EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation September 10, 2008
The Aidmatrix Network
"The Right Aid to the Right People at the Right Time"
Vice President, The Aidmatrix Foundation, Inc.
The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A text transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org
[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to the Virtual Forum! We are pleased you could join us today, including our first-timers. We want you to feel comfortable about participating, and we will be giving instructions as we go along.
Our topic today is "The Aidmatrix Network: The Right Aid to the Right People at the Right Time." Please see the Background Page for links to related information, and our guest will be providing additional links during the presentation, which will be included in our transcript afterwards.
There is a related poll/survey question on our home page, "National efforts to educate the public to donate cash instead of goods are: a)Adequate b) Somewhat inadequate c) Woefully inadequate. " Please take a moment after our session to respond if you have not voted already, and review the results to date.
Now to introduce our guest: Melis Jones serves as Vice President at Aidmatrix, where she focuses on new partner development, sustainability initiatives, education and training, sales force management and specifically leads the Medical and Texas-based projects. She has a strong background in technology, marketing and project management, with more than 12 years experience in management positions within the technology field. Her volunteer efforts are extensive, including serving as a board member of Pratham and working with the Leukemia Society and local charitable organizations.
You can hear a short interview with Melis by going to our home page and clicking on "Preview Podcast" in the second paragraph. It should launch in your default audio player. [http://www.emforum.org/podcasts/080909.htm ]
Welcome Melis and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.
Melis Jones: Thank you. Aidmatrix is a nonprofit organization. We believe that by working together as partners, we can triumph over the world's most challenging humanitarian crises. The Aidmatrix Foundation, Inc. builds and operates powerful technology 'hubs' that support diverse stakeholder groups working together to solve the world's most challenging humanitarian crises.
More than 35,000 leading corporate, nonprofit and government partners use our solutions to mobilize aid. We work in the areas of hunger, medical and disaster. The donated goods, money and services impact the lives of more than 65 million people. Our world-class systems make it easy and efficient for everyone from donors, to nonprofits, to governments, to get the right aid, to people when and where they need it most. Our Aidmatrix team of passionate people is dedicated to creating and delivering tools and processes that bring people together to help others.
Today I am going to focus on our US Disaster Programs. The program focuses on unsolicited donations of cash, in kind products and unaffiliated volunteers.
Last summer, we launched the FEMA- and sponsor-funded program. The program was designed to honor established donations management best practices. The solutions were designed by the community, for the community. Representatives with deep donations management expertise, from the States, FEMA Donations Management experts, VOAD nonprofit organizations and private sector participated to help design the solutions.
A little more than one year later, 27 states, 1 territory and 1 city are part of the Network. Please see the map http://www.aidmatrix.org/AidmatrixNetwork_states_lg.jpg .
The initial focus was a rim strategy and current efforts are focused more on mid America. As you can see what is being formed is truly a network. States can share offers and needs to help get the right aid, to the right person, at the right time amongst all stakeholders.
From a historical perspective Hurricane Andrew, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina brought donations management to the forefront. FEMA choose to partner with Aidmatrix because our strength is in managing donations. We help move over $1.5 billion in aid on an annual basis.
States opt-in to the program. They can use one or many of the tools that are available as part of the Aidmatrix 'Disaster Tool' Kit. If the state has an ongoing program/technology already in place, they are encouraged to use that.
The FEMA program is designed to "raise all boats". By providing world class tools to all states, a common infrastructure is created to support the National Response Framework. We also partner with VOAD. The recipients of the donations are primarily VOAD members as they are vetted nonprofit organizations with disaster response missions.
In regard to hurricane Gustav, states from Texas to Florida have posted their portals. As one of the first steps, each state must decide where to post their link. Let's look at Louisiana's portal as an example, where donors can choose to donate cash, in kind products or volunteer. Louisiana has chosen to use all of the tools.
The cash section features Louisiana's State VOAD and National VOAD Members. The list is in random order and donors can 'Learn More' or 'Donate Now'. The URLs are provided by the nonprofits and donors are directed to their on-line donate now systems.
We'll transition now to the In-Kind overview. Donors can offer donations online. When an offer goes into a state portal, the State Donations Coordination Team (DCT) receives an email alert letting them know a new offer has been pledged. When administrators log in they see an exec dashboard that gives them a snapshot of the donations. Amy, slide 1 please.
The DCT team is generally made up of State Donations Management and State VOAD leadership. The DCT reviews the offers and if they are offers that would be needed by the nonprofit community, it's shared via the 'Network'.
In turn the nonprofit(s) receive an email alert and they can log into the Aidmatrix Network and review their offers and either Accept or Decline the offer. The State and VOAD can leverage the system to help streamline their processes.
In the past, this was mostly done by excel spreadsheets, post it notes, internal to emergency management databases, numerous telephone calls and emails. Traditional processing of offers did not connect in a structured way the stakeholders; government, VOAD and private sector. Amy, slide 2 please.
In June of this year, new functionality as part of the In-Kind system was launched including 'Needs' functionality. For example, if you click on Louisiana's Product Donations Section you will see a list of Needs. These needs are provided by Louisiana's nonprofit community.
States can aggregate their needs and use them to help facilitate matching of inbound donations. States can also share their needs with their trusted partners. For example, the State of Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi have been sharing their needs with the BENS - Business Executives for National Security, at http://www.bens.org and ALAN American Logistics Aid Network, at http://www.alanaid.org.
Donors can review the Needs and pledge directly to them. The needs are updated in real time to reflect the offer. For example, if there was a need for 10 pallets of roofing supplies and 4 pallets were offered, the Louisiana portal would be updated to reflect the new need of 6 pallets.
The third component to the Aidmatrix Network is the Volunteer Management Solution. Aidmatrix does not want to recreate the wheel, the Volunteer Management solution, like all of our tools are designed to help states that do not have solutions to manage their unaffiliated volunteers.
States can refer unaffiliated volunteers to their existing partner(s). California is such an example. If you go to the California OES website, http://www.oes.ca.gov/, and click on the red Donations button on the right you will see the California Aidmatrix Portal. Click on the Volunteer Registration and it will direct you to California Volunteers. On the other hand, if you visit the Alabama website, http://www.servealabama.gov/, you and click on the Volunteer section, you will be taken to the registration form. More tools will be added to the Disaster Kit throughout 2009.
The fourth component to the Aidmatrix Disaster Tool Kit is the Warehouse Management module. This tool is designed to help manage a warehouse set up to support disaster response.
It tracks inbound and outbound shipments, donors, recipients, and has a powerful reporting capability. It is designed for ease of use. Amy, slide 3 please.
Aidmatrix tools are web based. No additional hardware or software is needed. All that is needed is access to the internet. There is no cost to the State for use of the Aidmatrix National Donations Management Network. More information about the Disaster Kit Modules can be found at http://www.aidmatrix.org/AN_government.html.
In regard to the process, Aidmatrix works hand in hand with the FEMA regional VAL and the State Donations Manager. Once a state has signed their MOU (Memo of Understanding), Aidmatrix works with them to schedule training for the administrative team and their nonprofit recipients. Aidmatrix is a partner throughout the process helping the state with their adoption and implementation plans.
As we mentioned, Aidmatrix is a nonprofit. Thus we are mission driven. Our goal to be able to help 'connect the dots' to help serve those in need. We strive to 'amplify' the tremendous efforts of all our partners and we are honored to be part of this program.
If you are in State government and want to learn more, Mike Seifert is your contact. His contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org. His phone number is (414) 659-1905.
This concludes my introduction and I will be happy to try to respond to your questions or comments. I will turn the floor back over to our moderator.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Melis. Now, to proceed to your questions or comments.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Isabel McCurdy: Melis, timing is everything. Who decides when to implement the pledge system? You or the benefactor?
Melis Jones: The States are our 'customers' if you will. They work closely with their VOAD partners to set up the systems and to decide on timing of the release.
Lise Anne Pierce: Is Aidmatrix available for use to Canadian Government and NGOs?
Melis Jones: Aidmatrix is being used internationally. We would be happy to have conversations with you about how to initiate a Canadian Aidmatrix Network.
Jaye Compton: Is the primary server for AidMatrix active 24/7/365 or could a user expect some downtime?
Melis Jones: The system is available 24/7. And Aidmatrix staff is here to help supplement efforts during times of disaster. For example, we 'deployed' staff to CA during the wildfires and to Iowa and Indiana during the Midwest floods.
Budd Johnson: Is this "taking away from" or reinventing the wheel that the American Red Cross and Salvation Army started or are they part of it?
Melis Jones: This FEMA-funded system is focused on unsolicited donations. That is an important message. Those donors who already have relationships with nonprofits will maintain those. This system is meant to be 'additive' and help bring more to the nonprofit community.
Jaye Compton: Does the warehouse tool have capability for bar coding donated goods?
Melis Jones: That's an interesting question. Most of the disaster warehouses we support receive in items in black plastic bags. They are generally not new donations. Thus the Disaster Warehouse technology doesn't support bar-coding because it's not right for this environment. However, Aidmatrix does have other Warehouse Management Solutions for other types of environments that do support bar coding.
Jaye Compton: Is there a complete and detailed users guide available for Aidmatrix online?
Melis Jones: There is high level information, but we would be happy to provide more details about the functionality of the system offline.
Steve McGee: RFID tagging like the United Parcel Service uses (one of your main sponsor's) would add that product coding.
Melis Jones: Aidmatrix loves the idea of RFID and be happy to work with our partners on appropriate projects.
Lisa Destro: Did Aidmatrix work with New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina?
Melis Jones: Aidmatrix did support Louisiana during Katrina. For example, we worked with the Adventists Community Services and the State of LA to help them with their multi-agency warehouse. Within 36 hrs we had a team in LA working. The State of LA was able to view into the inventory and see, in real time what was available. This was one of the reasons FEMA adopted the system. It was tested in the field 'under fire' and was easy to use and of high value to the state.
Michael J. Chumer: Do you have a GIS or Google Earth component for geo-locating the source and recipient of donations??
Melis Jones: Interesting. We are experimenting with that in the 'lab' but it has not been incorporated into our product set yet.
Jose Holguin-Veras: One of the most serious challenges to researchers, like myself, that are doing work in humanitarian logistics is the lack of data to test and develop supply chain models. Aidmatrix could go a long way to help fill this gap. Could the data collected at a disaster be shared with researchers?
Melis Jones: The data does not belong to Aidmatrix. Each state owns the data and they can decide who to share it with. We would be happy to continue a conversation with you about this and facilitate introductions to state leadership.
Jaye Compton: Follow up comment on bar coding - donations need to be sorted and stored in a fashion they can be accounted for and recovered for issue (if they are usable). Bar coding could help with this.
Melis Jones: Jaye, we work closely with our state partners to understand their requirements. As of this time they haven't told us they want the bar coding, but from an Aidmatrix perspective we would be happy to listen to the community and provide as needed.
Susan Boldt: Regarding the State Donations Management Team. Could you please identify the types of individuals that would be useful to have on the Team?
Melis Jones: Yes. On the State DCT we see a combinations of folks. For example, in the state of OK, the DCT is made up of the State Donations Manager, the State VOAD leadership; and the primary administrator is the OK Food Banker, as he is very familiar with the Aidmatrix system, and the State VOAD has a strong relationship and has been working together well for years. In every state we see a combination of VOAD and State partnership; that's the consistent theme.
Susanne Jul: Apologies if I missed this (technical difficulties): Does Aidmatrix provide for corporate donations, or is it aimed exclusively at individuals?
Melis Jones: Donors can be individuals or corporations. The network, in conjunction with the community, has designed language that encourages large new and bulk items. One of the values of the system also is to help those that have donations that aren't appropriate for the emergency response or rebuilding phase, to help guide them to locations/organizations in their state that can use them. Each state can customize the message for those offers that are not needed.
Derri Hanson: As a user of the Aidmatrix system it has helped reduce the number of black plastic bags.
Melis Jones: That's the goal. Many folks are now going on line and pledging their offer. It's actually a positive if some of those donations are 'declined' before they are shipped to the disaster site. Therefore, it's good to see items that have been accepted and declined.
Bob Quimby: Are donated goods stored near the staging area and identified so the managers can decide the best use/transport arrangements?
Melis Jones: Each state has a process for how they stage. Aidmatrix warehouse system is a tool that the State Donations Managers can use to help them with this effort.
Jennifer Jettner: Is it Aidmatrix that sets up the warehouse in the state, or is it the state's responsibility to get a warehouse to use?
Melis Jones: Thats a good question. Each state makes the call whether or not they are going to raise a warehouse. In turn, Aidmatrix is the tool that is used to manage the inventory. For example, in Iowa, FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs) worked closely with Joyce Flinn monitoring donations and together they made a decision to raise a warehouse to support recovery efforts.
Greg Smith: Melis, in addition to the support Aidmatrix provides to states, can you speak to how EMAC can also be used to assist a states efforts, especially those new to the system?
Melis Jones: Yes, thank you Greg. It's actually very exciting. Many states are now using EMAC to help move donations management experts who have experience with the Aidmatrix Network. For example, in CA they received help from the great State of Alabama. James Mullins was there to support Greg Smith and help share best practices and provide support when Greg was preoccupied with the wild fires.
Greg Smith: In California, after adopting Aidmatrix, we had zero incidence of unsolicited offers showing up at undesired sites. Prior to this, we were the poster child for the infamous 2nd Disaster. We attribute this turnaround to using the Aidmatrix system.
Jaye Compton: If a state receives donations that are not usable (i.e., coats delivered to Mississippi when temperatures are 90 degrees), can they see needs from other states that may be able to use them or can other states see that these donations may be available?
Melis Jones: From the Aidmatrix perspective, we capture donor intent. We believe in transparency and accountability and we provide that to the State so they can make decisions about what can be shared and with whom.
Jennifer Jettner: If a donor requests to have their donation be tax deductible, that would be the responsibility of the non-profit that received the donation, correct?
Melis Jones: Yes. It's the nonprofit's responsibility to receipt the donations. And in training we review with the nonprofits what their responsibilities are. Aidmatrix never takes receipt of the goods.
Amy Sebring: I have a question Melis relating to the training. Do you do that in person or online?
Melis Jones: Most of our training is web-based. We do it over the Internet and folks do not even have to leave their office. However, for some larger events we do go in person.
Amy Sebring: If a state is NOT currently participating, what would you advise our folks to do to get them on board?
Melis Jones: I would advise them to call Mike Seifert at 414/659-1905 or email him at email@example.com . As mentioned, 27 states are now signed and we are in conversations with at least half a dozen others.
Derri Hanson: Are the state portals active during peacetime also?
Melis Jones: Yes. In fact, CA and Texas are both great examples. These states have their portals open 24/7 to receive offers of goods. Greg or Dee, would you like to comment on this?
Greg Smith: Don't forget about our good friend Alex from Florida, These two guys provided so much support, along with Mike Seifert, I don't know if it would have been a success without them. We strongly encourage states to avail themselves of this great tool during disasters. We just completed a donation for 10 porta-potties, non disaster related, that a nonprofit partner found useful. This occurred yesterday.
Michael J. Chumer: It sounds like a "reactionary" system. Where do you stand on pre-positioning resources for anticipated Emergency Mgmt (response, recovery) use?
Melis Jones: Aidmatrix systems can and are used in all phases of the disaster. The network is new. It will look different tomorrow, six months from now and in one year. For example, we work with America's Second Harvest (now feeding America) and have helped them create systems to change the donations from a simple 'push' system to one of a 'pull' system where food banks actually bid on their food to help create more nutritious meals. Aidmatrix believes in creating tools the community will use. In that vein, there will be many enhancements and the solution will 'evolve' along the way with great user experiences from CA, FL, TX, Iowa, and others.
Amy Sebring: Are there any specific enhancements you are currently planning?
Melis Jones: I would expect to see the system address future needs. Our job is to listen to the community and help create technology that makes their jobs easier.
Mary Woodward: When donors offer a gift, is there a notation/section that indicates that the donor will/will not arrange delivery to the indicated recipient address?
Melis Jones: Actually the donor is asked whether or not they are able to provide transportation. The nonprofit sees this information when they review the offer. If a nonprofit accepts a donation and in turn needs help with transportation they can actually request that within the Aidmatrix system. Aidmatrix has partnered with UPS to create a Transportation Network; this is a true public/private partnership. For example, Iowa Habitat for Humanity received an offer of $200,000 worth of carpeting but the material was in CA. Habitat requested transportation within the Aidmatrix system and a transportation donor accepted it and moved the carpeting to Des Moines. This is another example of how the network has already grown.
[A question was lost from the transcript. Essentially the question was whether the Aidmatrix system accommodates non-traditional types of goods or services.]
Melis Jones: Yes, donors can offer their services. This is facilitated through the In-kind section. We have had offers for example of bulldozers along with operators. For those of you that have not seen the system, a picture is worth a thousand words. We would be happy to schedule a time to do a walk through of the solutions or I encourage you to reach out to folks that have already used the system such as Greg Smith in CA, or Joyce Flinn in Iowa, or Allen Roark in Mississippi. These are all state donations managers
John Vollmer: What are the costs associated with this program?
Melis Jones: The base program is free to States in the United States. States can customize their solution for an additional fee, but the base system is very powerful and offers a tremendous amount of functionality.
Rick Fernandez: How has Aidmatrix been used to help transition from response to recovery? I think this relates to the "peacetime" question.
Melis Jones: Let's use Iowa as an example. They stood up in the middle of a disaster. But now if you go to the Iowa portal you will see they are still posting needs. The State is using this as a tool to help drive attention to the recovery efforts long after the TV cameras are gone. The system helps speak for those organizations that are helping our citizens rebuild. In addition, Iowa is sharing their needs with their trusted corporate partners such as BENS, and BENS is promoting the needs to their private sector partners. The US Chamber is also helping to promote these needs. Greg Smith from CA can also speak to this. The system is helping CA even today post-wildfires.
Amy Sebring: Melis, in addition to the state portals, there is a national portal? If so, how does that work?
Melis Jones: There is a National Portal. For example, the national portal was recently promoted during the Gustav response. FEMA was anticipating there might be a large volume of calls so the National portal is really used as a 'safety valve'. FEMA does not accept offers of donations--rather, they use this portal to push offers to the states and to the VOAD members.
Greg Smith: During the fires of '07 we had many donations in which transportation wasn't provided by the donor, but with help from UPS, each donation was shipped successfully. We continue to build capacity by adding nonprofits and local government to our list of recipient agencies with the help of Aidmatrix.
Melis Jones: Great. Say hello to Portia for me.
Dwane Hubert: I would be interested in some successful marketing strategies that states have used to drive donors to the Aidmatrix website. Thanks.
Melis Jones: The Aidmatrix Network is a tool for the states to help them work more efficiently with their nonprofit partners. It is the responsibility of each state to promote their portals. That is not Aidmatrix's role. We are the underlying infrastructure if you will.
In the Midwest and in CA, there are great examples of the states working to get the message out. It means working with your Public Information Officer (PIO), in advance. Working with your Governor, working to put together press releases and putting together PSAs, and working to decide where the links will be featured. This work ideally should be done before the waters start to rise. The system is only of value if people use it.
Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thank you very much Melis for an excellent job. We wish you and your colleagues at Aidmatrix continuing success in your mission. A special thanks to Charlotte Medley for assisting with preparation for today's program.
Melis Jones: Our pleasure. Amy, great job. Thank you for your help.
Amy Sebring: And thanks to all our participants for great questions and comments. Please stand by just a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements: If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to Subscribe.
Thanks to everyone for participating today. We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Melis for an excellent job.