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Colorado mobilized 4,000 medical volunteers in response to the pandemic

A scrappy team of volunteers built a network for statewide medical organizations overnight.

By Nelli Veletyan

metrics

  • 4,442
  • medical volunteers recruited
  • 798
  • active volunteers deployed
  • 8
  • partner organizations served

 

Earlier this year, as Covid-19 first crept its way into the headlines, Sarah Andrews was working as the Chief of Staff within the office of economic development and international trade for Governor Polis in Colorado. With the pandemic rapidly unfolding, the governor’s office needed a program to quickly recruit and deploy medical volunteers for various local organizations reacting to the surge in hospitalizations and testing.

The new initiative placed Andrews, who had a background in fast-paced organizing and campaigns, in a temporary role heading up statewide volunteer efforts in response to the crisis. But launching a volunteer program overnight was not going to be a simple task––she was going to need help.

That help came from Kiel Brunner, whose work as a public opinion researcher and data scientist had been put on hold when the pandemic shut down the call center where he worked. When the new initiative at the governor’s office called for his expertise in data science and infrastructure, Brunner joined Andrews as a full-time volunteer to get the initiative off the ground.

To build out their program, they needed a digital infrastructure that could scale quickly. Since they had each heard of NationBuilder from their previous work in campaigns, they saw it as a natural fit. With their software locked in, they shifted their focus to better understanding the communities they’d be working to help.

“We were listening to figure out what the needs were at all the different hospitals, care sites, and volunteer organizations, and what the standard expectations were in the healthcare field given that it wasn’t something either of us were super familiar with,” says Brunner.

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Their work involved spending countless hours narrowing down volunteer roles and mapping out what each of their journeys would look like. Getting clear on which roles were necessary and why was critical to streamlining and optimizing the experience for any volunteer, donor or organization that landed on their site.

Luckily, when it came to building out their first tier of volunteers, they had access to a network of active supporters from their previous work in the state––and it wasn’t long before they had a solid group of virtual field organizers. This group would go on to keep medical organizations updated on the effort and conduct ultra-scrappy volunteer outreach via posts on Facebook, in Meetup groups, and anywhere else they could make their voices heard.

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With that work in motion, Andrews and Brunner worked alongside the NationBuilder team and architects at Voxara to build their all-new website, and in a matter of days, it was ready for launch. 

Though Andrews had initially set out a goal of recruiting 1,000 volunteers within the first week of launch, by day four they’d already surpassed it—and the numbers kept going up from there. Each sign-up page on their site was set up to tag volunteers based on the actions they’d taken, information that’d come in handy throughout their journey with the initiative.

Governor Polis had also helped drive added attention to the site via his social channels, while the virtual field organizers continued their determined outreach online. And before they knew it, Help Colorado Now had recruited 4,000 volunteers––an incredibly high number for a short period of time.

On the success of their initiative, Brunner said: “A lot of people want to rebuild their own system from the ground up, but I think that our success was due to our being able to find a tool that had 95% of what we needed and working with the team to get to the final point, rather than starting with 5% and then trying to piece it together. [If that were the case], we wouldn't have finished yet.”

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