Volunteer Leadership and Member Retention

Over the past several years, a great deal of my life has been invested into the area of leadership research. Perhaps it has been my good fortune to have had an interesting and varied career. I have experienced a wide range of varied and challenging leadership styles.

However, it is more likely that my experience has really been no different than many other people. In my case, I have taken the time to take a lot of notes and perform a great deal of research. Before going any further, let me define the terms with which I will be working.

Many times, people confuse the issues of recruiting and retention. They are not the same. Recruiting involves those things we do to attract people to join our organizations. Retention is defined as the act of retaining. In this case it involves the effort we expend in keeping those people who have joined with us as active members of a volunteer fire department.

Each of us has a role in the retention of members in our volunteer fire departments. Our efforts must start as soon as the new member passes through your doorway. You will never be sorry if you say hello to that new member. Many lasting friendships have emerged from an initial interaction such as, "hi, my name is Harry, what is your name?"

Membership retention in the volunteer fire service lies at the heart of my latest research project. My work now involves constructing an interview format to assess a research problem that will serve as the basis for my upcoming dissertation research project. I have chosen to study leadership as one of the variables that may have an impact upon the retention of our volunteer firefighters.

It is my intention to search for answers to the problems inherent in the leader/follower interaction. A great many sources within the world of leadership research speak of the relationship between good leaders and effective organizations. I hope that this project will lead me toward a time when I will be able to develop effective educational programs that will more effectively impact the ways in which leaders interact with the people in their departments.

Many people have noticed the problem of leaders who drive members away from their fire departments. A number of emails on this topic have reached me here in my office. Further, in a recent Firehouse.com