top of page

Make your decisions informed

Between 1980 and 2019, over 22,800 natural disasters were documented globally that affected more than 14 billion people in need of immediate assistance such as medical services, shelter, food, and water. Rapid-onset disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, pose major logistical challenges in response efforts due to their unpredictable nature. The core issue lies in the complexity of managing inventory, as response agencies cannot foresee the location, timing, scale of impact, or specific needs arising from these unpredictable disasters. Further, humanitarians frequently face uncertainty regarding the budget that will be available at the time of the disaster.

Inviting too many volunteers can make them feel unnecessary, while inviting too few may lead to burnout. The dilemma lies in determining how many volunteers a charity needs to invite for each event?

Optimizing inventory level

My colleague, Scott Webster, and I have developed a user-friendly tool that provides decision-makers essential information, such as the optimal inventory quantity for each item under various budget constraints and the monetary value of investments in each item based on available funds. It is not data-intensive and functions effectively even with data derived from expert intuition. We are offering this online calculator free of charge to all non-commercial response agencies. If you are interested in using it and would like access to a series of brief training videos, please feel free to contact either me or Scott Webster.

Volunteer scheduling

Serving as the primary workforce for many charitable organizations, volunteers represent a unique and complex labor pool. They are not only unreliable but also exhibit considerable heterogeneity in performance and affinity to the organization. Further, Wu and Eftekhar (2024) demonstrate that an individual’s volunteering experience increases the likelihood of their future monetary donations to the same charity. Considering these aspects, Chao Wu, Joline Uichanco and I developed a forward-looking optimization model that accounts for the diversity among volunteers, mitigates both understaffing and overstaffing costs, and explicitly correlates individual contributions in both time and monetary donations. (For details, read this paper.) Then, we developed an Excel-based calculator to assist charities in determining the optimal number of each type of volunteer (episodic or regular) required for events to maximize their total labor and monetary contributions. This calculator is available to charities. To receive a free copy, please contact me or (my former student and) coauthor Chao Wu.

bottom of page