National VOAD, What is it?

Even if you do not know what National VOAD stands for, there is a very good chance that you know who we are. You may have given blood at a Red Cross blood drive, or interacted with a Salvation Army bell ringer, received a hygiene kit from International Orthodox Christian Charities, granted financial assistance from St Vincent de Paul, or perhaps you had Team Rubicon assist you with clearing debris following a disaster. Both in times of disaster and in times of peace, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) members and partners are serving your community and responding where they are needed most. 



National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster was founded over 40 years ago in response to the challenges many organizations experienced following Hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm that hit the Gulf Coast in August 1969. Up until that time, numerous governmental, private sector and nonprofit organizations served disaster survivors independently of one another. As a result, help came to the survivors haphazardly. Unnecessary duplication of effort often occurred, while at the same time, other needs were not met. 
In response, National VOAD was formed by seven voluntary organizations (including the Society of St Vincent de Paul!), as a forum for sharing knowledge and coordinating resources — money, materials and volunteers – throughout the disaster cycle. Guided by the core principles of the 4 C’s — cooperation, communication, coordination, and collaboration — National VOAD members provide the leadership that builds strong, resilient communities, and delivers hope in times of need.


The seven national voluntary organizations that originally formed the core of National VOAD, are in fact just part of the National VOAD umbrella. Today, National VOAD is a coalition of 65 of the nation’s most reputable national organizations, joined together in response with 56 State VOADs, which represent Local/Regional VOADs and hundreds of other member organizations throughout the country. A lot of the progress made by the VOAD movement can be traced back to our State and local VOADs. Our State/Territory VOAD Members represent many local and regional VOADs, and hundreds of additional local organizations such as houses of worship, long term recovery groups, all the way down to community organizations and individual volunteers. The coordination between these local groups and State VOADs allows for needs to be assessed and expressed quickly. It is essential as well to have local voices and local faces leading relief efforts and directing aid. The communication, collaboration, coordination and cooperation exhibited by our State VOADs and their local members and partners before, during and after the hurricane season of 2017, has been essential in the long term recovery effort. 



In Texas after Hurricane Harvey when the call was put out by Texas VOAD for additional clean up kits, local religious groups and NGOs across the country helped pack and distribute them by the thousands to National VOAD members responding on the ground. These same local groups also sent volunteers and participated in muck and guts alongside National VOAD members like ICNA Relief. The reach of a local church group or affiliate does not have to be limited to the area where they are based. 
In Puerto Rico for example, groups from around the country and local NGOs coordinated their relief efforts with Puerto Rico VOAD leadership and the government to ensure the delivery of goods and services to those in need. Puerto Rico VOAD works with these same groups in establishing Community Resource Centers to help people through the DCM process. In addition, in Puerto Rico, the State VOAD organizes frequent summits and calls for National VOAD members active on the island. This effort to keep open a constant line of communication is essential, but without local affiliates such as parishes, church groups and NGOs, the effort is wasted. Without these groups the shelters that are run by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, which sheltered hundreds of thousands of people, would not be able to run. Without local parishes chipping in and providing shelter for volunteers, the tens of thousands of individuals that signed up through the National VOAD website to help the island recover would have had nowhere to stay.
Even areas that weren’t directly impacted by the last hurricane season have been thrust into essential community support roles. Throughout New York State, from Rochester to New York City, New York VOAD has been providing evacuees from Puerto Rico with clothes, shelter and financial assistance. In Florida, Florida VOAD affiliates from local houses of worship met evacuees at the airport with gift cards for shelter and food, as well as information on how to receive long-term essential assistance. The need for assistance will continue long after the memory of these storms fade but having the support of our State and local partners will provide a better outcome for survivors. 



The VOAD movement is active all around the country, with a mission to mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters on survivors. All involved are dedicated to whole community engagement and recognize that the VOAD movement’s values and practices represent a proven way to build resilient communities. Our dynamic combination of faith-based, community-based, and other nonprofit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) represents thousands of professional staff and volunteers with unique skills and a resourceful spirit. It is these local affiliates and individuals that need to be engaged on a State level for the VOAD movement to work. 
For more information please e-mail: 
About the Author
Justin Wilder is Manager of Communications and Support Services at National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. He is a graduate of American University where he majored in History, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Health at George Mason University. You can contact Justin at: