) is a nonprofit partner.) Partners work with VOAD members to improve U.S. disaster relief, response and recovery efforts in a variety of ways.

Key Facts

  • NVOAD was founded in 1970 following Hurricane Camille in August 1969. It was recognized that the previous system of non-coordinated response from government, nonprofits and the private sector often resulted in duplication of services, unmet needs and gaps and unnecessary competition. Access to training for volunteers and information on assistance and services for disaster survivors was limited. Seven national disaster response organizations met in 1970 to create National VOAD “as a forum for sharing knowledge and coordinating resources – money, materials and manpower – throughout the disaster cycle: preparation, response and recovery.”
  • All VOAD members share a common set of values and principles to guide their work. Known as the 4Cs they are Communication, Coordination, Collaboration and Cooperation.
  • The 2018 National VOAD Triennial Review (with only a 50 percent response rate) found that “in 2016, National VOAD members utilized 5,215,197 volunteers who contributed 48,565,211 volunteer hours. That equates to a value of over $1.1 billion in donated labor to response and recovery efforts across the United States alone (volunteer hour valued at $24.14*).” *Source of volunteer hour labor stat is Independent Sector.
  • National VOAD and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy entered into a formal partnership agreement in 2013. The partnership is designed to coordinate nonprofit partnerships with private philanthropy. National VOAD shares the work of its members with CDP which in turn will share the information with its community of donors.

How You Can Help

  • Provide ongoing operational and administrative support. The VOAD member organizations raise most of their funds during a disaster. They may be limited in their service provision depending upon how much money is raised to support their work. Administrative or ongoing operational funding allows them to concentrate their efforts on service provision.
  • Create advance MOU agreements. In cases where a funder only wants to fund when a disaster strikes, an advance MOU can be created that is operationalized when a disaster strikes, providing a surety of funds.
  • Provide backbone organizational support. The role of coordinating the local or state VOAD networks, is often an add-on position, on top of regular duties, to a staff member working for a disaster organization. Providing backbone support, including overhead and administrative funding, in advance of a disaster, allows the network to grow and strengthen before the crisis hits.
  • Support National VOAD’s ongoing costs. National VOAD, while it does utilize paid staff, also operates on a very lean budget. Support for overhead, administration and operational funding can allow them to focus their efforts on ensuring effective coordination and collaboration. In addition, funding can be used to provide training to VOAD members and to support preparedness and planning efforts.

What Funders Are Doing

FEMA provides long-term case management funding after most major disasters, generally through a partnership with the affected state. For Hurricane Harvey, it chose instead to provide National VOAD five of its member organizations (Catholic Charities USA, Islamic Circle of North America, Lutheran Disaster Response US, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and United Methodist Committee on Relief) a contract to run case management services in Texas. This consortium, known as Project Comeback: Texas, provides support and aid to Texans still needing assistance after Hurricane Harvey.

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