Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Get to Know: Paul Beede

Paul shops for toys for the Disaster Holiday Party.
Since joining the American Red Cross in 2007, Manager of Volunteer Services Paul Beede has seen a lot of change and development in the recruitment and managing of volunteers. The regionalization of Red Cross chapters across the nation pushed the Red Cross to improve communication and teamwork, leading to the sharing of ideas and best practices.

“There are definitely a lot of ways—every day—I get inspiration from community chapters about how to better engage volunteers,” Paul said.

One piece of inspiration comes from their practice of grassroots efforts often used in smaller communities—an approach Paul came to admire while working with the Close Up Foundation in Washington, D.C.  Shortly after completing his degree in Political Science at St. Olaf College in Minn., Paul headed to America’s political capital to work with the Foundation which is dedicated to educating youth on civic responsibility. He grew to love community organizing and the use of grassroots efforts to make a difference—two aspects he hoped to carry into his career.

“I knew I wanted something where I could go home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled,” Paul said. His desire to help the community led him to a volunteer recruiter position at the Louisville Area Chapter.

This week, Paul is in Austin, TX getting trained on the latest and greatest features in Volunteer Connection. Since its pilot in June, more than 500 new volunteers from the Kentuckiana region have registered using Volunteer Connection. The web-based tool is a great way to recruit volunteers of all ages and engage them on a local level providing opportunities with Disaster Action Teams, blood drives and special events.

“One of the really great things about Volunteer Connection is it’s going to make the volunteer intake and recruitment process more convenient,” Paul said.

The tool also benefits Red Cross staff. Volunteer Connection proved its efficiency last fall when a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in southwestern Jefferson County. An online notification as well as a recorded phone message previously set up using Volunteer Connection went out to Louisville Area Chapter volunteers asking them to provide their availability in case the Red Cross needed to open a shelter or provide food for affected residents. More than 50 volunteers responded in the first two hours.

When Paul returns from instructor training in Texas, he will be able to use Volunteer Connection to track the Red Cross volunteer workforce during local and national level disasters. As 1 of only 30 instructors being trained throughout the nation, he is expected to train others throughout the region and across the U.S.

By this spring, volunteers will also be able to sign up for national level disaster deployments and track Red Cross training making Volunteer Connection a one-stop shop for volunteer needs. But traditional recruitment and engagement will continue as well.

“We still plan on engaging volunteers in whatever way works best for them,” Paul said.

In addition to finding new ways to engage volunteers  and make sure they are comfortable using Volunteer Connection, Paul’s goals include creating new opportunities for volunteers to give back to the community and supporting efforts to reach out to young professionals and youth in order to recruit the “Next Generation” of volunteers.

For more information on how you can become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/Louisville or call (502) 561-3601.