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  1. #1
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    Default How to get more volunteers

    The department I am with is very short on help. We have an aprox. 15 to 20 man roster and about half show up to trainings, meeting, and calls. How can we get more people interested in showing up, and volunteering?


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    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    You may want to go to Careers Section and look at the last sub thread Volunteers.

    You might also want to do a search on this too.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

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    If you have department t shirts,authorize wearing of the shirts during non department outings,like running personal errands,if people do not already do so.Look at it like this.If you already have the t shirts and they look neat and the person wearing it acts and looks professional,people WILL ask questions about the department and what you do.It's a foot in the door to getting new members.
    I know I looked like a whacker wearing mine in regular rotation but by the time I left my department,I'd recruited 4 new members and the last I'd heard,they had each recruited 3 others bringing our numbers up to well over 50 members.
    One way the Chief gets people to show for training beyond the service points which add up to a cash payback for fuel used to respond to calls,is that he seves a meal before we train on the theory of "If I feed them,they will come".
    We've held guest speakers and invited area departments to join us for training and they were impressed with how many people we'd have show up and how well we set things up:before we'd eat,it would be determined who was going to ride which rig in case of a call during the training or meal.

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    The explorers and the annual open house are our two biggest recruiting tools, in that order. Do you have or do either?
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Serve free beer.






    JUST KIDDING!!!!

    That has been the struggle of all volunteer departments since the beginning of time. It seems like what works in one area, doesn't always work in another. It varies with time, goes in cycles, and it seems like it's either feast, or famine.

    I can only suggest a few things.

    -Strong leadership. You have to have a leader that people will want to follow. That leader needs to be fair, but firm. There have to be SOG's established and enforced. For example...training and call attendance: You have to have a minimum requirement and enforce that requirement or there will be no consistency, therefore no one will want to be there. Personalities have a huge role in recruiting and retaining people. A firefighter or officer with an attitude will chase people away, I have lived through this with an old officer from long ago. That officer chased several good people away, and wouldn't you know it, after that officer left, some of those people they chased away came back! The leadership starts at the top with the Chief and follows down to the most jr. officer. Lead by example, earn the respect and not demand it, and people will automatically follow natural leadership like this.

    -Good training program. Your training program has to be exciting and interesting enough to motivate people to want to be there. Granted, you can only dress up some topics so much. You have to balance what you have to do (what is required), with what you want to do (what is fun to do). You can make training fun which will motivate people to be there. The only way you get good at something is to either have lots of fires, or lots of training. If you get people involved in training by using their own expertise, that will empower them to feel involved and therefore, show up for trainings.

    -Drama free zone. Create an atmosphere of friendliness without clicks, bad mouthing or back stabbing. Try to promote camaraderie and a positive atmosphere. It sounds like a big PC Hallmark card but it's true. If people are constantly bitching and whining about people or things, people will tend to avoid that and not show up. Praise in public, discipline in private. If there is an issue among officers, do it in private and not in front of the rank and file. If people see the officers bickering back and forth, it undermines their respect and leadership. People need to feel wanted and useful. Like I said before, empower people to do things and they will feel a sense of need a feeling of being a part of something, also promoting them to participate more.

    -Outside activities. Activities outside the fire station are very healthy and promote camaraderie as well. Have a BBQ at someone's house, a campfire, or something for people to get together besides training night.

    -Recruitment!!! Get active in the community with parades, events, and activities. If you notice, the garage doors of the station only are open to get the trucks out. We get back and the door closes again. We need to always have an open door policy. Be visible. Get out in the public and say hi to people. Get involved with the schools and tell teenagers about the fire service. We have a career day at the high school where we expose the kids to what it is like and promote membership. If you have a local college, go there and do some recruitment. Sure, they might be there only for a couple years because of college but they still can be a good resource. If someone wants to be a career firefighter, we make a deal with them. Give us a couple of years of good service and will provide a good reference. Here we have an explorer post. This is a great way to recruit new people.

    Make it worth a person's time to come to the fire station. In today's world, time is precious and if it becomes a waste of time for them, they will not be interested.
    Last edited by Dickey; 12-24-2009 at 04:56 PM.
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  6. #6
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    scfpd913- Contact the national fire job services like FireRecruit.com (www.firerecruit.com) and submit an official job flyer. They will run that information on a nation level as long as you want.

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    I've seen small town volunteer departments with waiting lists...

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    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    Dickey made a great post. I dont have much to add to it but this- it is hard to imagine in today's world a volunteer department that does nothing for its members financialy. Before you go jumping the gun, I am not talking about a pay check per say, but there needs to be some kind of reimbursement.

    For example, my volunteer department pays each member's dues to the state pension fund every year. We also cut each member a small check at the end of the year. It is not much, but it shows we do care and are trying to help them recoup some of the money they have invested in just being there and responding.

    The outside activites thing is a big one. Have at least two events per year- one for just department personnel and one for the personnel and thier families. This is a big morale booster.

    The last big point I want to make is that running a volunteer department like a paid department will severly cut down your numbers if not elminating them all together. I am not saying that the training and professionalism should not be the same, but I have seen many departments in my area where new leadership comes in that may work full time somewhere else and tries to run the volunteer department the same as the paid department, and it ends in disaster.

    Hope this helped!
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  9. #9
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    Understand Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs.

    People volunteer to fill a need. Maslov pretty clearly defined those needs. Security. Belonging. Social. Being a part of something. Improving yourself.

    The trick is finding how you can market your department to your community as a way to fill those needs.

    In other words, take Security. Market your organization as THE organization that provides security from fire. There will be members in your community that will see joining your organization as way to protect thier family from fire.

    Belonging to a team - market ex-military, ex-team athletes and the like. if you are heavily paramilitary and structured, market that.

    Social - Market the brotherhood and the social aspect of the fire service.

    And so on.

    Identify the groups in your community that will attach to these needs. Develop separate messages for each. Post these messages in places they will find them.

    Yes, it is a lot of work. But recruiting isn't as easy as opening the doors. It takes effort and dedication.

    Now if your market aggressive training to those wanting action, make sure you do have fast paced training or else you will lose them. Same with brotherhood, or any of the other needs that you are using to bring people in.

    Have someone in your organization take a college level marketing class.

    If you want more info e-mail me at bcallahan@bpfd1.org.

  10. #10
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Well...............

    Lots of Good Info out there already. And I agree with most of it, and a few points really stand out.

    One that was mentioned was "VISABILITY", in other words, BE SEEN, out and about the Community. Our area has been having steady growth for quite some time. For years, we've gone out and walked thru New Home Construction, mainly to keep track of what's going into the Structure BEFORE it gets covered with Sheetrock. We do this on Weekends, and that way we don't have to bother the Construction Crews, AND we end up talking with Real Estate Salespeople and new home buyers on a regular basis. Getting new Residents to understand a Volunteer System is the First Step in recruiting new Members.

    Another point was "OPEN DOORS". Although we have our Winter Weather here too, our Doors are open more than they're closed. Anytime that it's warm enough to have the doors up, they are. Apparatus is out on the Front Ramp a lot of the time as well. People will stop in to ask if their kids can look at the "Fire Trucks" and one of us will always jump in and give an impromptu "Tour". When they leave, the kids have a Plastic "Fireman's Hat" and some basic Prevention Material, and Mom and/or Dad Have a copy of our Fire and Life Safety Handbook......

    The Handbook is an important item in relation to recruiting also. Some years ago, our Prevention Guru (Deputy Chief Hugh Owens, now retired) decided to pursue the idea of combining all of the Handout Material that we used along with a lot of information about our organization, Including a Recruiting Message, into a Single Publication. After some effort, a "Draft Copy" was produced, and everyone was invited to provide any input. When we ended up with the finished product, we were around 40some pages, and when Printing estimates came in, the Price was prohibitive for our limited resources. Hugh "went back to the drawing board" and looked at some options. The end result was we sold Six pages of Advertising to local Businesses and took in enough to pay for the Printing, PLUS some additional funds that went into our Open House budget...........

    Another thing that works for us is that we have a large Room that is used for Meetings, Social Functions, etc. We provide the room to Local Community Groups to hold their meetings, and then work with them whenever we can to promote our organization. We also ask for a bit of space in their Community Newsletters to use for Recruiting and Prevention Messages....... I'll be back with more later....
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  11. #11
    Forum Member johnny46's Avatar
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    Give them salaries. You know, like cops.
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Understand Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs.

    People volunteer to fill a need. Maslov pretty clearly defined those needs. Security. Belonging. Social. Being a part of something. Improving yourself.

    The trick is finding how you can market your department to your community as a way to fill those needs.

    In other words, take Security. Market your organization as THE organization that provides security from fire. There will be members in your community that will see joining your organization as way to protect thier family from fire.

    Belonging to a team - market ex-military, ex-team athletes and the like. if you are heavily paramilitary and structured, market that.

    Social - Market the brotherhood and the social aspect of the fire service.

    And so on.

    Identify the groups in your community that will attach to these needs. Develop separate messages for each. Post these messages in places they will find them.

    Yes, it is a lot of work. But recruiting isn't as easy as opening the doors. It takes effort and dedication.

    Now if your market aggressive training to those wanting action, make sure you do have fast paced training or else you will lose them. Same with brotherhood, or any of the other needs that you are using to bring people in.

    Have someone in your organization take a college level marketing class.

    If you want more info e-mail me at bcallahan@bpfd1.org.
    First... it's Maslow... not Maslov.

    Second... One does not need a "college level" marketing class.

    Third.. you mention "brotherhood".. you don't know the meaning of the word... and past posts by you prove it...so why are you using it?
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny46 View Post
    Give them salaries. You know, like cops.
    Sure, a community that can barely support the equipment needs of say $50,000 a year or so will really be able to support a $2,000,000 budget for salaries.

    This is the real world, not urbania.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    First... it's Maslow... not Maslov.

    Second... One does not need a "college level" marketing class.

    Third.. you mention "brotherhood".. you don't know the meaning of the word... and past posts by you prove it...so why are you using it?
    Ahh mister negativity arrives on scene. How about some positive information for once. Tell me, how would having a college level marketing course hurt? Now back to the rational discussion.

    Of course the course(s) aren't necessary, one could easily pick up a couple of books and read them. But I have seen the writings of some of the non-educated out there and they make you shudder. I have seen fliers put out that just don't read well nor are they eye catching. It is important to understand that most people spend about 2 seconds looking at advertisements.

    Public Relations will also go a long way to recruiting members. Make sure your local newspaper runs articles about the department when they have fund raisers, are involved in community events, etc. We have a local run where the FD shows up and provides traffic control and EMS support. When the community sees how much you do some will come forward to help.

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    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    Ahh mister negativity arrives on scene. How about some positive information for once. Tell me, how would having a college level marketing course hurt? Now back to the rational discussion.
    Me? Mr. Negatvity? Surely you jest (and no, I didn't call you Shirley).

    When Bossier Bobby quotes psychologists, at least he should know who is talking about. He talks about "intense training".. one does not need "intense training" to lob water from the outside. He also mentioned "brotherhood"... he doesn't know the meaning of the word. He has stated in the past that he wouldn't go to a LODD funeral if he felt it was the deceased's fault. He has stated people should be fired for accidents involving apparatus. He has stated that he would let a child burn to death in a car because it's not his community, not his problem". A firefighter makes a dramatic rescue of a child over a ladder and Bossier Bobby stated that because his helmet wasn't on, he would have reprimanded him.. oh, that's right "ladders" are an advanced skill in "Bizzarroville Parish".. and by his "expertise" of fire ops, he can make judgements based on the shutter speed of a camera.

    Of course the course(s) aren't necessary, one could easily pick up a couple of books and read them. But I have seen the writings of some of the non-educated out there and they make you shudder. I have seen fliers put out that just don't read well nor are they eye catching. It is important to understand that most people spend about 2 seconds looking at advertisements.
    You might want to start with IFSTA's Essentials of Firefighting or Jones and Bartlett's Fundamentals of Firefighting Skills, as the basic questions you have asked here, like "what is primary search" are easiy found and should bealready be known by a "veteran" with your "years of experience"

    Public Relations will also go a long way to recruiting members. Make sure your local newspaper runs articles about the department when they have fund raisers, are involved in community events, etc. We have a local run where the FD shows up and provides traffic control and EMS support. When the community sees how much you do some will come forward to help.
    Traffic control is a police function.

    Your position on EMS in the fire service is well documented... so I take it that you don't take part in it?

    A press release to the local media covers all the bases you mentioned.

    As for retaining volunteers, I will defer to Harve Woods, who I trust for accurate information and would follow into a fire with no reservations whatsoever.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    We have a fuel reimbursement policy, and we just had a turn over in leadership. We have two trainings a month and an equipment check at each of the five stations, and a monthly meeting. Thanks for all of the comments and I appreciate it. I am a brand new officer and I am trying to learn ways to improve our deptment. Thank you and I will use them. Keep posting if you got any more ideas.

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    When Bossier Bobby quotes psychologists, at least he should know who is talking about. He talks about "intense training".. one does not need "intense training" to lob water from the outside. He also mentioned "brotherhood"... he doesn't know the meaning of the word. He has stated in the past that he wouldn't go to a LODD funeral if he felt it was the deceased's fault. He has stated people should be fired for accidents involving apparatus. He has stated that he would let a child burn to death in a car because it's not his community, not his problem". A firefighter makes a dramatic rescue of a child over a ladder and Bossier Bobby stated that because his helmet wasn't on, he would have reprimanded him.. oh, that's right "ladders" are an advanced skill in "Bizzarroville Parish".. and by his "expertise" of fire ops, he can make judgements based on the shutter speed of a camera

    Interesting comments. Typical.

    And you claim that I bring threads off topic. I could address each of these but I'll just let it pass. Several of them are wrong.

    I guess your attitude on recruiting doesn't surprise me. I guess we should just do what we have been doing all along and not utilize the techniques used in the world of business to market your department and recruit/retain members. Guess I disagree. We are a business as we deal with quite a bit of money, and we need to operate as such, and need to look to the business world to solve our many of our problems, and yes, that includes utilizing business world concepts to recruit, manage and retain staff, including volunteers, as well as career members.

    That includes training fire department management, including Lts and Captains as well as Division and Command staff Chiefs in administrative, human resource and management concepts used in the business world.

    Fact is there is a lot we could learn from the business world in terms of attracting volunteers using basic marketing concepts, and Maslow's is a significant part of that strategy.

    A lot of departments just throw a few slogans out there and wonder why people don't join. marketing your department requires a plan and some understanding of why people join, and how we can utilize those reasons to get them in the door. Often the fire service doesn't get that.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 12-25-2009 at 09:19 PM.

  18. #18
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    Traffic control is a police function

    In many small communities there are no police.

    Often LE is handled by a sheriff's department with limited staff or the State Police with limited staff and an extended response time.

    That was the case in many small communities I have vollied or responded mutual aid with.

    There have been times when we had no law enforcement on scene.

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    He also mentioned "brotherhood"... he doesn't know the meaning of the word

    Brotherhood in the fire service does mean very little to me.

    At one time it was important to me, but I have seen too many cases, especially volunteer-career situations where it has meant nothing. Right now it's just a job. Nothing special.

    However, there are many places and regions where it is quite significant and the sense of brotherhood is quite strong. In those areas it should be used as both a recruiting and retention tool.

    That really isn't the case in our area. Too many career guys stabbing vollies - even on their own departments - in the back for (perceived) personal gain.

  20. #20
    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=LaFireEducator;1126653][B]At one time it was important to me, but I have seen too many cases, especially volunteer-career situations where it has meant nothing. Right now it's just a job. Nothing special.
    QUOTE/]

    Wow. I dont even know what to say to that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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