A Closer Look: Mercy Ships and Their Community Impacts

Posted by Mel Attia on Sep 10, 2019, 8:00:00 AM

5 minute read

A Closer Look: Mercy Ships and Their Community Impacts

As I wrote previously, I started a blog series on some amazing nonprofits are using the power of community to help them achieve their goals. Online communities aren’t only good for businesses in building more customer intimacy, deflecting support tickets or improving the bottom line. Communities help nonprofits fulfill their objectives. 

Here, numbers aren’t counted through the dollar amount saved, the number of trending discussions about the product, or the amount of time that it takes to respond to a support ticket. 

Here, the only numbers that matter are the ones that tell a life-changing story. It could be the number of people who’ve made connections with others going through similar issues; the amount of times that people have reached out for support when they had no one to turn to, or even the number of steps that someone is able to take after a life-changing surgery.

Today, I thought I’d focus on the latter; the number of steps that someone is able to take after a life-changing surgery. This is what Mercy Ships works towards everyday; most recently, they’ve helped Mohammed, a four year old boy from Tombolia, Guinea, take his first steps to a new life on new straight legs after providing him with a surgery that his family couldn’t afford. 

Mercy Ships works to help thousands of others like Mohammed, and they use their online community to help facilitate and onboard new volunteers to provide free healthcare to those with limited access. This blog will touch on the work that Mercy Ships does and how they use their community to advance their mission, vision and values. 

Mercy Ships Mission, Vision and Values

Before we dive into how Mercy Ships uses their community to support their goals, I’ll first touch on what their mission, vision and values are.

Mercy Ships was founded in1978 Don and Deyon Stephen, and provides hospital ships run by skilled volunteers to deliver free surgery and health care services to those in developing nations. The mission of Mercy Ships is to provide “surgery related programs that bring hope and healing to those who have limited access to healthcare.”

The vision of Mercy Ships is to use hospital ships to transform individuals and serve nations, one at a time.

The Mercy Ships Community

Every non-profit will use their community in a different way to achieve their goals; as we like to say in the community space, “no two communities are the same!”

While other nonprofits use their community as a platform for those looking for support, such as Scope UK (which I discussed in my previous blog), Mercy Ships uses its community as type of portal for volunteers/ those looking to volunteer. Titled myMercy, the Mercy Ships Community describes its purpose on the homepage of their community as:

The purpose of this community is to give: 

  • potential volunteers authentic insight into life and work onboard a hospital ship,
  • accepted crew helpful resources, the ability to connect with colleagues onboard, 
  • alumni a way to stay connected to each other and Mercy Ships.

The community is very active, since every year, Mercy Ships has more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations that donate their time and skills. Mercy Ships doesn’t just look for skilled healthcare professionals; they also look for anyone who is willing to donate their time. Under the “working onboard - general” category, it’s clear to everyone looking to volunteer that Mercy Ships looks for housekeepers, hostesses, cooks, dining room staff, bakers, laundry room staff, and much more.

When new members join the Mercy Ships community, they are encouraged to read the community guidelines and introduce themselves in the “introduce yourself” category, which opens with, “we love getting to know members of our community. Tell us about yourself and why you want or chose to serve with Mercy Ships!”

The most popular categories in this community truly illustrate the purpose and function that this community has, and its benefits for those looking to volunteer. Some of the most popular categories include:

  • Introduce Yourself

  • Working Onboard

  • Crew Life

  • Application Process

  • Ship Bound

  • National Offices

While this community is mostly used to discuss volunteer opportunities, donations and onboarding new volunteers, the community also makes use of gamification and reactions. For instance, members are able to earn a number of different badges, including “first comment,” “first post,” and “10 comments.” The reactions that members are able to use include:

  • Insightful

  • Like

  • Awesome

  • Promote

Further, the posts that have the most “likes” show up in the “best of” page. 

Although the Mercy Ships community has these types of community functions, their members don’t really need incentive to participate; they are simply motivated by their desire to volunteer and help out. This is very apparent when looking at the “unanswered category,” where there is a whopping zero questions left unanswered! There are currently no questions in the community that are unanswered simply because all community members are engaged and motivated to post in order to collectively achieve their end goal and organizational mission.

Mercy Ships Community Impacts

Given that this community is for Mercy Ship volunteers, the impacts that the community has is truly reflected in the work accomplished by these volunteers. The community plays a central role in onboarding, directing and answering volunteer inquires, as well as providing meaningful guides about everything that volunteers need to know.

For example the community not only provides a number of relevant documentation (also leaving space for members to comment and ask questions) but it also provides several location guides so that members know what to expect based on the area they are shipped to:  

Want to learn more about where you'll be serving? Make sure you read through our brief country-specific guidebooks! Included you'll find information about the country, including local laws to be aware of, security & health information, tips for your time there, and detailed travel information. Click on the guidebook below to read more!

The image above speaks to the hard work, time and effort that Mercy Ship volunteers put into accomplishing their mission and vision. With 2.7 million lives impacted by Mercy Ships, at a value of over $1.2 billion dollars, the impact that Mercy Ship volunteers have had is crystal clear. 

I’m proud to call the Mercy Ships community a Vanilla community, and stories like this only reaffirm our decision to develop and perfect community software.

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