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Home > MSAA Publications > The Motivator > The Motivator: Summer 2009 > Program Notes
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Program Notes

Empowering MS Patients While Increasing a National Nonprofit's Capacity: MSAA's Resource Detectives Program

By Malcolm Friend, Bonnie Yares, Amanda Montague, and Robert Rapp

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) receives thousands of calls each year from MS patients across the nation in search of information and resources to meet their varied needs. Many of these requests are directly addressed through MSAA's extensive array of programs and services. Others, however, must be referred to community agencies or resources. The goal of MSAA's Resource Detectives® Program is to establish a comprehensive, up-to-date national resource database to assist those affected by MS.

MSAA's Resource Detectives Program

In 2007, MSAA developed the Resource Detectives virtual volunteer program to meet this challenge in an efficient and cost effective manner by mobilizing volunteer "detectives" (many with MS or relatives and friends of those with MS) to seek out resource information that is beneficial to others with the illness. The Resource Detectives Program relies on a national cadre of virtual volunteers to research and collect information on resources available to MS patients in a wide array of areas. Since the program's inception there are over 2,000 active volunteers who have collected more than 10,000 resources offering more than 82,000 services in the United States.

Engaging MS Patients as Volunteers

The concept of utilizing MS patients in service to others with the disease flows directly from the data collected as part of MSAA's 2005 Client (Patient) Needs Assessment. The demographic and descriptive information generated from the 762 respondents indicated that a significant number of our clients have the required tools, time, and knowledge to become Resource Detectives (80% reported having access to a computer with Internet capabilities, only 30% were working full time, and 70% reported having at least some college education).

Results and Next Steps

By successfully utilizing virtual volunteers, many of whom have MS, to identify resources available to the MS community; the Resource Detectives Program may serve as a model for how nonprofit patient organizations can empower their patient population while also building their own capacity. The resources collected are currently available through MSAA's Helpline, although future plans include partnering with MS centers to enable the information to be disseminated throughout the MS community. The success of the Resource Detectives Program suggests that MS patients can play a powerful role as volunteers in nonprofit organizations. The success of the Resource Detectives Program demonstrates that MS patients can be mobilized to make significant contributions that assist their peers through their voluntary efforts.

MSAA's Resource Detectives Program Photo
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Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 11:46