Volunteer fatigue, donor fatigue bring unprecedented troubles to relief efforts

(Photo courtesy KSN News)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Hurricane Harvey made landfall less than 10 days ago and Irma is expected to follow suit this weekend. Two disasters of such magnitude cannot be recalled in recent history, proving problematic for relief efforts.

Volunteer fatigue is the notion that those serving will tire from their efforts and be unable or unwilling to serve another deployment. Similarly, donor fatigue is the idea that donors may be unable or unwilling to donate to Irma relief efforts after already giving to Harvey relief efforts.

“Irma preparation is a major focus for us right now. We’re trying to get volunteers out today or tomorrow because that window of when they can get there to be ready, is going to close very quickly,” Jennifer Sanders, executive director of the central and southeast Kansas American Red Cross said.

A typical deployment assignment for the American Red Cross is two weeks. After that time, it’s up to the volunteer to either extend their time in Texas, head to the Southeast for Irma, or head home. Sanders reports, some volunteers have said to sign them up for an additional deployment while others have jobs, families and responsibilities to return to at home.

“Some will go straight from Texas to the southeast, it just depends on what they’re willing to do and we appreciate all of our volunteers that have already deployed and our multitude of volunteers that have reached out to deploy,” Sanders said.

Donor fatigue is another threat, as the Wichita community has been notably generous in recent weeks with Harvey.

“We’re hoping with Irma, if folks still have the propensity to give, they will. Because this is going to be two now very costly and long-term disaster relief operations. Somebody said within the organization, this is marathon, not a sprint,” Sanders said.

Catholic Charities of Wichita said monetary donations are still the way to go to help with relief. They too, like other non-profits, are likely to deal with volunteer and donor fatigue.

“The most important thing is to demonstrate to volunteers and donors how much their gift and their gifts are impacting those who are suffering. That will be the fuel that continues to provide healing for them, and a place of motivation so that they can get past this terrible time,” Amy Tully with Catholic Charities said.

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A press release from the American Red Cross states the “just in time” training class will include information on disaster cycle services, deployment fundamentals and mass care overview.

Training sessions will be held at the American Red Cross, 707 N. Main in Wichita on Saturday, September 9 from 9am-12pm and September 23rd, 9:00am – 12:00pm.

For southeast Kansas, training sessions will be held at the American Red Cross, 128 W 8th St in Coffeyville on Saturday, September 16th, 9:00am – 12:00pm and Saturday, September 30th, 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Participants only need to attend one of the half day training sessions.
For questions, or to register, contact Dicie Nicklaus at Dicie.Nicklaus4@redcross.org.

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