The Disaster Response Module (DRM) is an add-on to our standard Connect product and is available for purchase to all Connect clients.

In spring of 2017, Galaxy Digital released Connect version 2.8, which included a special "Disaster Response" initiative" that could be used as an alternative to the Disaster Response Module (DRM) clients had been using previously. This guide, geared toward site managers who are familiar with the DRM, walks through the familiar territory of DRM and explains how it differs a the Disaster Response initiative.

Accessing Disaster-Response Data

To better understand the differences between the two tools, it's important to know where each tool "stores" disaster-response data, starting with where a site manager a disaster response scenario is created in the software. It's also important to know that data cannot be shared between the two tools. For example, a need created in the DRM need cannot automatically appear on a page featuring standard needs.


DRM needs, responses, hours, settings, volunteer disaster profiles, and other DRM-specific data are located in the Modules > Disaster Response area of your site manager panel. DRM needs cannot be "switched" to be made standard needs, and some of the volunteer disaster-response data (such as skills and services)  are only accessible in this area of your Connect platform.


Initiatives, including Disaster Response initiatives, are stored in the Volunteerism > Needs area of your site manager panel. All initiatives use standard needs, and a need can be added or removed from a Disaster Response initiative with a couple of clicks. All volunteer data is stored in the standard volunteer profile.

To create a DR initiative:

  1. Go to Volunteerism > Needs and select initiatives.
  2. Click Add New Initiative.
  3. From the Type dropdown, select Disaster Response.
  4. Complete all other applicable fields on the initiative form.
  5. Click Create Initiative.

In the table of initiatives, it's easy to see which initiatives are for disaster response, and which are standard initiatives. (Click image for a larger view.)

table_initiatives.png Note: If the Type column isn't visible on your screen, click Table Filter (above the table, on the right) to activate the column.

Why Standard Needs May Work Better for Disaster Volunteer Management

In the past few years, Galaxy Digital has made many improvements to standard needs that have not applied to the DRM, Service Learning Module (SLM), or Advanced Events Module (AEM). Those improvements include:

  • Improved team management, by both the site manager and the team leader
  • Ability to make needs private or public
  • Ability to assign needs to volunteer groups (user groups)
  • Ability to create a single need with multiple shifts
  • Ability for both the site manager and agency manager to view a calendar of need responses
  • Use of volunteer check-in for all needs, and volunteer self check-in for shift needs
  • Custom response questions for standard needs
  • Additional custom questions for standard needs within initiatives
  • Ability to attach one or more qualifications to a need, so that only those volunteers with the qualification can respond to the need
  • Use of Verified Volunteers to get background checks on volunteers who respond to a certain need
  • Ability to add waivers to individual needs

Because the DRM does not use standard needs, it lacks the above features. In addition:

  • There is no team sign-up option for DRM needs.
  • All DRM needs must be "happens on," occurring on a single day.
  • The only "custom questions" are default questions that can be displayed or hidden as needed.
  • Individual needs cannot be made private while other needs remain publicly visible.
  • Waivers can be applied to all needs within a disaster but not individual needs.

In addition, you can have multiple DR initiatives with multiple needs on a site (though a need can belong to only one initiative). In contrast, the DRM can manage only one disaster event at a time; if a DRM manager wants to set up an event for hurricane disaster response and a separate one for flooding disaster response, they can't. With initiatives, setting up two separate disaster response initiatives is easy. 

DRM Settings, and How they Differ from DR Initiatives

If you are accustomed to the DRM, you will find the information below helpful, as it walks you through each of the DRM settings and explains the availability of similar features for DR initiatives.

The DRM's Settings area includes settings for activating the module, auto-approval of needs, visibility of the module for agency managers, a "need response thank-you" page, supplemental volunteer questions, waivers, public availability of needs, and "info page" content. 

Activating the Module

When your site has active disaster-response needs, a red banner will be displayed, regardless of whether you're using the DRM or a DR initiative. (Click image for a larger view.) red_banner.png

The banner's purpose is to make it easy for volunteers to find disaster-response needs. In addition, the banner makes it unnecessary for a site manager to have to create a separate spotlight for each access to those needs. 

Activating the Module in the DRM: The module is activated from the Settings area, by clicking the button to turn the DRM on. Once an active, current need has been added to the DRM, the red banner will appear in the volunteer view.

Activating a DR Initiative: A DR initiative is active as long as it has at least one active, current need assigned to it. Once this condition is met, the red banner will appear. If a site has two or more DR initiatives going on at the same time, the user will be able to pick which initiative's needs they wish to view.

Auto-approval of Needs

DRM needs do not follow the same approval settings as standard needs. Instead, a site manager must go to the DRM Settings area and select whether new needs posted to the DRM will require a site manager's approval before they can be made available to volunteers on the site.

Because needs within a DR initiative are standard needs, they are subject to the settings as submitted in the Settings > Main Settings area of the site manager panel.

Agency Manager Access

The DRM Settings area includes a Display DRM link in Agency Manager option. This is where a site manager can decide whether or not agencies can access the area where they would post DRM needs. If Yes, Show Link is selected, then agency managers will be able to click a Disaster Response link in their agency management area and post DRM needs. If No, Do Not Show Link is selected, the link will not be available, and an agency manager must contact a site manager regarding DRM needs they want posted.

With DR initiatives, all agency managers can post needs for any initiative. The site manager has the option of letting the agency manager select a DR initiative for their need, or the site manager can make that option available only on the back end of the site.

"Need Response Thank-you" Page

When someone submits a response to a DRM need, they will see a page that thanks them for their response and provides any additional information they may need. This page and its message must be customized by the site manager.

When someone submits a response to a DRM initiative need, they will see the same "Thank you for volunteering" message that they would see for any other need.

Note: For information about need response thank-you email notifications, click here.

Supplemental Volunteer Questions

In the DRM, site managers can choose to display or not display the following three questions on a need-response form:

  • Will you require lodging in order to be able to serve as a disaster volunteer?
  • If lodging is provided by the host %s, will you require any special accommodations?
  • Do you require any special accommodations in order to volunteer?

There is no option to create custom questions.

For any DR initiative, you can create custom questions for all needs that are within the initiative. These questions will appear on the need-response form for those needs.


With the DRM, you can attach a waiver to the entire event. When a volunteer responds to a DRM need, they must agree to the waiver before they can submit their response.

With a DR initiative, a waiver must be attached to an individual need. There is currently no option to apply a waiver to an entire initiative.

Public Availability of Disaster Needs

The DRM Settings area includes the option to hide disaster needs from the public. This can be particularly helpful if you only want the needs to be available to qualified volunteers. The DRM does not, however, include the option to hide some needs and not others.

With DR initiatives, you can make individual needs public or private as needed, and you can make needs privately available to one or more private groups. In addition, you can attach qualifications to needs, which means that an individual will not be able to respond to a need until they've been approved as being qualified.

The DRM Info Page

The DRM "info page" is a customizable page unique to the DRM. If your DRM is not active but someone access the /drm link on your site, they'll be taken to the info page, which encourages them to create a disaster profile. This page is no longer shown once the DRM has been activated. Site managers can customize that page in the Settings area of their DRM

DR initiatives do not have an "info page," but you can create a banner that appears for any disaster-response need. This banner can provide instructions, emergency numbers, and other contact information as needed.

Automated Notifications

All users who participate in disaster response using your site's disaster response tools will will receive automated notifications from your Connect platform.

DRM Notifications

The DRM includes the following automated notifications:

  • DRM: Response Notification Agency - Informs agency managers that someone has responded to their DRM need.
  • DRM: Response Notification Volunteer - Sent to a volunteer once they have responded to a DRM need; thanks them for their interest and provides contact information for the agency.
  • DRM: User Welcome - Sent to volunteers who are added to the site from within the DRM. Directs them to log into the site and update their profiles.

These notifications can be edited as needed. There are no follow-up notifications available for DRM.

Disaster Response Initiative Notifications

Agency managers who post DR initiative needs will get a standard notification letting them know when someone has responded.

Volunteers who respond to a need for a DR initiative will get the following standard notifications:


Skills and Services


Benefits of DRI


Accessing Disaster Response Data

In the DRM, setting up the module for disaster response requires a number of steps, including:

 (compare the two)

(explain that VOLUNTEERS access it in the same way, by clicking the banner)

Features of DRM vs DRI Needs

Big section on why DRI needs are better than DRM

DRM Settings

(questions, waivers, banner)

Agency manager capabilities


(transition: Because DRI needs are standard needs, site managers and agency managers have greater flexibility and easier management of them(

Managing Needs: Site Manager Perspective

- Accessin

(general intro)

Managing Needs (Site Manager Perspective)



Posting and Managing Needs (Agency Manager Perspective)

Managing Needs

Accessing Needs (Volunteer Perspective)

Initiatives and Advanced Events: How They're Alike

Initiatives and the AEM both provide these benefits:

  • Ability to group volunteer needs (opportunities) under a single "umbrella"
  • A unique banner on the screen that shows the volunteer that the needs listed belong under that "umbrella"
  • Needs within both modules can be public, privately available to a group, or a mix of both
  • Custom questions for volunteers (such as for t-shirt size)
  • The person posting the need can enter helpful information about required tools, inclement weather plans, wheelchair accessibility, and more.

About the "Umbrella"

Both advanced events and initiatives can serve as "umbrellas," or mechanisms by which multiple needs are grouped under one heading. Typically this "heading" is a large-scale event such as a Day of Caring, but site managers have used these tools in many different ways--for holiday volunteer opportunities, for examples, or opportunities for a certain group.

Your Connect site uses a banner to show that a group of needs falls under a single umbrella, whether it is an advanced event or an initiative.

The Advanced Event Banner

When you click to create a new advanced event, you're prompted to provide a title, a description, and a date or date range. You can also pick the color of the banner and banner text. All of that information shows up on the AEM banner (example below), which anyone can access by going to the AEM link that you provide.


The "heart" icon shown on the banner is the same for all AEM banners; there is no option to change it.

The Initiative Banner

When you click to create a new initiative, you're asked to provide the title, description, and banner information (including banner color, text color, and icon). That information shows up in the initiative banner, which can be accessed by anyone who has permission to view the needs within the initiative. (If the initiative contains public needs, it will be available to anyone who visits your site.) Here is an example of an initiative banner:initiative_banner.png

Note that no date or date range is provided, and that the site manager was able to select something other than the "heart" icon.

Standard Needs and AEM Needs

This article discusses two types of needs:

  • Standard needs are (typically) posted by an agency manager from the Needs tab of their agency management area. A volunteer can find standard needs by clicking the Needs menu item on a Connect site. Standard needs can be added to initiatives. They cannot be added to an advanced event.
  • Advanced event (AEM) needs are created as part of an advanced event. They cannot be switched or cloned to standard needs, and they cannot be part of an initiative.

The following section goes over a few benefits of using either type of need and should help you to understand which type of need you want to use for your event. The sections after that look at special considerations regarding private and public needs, customization, teams, reports, and waivers.

General Benefits of Using Standard Needs

Because initiatives apply to standard needs, site managers and agency managers may want to use initiatives if:

You want to apply initiatives to existing needs. One of the biggest benefits of initiatives over AEM is they can be applied to standard, existing needs; there is no need to open a new module and create new needs that are specifically for the initiative.

You have needs that are ongoing, run until a particular date, or occur in shifts. Unlike AEM needs, standard needs can have one of five durations: ongoing, runs until, happens on, recurring shift, or custom shift. An AEM needs can only happen on a single; the other four durations are not available.

Note: You can create shifts in the AEM, but the process involves cloning needs and is more labor-intensive than selecting shifts for standard needs.

You want volunteers to be able to find needs the way they usually do. With AEM, you must provide a special spotlight (or send out a link) for people to be able to see your advanced-event needs; otherwise, they may not know where to find them on your site. With initiatives, needs are easily viewed and searched from the Needs page (accessed by clicking Needs in the left-hand column of any Connect site).

You want more freedom in what details you provide about the needs. The AEM need form is more detailed than the form for standard needs. You can, however, add attributes to standard needs, which enable you to provide information that is as detailed--or more detailed--than what you can provide for advanced events.

Note: You can provide additional details for AEM needs, but they must be included in the need description.

General Benefits of Using the AEM

While there is a great benefit to using standard needs and initiatives, there are some instances where you might want to use the AEM instead.

You want to prevent agency managers from posting needs outside of a certain date range. With the AEM, you must specify the date or date range of the event. Once you've done that, any need posted must fall on that date or within that date range. The AEM expires once the end-date passes, and it is no longer shown on the front end of your Connect site.

Note: An initiative does not expire. If it has current needs, it will be available on the front end of your site, either publicly or to the users who have access to its private needs. Once the needs within it expire, the initiative will no longer be displayed to volunteers.

You want to limit the additional details agency managers can provide outside of the need description. The AEM need form includes questions about required tools, meals provided, and more, but it doesn't have a special "attributes" area for entering additional details that are of interest. If you prefer this kind of form, you may want to use the AEM.

You don't want the needs to be mixed in with standard needs. If the needs within your advanced event are public but you don't want them to be searched and viewed with all of the other needs on your site, you may want to use the AEM.

Public, Private, or Both?

Prior to Connect version 2.8, the AEM was the only option if you wanted to make needs privately available to one or more groups. You now have more options for making needs private. With version 2.8, you can now make standard needs private, whether or not they are associated with an initiative. Read on to see how privacy works within both tools.

AEM: Using Companies to Offer Private Needs

The AEM includes a "companies" feature, where a site manager can set up groups to which private needs can be assigned. These groups are traditionally companies, but they can be church groups, Scout troops, or another group of volunteers who are to have access to a private need. A site manager can then assign individual needs within the advanced event to individual groups. Below are some of the situations for which AEM needs may be preferable over standard needs.

You want to have a designated "company manager" who can see what needs their employees/group members are signing up for. With the AEM, each company has a primary contact person known as the "company manager." That person has access to a "company dashboard" listing all of the needs that have been made privately available to that company. The company manager can view the needs and can add or remove responses on behalf of employees or group members. The company manager can also see who has signed up for which needs and how many slots are still available. The company manager can send out a unique "employee access link," which employees or group members can use to sign up for the privately available needs themselves. Finally, the company manager can export response information into a spreadsheet.

You want the needs to be private by default. With the AEM, the site manager has to complete two steps before making a need available to volunteers: (1) activate the need, and then (2) either make it public or assign it privately to a group. Any new need added to the advanced event must go through those steps; as a result, AEM needs are never public by default.

Note: With standard needs, an agency manager can select to make a need private when they create or edit the need. As a site manager, you can change a need's privacy setting as needed.

Making Standard (non-AEM) Needs Private

Both site managers and agency managers have the ability to make a need private by marking a "Private" option on the need-posting form. Private needs do not have to be assigned to user groups.

  • If a private need is not assigned to a user group, a volunteer can access it only by clicking a private need link that is provided to them.
  • If a private need is assigned to a user group, all members of the assigned user group will be able to view the need on your site.

If an initiative contains private needs only, all volunteers will be able to access the banner, but only those volunteers with permission (or a private link as described above) will be able to see the needs within it. 

Custom Questions and Custom Notifications for Participants

Both the AEM and initiatives provide a level of customization not available for standard needs alone.

Customizing the Participant Experience in the AEM

You can add three types of "custom questions" to the AEM:

  • Agency Questions - These questions appear for the agency manager before they can get to the need-posting page.
  • Supplemental Need Questions - These are event-specific questions that you can add to the need form itself. 
  • Volunteer Questions - These questions appear for the volunteer before they can complete their need response.

For more information on AEM custom questions, click here.

You may want to use the AEM if:

You want to include agency application questions . If you want your agency managers to answer one or more event-specific questions as a prerequisite to posting needs, the AEM gives you this capability.

You want to add questions to the standard need form that agency managers use to post needs for the event. These questions show up on the need form for the specified event and not for other events.

Note: You cannot customize automated notifications for needs within an AEM. Any changes to an AEM notification will automatically apply for all active advanced events on your site.

Customizing the Participant Experience for Initiatives

With initiatives, you can add custom volunteer questions, which appear for the volunteer before they can complete their need response. While initiatives doesn't have a "supplemental need questions" feature, you can add questions to all standard needs in Site Settings. There is no option for agency application questions in initiatives.

For each initiative, you can add text to the automated notifications that go out--specifically, the confirmation, reminder, and follow-up emails.

You may want to use initiatives if:

Agency questions and event-specific need questions are not important to you. If these aren't issues, then initiatives may be your best choice.

You want to customize the notifications that go out to the volunteers. You have this capability with initiatives but not with the AEM.


Both AEM and initiative needs can accept team signups; its up the the person posting the need to decide whether they want to enable the team sign-up feature. The team enhancements included in version 2.8 apply to standard needs only; they are not available for AEM needs. Below is a summary of those enhancements.

  • Site managers can create and manage teams from the site manager panel.
  • The team creator must provide a team leader's email address, preventing the possibility of a team without a contact person.
  • Team leaders can email all of their team members, both individually and in bulk.
  • Individuals can join a team via a "join link" sent to them by the team leader or a site manager.
  • Team leaders can edit team members' need responses and can submit volunteer hours on their behalf.
  • Team leaders can clone an existing team in response to a need.
  • Teams can view their team resume.

These features are available for all standard needs--not just those that are part of an initiative. They are not available for AEM needs.

Reports and Exports

You can access reports for both initiatives and advanced events in the Reports area of your site manager panel. In addition, there are several areas where you can generate exports of raw data for either tool. The following section explains what reports and data exports are available for each.

Initiative Reports and Exports

Your site manager panel includes the following initiative-specific report:

  • Initiative Summary - Shows needs, responses, and submitted volunteer hours for each initiative. Each initiative has its own row in the table displayed, and you can view data by a selected date range.

Initiative information is also included in related exports and in Data Explorer reports. The user and email blast filters also include an option to export or email all volunteers who are associated with a particular initiative.

AEM Reports and Exports

The Advanced Event Summary, located in the Reports area of your site manager panel, lists all active advanced events on your site. It shows the start and end date of each, along with the associated agencies, needs, companies, and teams. It also shows the total volunteers needed, the total responses received, and the total volunteer hours submitted for each advanced event. 

Several exports of data are available in the AEM section of your site manager panel.

  • Agency Application Data - If your advanced event includes custom agency questions, you can export agency managers' answers to those questions.
  • Companies - If your advanced event includes needs assigned to companies, you can export the company information. The export includes basic information about the companies, along with the number of needs assigned to them.
  • Teams - If your advanced event includes team signups, you can export the teams.
  • Needs - You can export all needs within an advanced event. The export includes the number of volunteer slots available for each need and how many have been filled at the time of export.
  • Responses - You can export all need responses in an advanced event. The export includes any company information, team information, and waiver information, as well as user data for each volunteer who responded. 


You can currently attach both an agency waiver and a volunteer waiver to an advanced event. The agency manager must agree to the agency waiver before they can post a need, and the volunteer must agree to the volunteer waiver before they can complete their need response. If a waiver is uploaded for an advanced event, it will be a required field.

You cannot currently attach a waiver to an initiative, but you can attach waivers for individual needs within an initiative. If a waiver is attached to a need, it will be a required field.