American Red Cross of the Bay Area


Image: North Charleston / CC BY-SA

"Huddle is great at helping us keep visibility into those things that naturally come up during meetings where everybody agrees around the table and says something should be done about that. Without a tool like Huddle, these ideas tend to fall off the table and become forgotten. Huddle has definitely helped us avoid that happening."

— Michael Hersher, direct services manager

American Red Cross Taps Huddle for Collaboration

The American Red Cross of the Bay Area, located in San Francisco, serves more than 4.5 million people in 10 northern California counties. The organization provides relief to those affected by disasters and helps individuals in the community to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

This amazing work is accomplished by maintaining a regional volunteer network that is more than 3,700 individuals strong. These volunteers provide training in first aid, CPR, and disaster preparedness and give support to those who have lost their homes to disaster. By helping people learn how to take care of their families and neighbors, Red Cross volunteers strengthen communities, making them more empowered to face large and small disasters.

A Growing Need for Collaboration

The Bay Area chapter underwent dramatic organizational changes in recent years that required better collaboration tools. Michael Hersher, direct services manager of the Bay Area Chapter explains, "Around two years ago, our chapter had expanded from 6 counties to covering 10 counties — the entire greater Bay Area. We were coming together as a larger team for the first time and trying to figure how we would manage and structure our work, communicate internally, get feedback on revisions of work in progress — the usual problems that teams working together over physical distances face."

Hersher began actively searching for tools that could help manage the team's challenges, and quickly identified Huddle as a viable option. "I was looking around for a way to make a service like Huddle work with a budget that is negligible and found the offering on TechSoup," Hersher said.

Not only was the Huddle donation through TechSoup financially viable, it was also easy for new users to understand and work with. "I appreciated how easy Huddle was to pick up, and other core members of the team took to the product relatively easily. In a sense, Huddle has a pretty shallow learning curve," Hersher stated.

Huddle's Impact

Huddle has been particularly useful for managing the Red Cross's large volunteer network.  Hersher says: "[Huddle is] the primary tool that we use to track volunteers. We have over 3,700 volunteers who are managed by 18 full time employees. One of the best ongoing uses of Huddle for us is tracking and triaging the suggestions, ideas, and concerns that come in from volunteers." This collaboration and organization of data is paramount for an organization that is largely volunteer-based.

Hersher's team also used Huddle when planning a survey of the clients served by the Red Cross during disasters. This was a significant undertaking because of the due diligence that goes into surveying a vulnerable population. A group of 5 to 10 employees used Huddle as their collaboration tool to systematically design the survey. The information gathered allowed the chapter to review and improve upon its processes.

Hersher says that "Huddle is great at helping us keep visibility into those things that naturally come up during meetings where everybody agrees around the table and says something should be done about that. Without a tool like Huddle, these ideas tend to fall off the table and become forgotten. Huddle has definitely helped us avoid that happening."

A Collaboration Solution That Grows with the Organization

"A year and a half later, we feel like Huddle can still do more than what we have asked of it," Hersher says. "This is a great place to be in with a product because it means we can keep growing and discovering how we can use it over time." The Huddle offering through TechSoup is a perpetual license (meaning it doesn't need to be renewed monthly or even yearly), so the Red Cross can continue to explore how to use Huddle even more efficiently.

"Definitely where we are right now, Huddle is still ahead of us," notes Hersher. "I continue to think Huddle is a spectacular tool, and we've had great success where we've used it. We're definitely in a place where we are growing into the tool."

This story originally appeared on the TechSoup Blog and was written by Jon Rush, relationship manager, TechSoup.