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Thread: Trying to find new ways to get new members

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    Default Trying to find new ways to get new members

    What dose your dept do to find new members. Our small dept is a no pay Volunteer dept in Ohio. Trying to find ways of getting new members thay just dont walk in off the street any more. We cannt aford to pay our members and it seams that the meaning of Volunteer is leaveing this country we do pay for any members training / schooling so any ideas.

    what happen to neighbor where ever helping neighbor
    Last edited by wrfdcap; 07-29-2011 at 08:12 PM. Reason: need to add a word


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    First of all, make sure you really want new members as a department. Some members may not be all that interested in "new blood" that they don't know.

    That said - one department here gained six new members by going door to door, in uniform (which can range from Class A's to matching t-shirts), armed with a well-written letter of introduction (typed and copied on dep't letterhead), information about being a member (training and other requirements, call volume, etc), and applications.

    Other methods of getting the word out include media blitzes (best done regionally - I'm sure your neighbors are in the same boat), roadside signs (within local limits), posters in local businesses, and even some vinyl on the sides of your trucks (maybe a local signmaker would cut it for you gratis), and open houses.

    You can also give talks at local organizations. Bring along the same stuff you passed out during the door-to-door campaign. You might even consider asking the local pastors to mention it at services.

    If you do fund-raisers, make sure you have a table set up (and manned, if possible) with membership information.

    Best of luck with your efforts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrfdcap View Post
    What dose your dept do to find new members. Our small dept is a no pay Volunteer dept in Ohio. Trying to find ways of getting new members thay just dont walk in off the street any more. We cannt aford to pay our members and it seams that the meaning of Volunteer is leaveing this country we do pay for any members training / schooling so any ideas.

    what happen to neighbor where ever helping neighbor
    Pretty much everything tree said would work. My department is in the process of coming up with ideas to get new members that are willing to go through the training. But the easiest way is anytime you have any type of function or fundraiser set up a small table with some applications and a member that can stand there and give people all the information they need. Won't hurt to try, the worst that will happen is no one will fill out an application.
    "If it was easy, someone else would of done it already." - Lt. Ray McCormack FDNY

    - Firefighter 1 / HAZMAT Ops / EMT-B

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    And right now, before you get any new members, set up an orientation checklist - stuff every new member should do/get/see. This includes things like getting a copy of the bylaws and SOP's, a tour of the station/apparatus, physicals, keys, pagers, badges, swearing-in, training, whatever is normal for the first few months of membership.

    The orientation might also include a talk with the spouse, just to make sure they understand the requirements, too.

    This helps ensure that a new member isn't just thrown into the morass and made to fend for him/herself. There is also an implicit requirement for the department (and it's members) to help them achieve some of it.

    Far too many people join a fire department only to quit within a year because the department just doesn't seem to have any direction.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Here are some basic facts about recruiting:

    1. Recruiting should be a continuous program. I n other words, just because you think you have enough members, the recruiting program continues. There certainly can be 2-3 periods a year where there are targeting high energy "recruiting drives", but there should always be a subtle, low key message out there in the community regarding fire department membership. In addition, there are always planning and preparation needs for the next "drive period".

    2. Recruiting is hard work. Many departments expect to be able to effectively recruit with a minimum of effort. Sorry, but it simply does not work that way. Each body brought in will cost a significant amount of effort.

    3. Recruiting requires a significant time commitment. The fact is most departments expect far more than they can given the time that they put into recruiting.

    4. Recruiting requires planning. Recruiting is nothing more than marketing, which takes planning. To effectively recruit, your department needs to do the following, which requires planning time:

    Identify why people want to join your fire department.
    Identify the message it will take to attract those people.
    Identify where those people are in your community.
    Decide how to get the message to those people in your community.
    Decide the process you will use to interview and evaluate applicants.

    5. Recruiting requires a dedicated team. There should be a committee whose members primary focus is recruiting as it (see above) takes time for planning and it is hard work. This can include non-firefighting administrative members with a history in marketing, recruiting or human resources brought in by the department for this sole purpose. it can also include special or auxiliary members and should include a member from all the groups you want to attract - juniors, seniors, etc.

    6. Recruiting effectively requires a plan for those brought in. Recruiting requires that you have way to quickly process applications and begin the training and membership process. If new members feel like they are just left hanging once they have been recruited, they will leave. There needs to be a systematic process whereby they are rapidly integrated into the team.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Default And...........

    Several pitfalls to avoid........ In order to attract the best candidates for membership, any Volunteer organization needs to first be sure that their organizational structure is set up properly. If you have the following things, you should make them go away: 1. Residence Requirements. There is no valid reason in the year 2011 for a VFD to be concerned about where a member lives. 2. Limits on the number of members that an organization can have. Tones, BBL.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Several pitfalls to avoid........ In order to attract the best candidates for membership, any Volunteer organization needs to first be sure that their organizational structure is set up properly. If you have the following things, you should make them go away: 1. Residence Requirements. There is no valid reason in the year 2011 for a VFD to be concerned about where a member lives. 2. Limits on the number of members that an organization can have. Tones, BBL.
    Another thing that any organization should have is a way for everyone in the community to volunteer.

    Sadly, there are still departments that require you to fight fire if you wish to be a member. The reality is there are many roles that somebody should be able to volunteer in. These include but certainly are not limited to:

    Exterior Firefighter
    Driver/Operator Only
    Fireground Support
    Specialized Skills Member (Dive, Rope, Search, EMS, etc)
    Administrative Support
    Public Education Support
    Training Support
    Media/Photography Support
    Computer/Technology Support
    Public Relations Support
    Maintainence Support

    The simple fact is that the larger and more divers you make the team, the more the load will be shared.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Post And Again...............

    OK, I'm back...... LA has covered some good points as well, including a few from where I was heading...... But let's take a step beyond the point of someone applying and getting voted in....... There is a VFD that I know of in my general area here. Recently, one of their senior guys told me that they were about to embark on another membership drive, and that he had expressed his opinion that they were wasting their time, since all the new members only stay for a year or less, and move on. A discreet inquiry showed that he was right, but that the folks who left had, in most cases, simply joined another VFD somewhere else. The point here is that these folks joined, started training, and decided that they liked what they were doing. What they didn't like was the VFD that they had started at, so they moved on to another where they were more comfortable. The amazing thing is that this VFD has had this problem for years, but they will not do anything to change their way of doing things so that they can keep their members. Having a big drive to bring in new members is a real waste of resources IF your organization is not prepared to do what is necessary to retain these new recruits for a reasonable time frame. In my way of thinking, Retention is more important than Recruiting...........
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    What they didn't like was the VFD that they had started at, so they moved on to another where they were more comfortable. The amazing thing is that this VFD has had this problem for years, but they will not do anything to change their way of doing things so that they can keep their members.
    Hence my caveat to make sure you really want new members. Those members interested mainly in maintaining their little club will drive away the new members in no time.

    I'm not sure I have an answer for that, short of throwing out the "troublemakers."

    If you can identify the recalcitrant members, try to involve them in the recruitment process, as well as the orientation. Give them the orientation checklist and ask them to mentor a new member.

    Some discreet feedback will help identify whose side they're on.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    The amazing thing is that this VFD has had this problem for years, but they will not do anything to change their way of doing things so that they can keep their members.
    Amazing that departments can continue to operate this way. A local department can barely get a single apparatus in service for most calls, and when they do, it is usually driver only. No training, no mentoring, no new member orientation. Mentoring is a lost art. It goes hand in hand with training and new member orientation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    OK, I'm back...... LA has covered some good points as well, including a few from where I was heading...... But let's take a step beyond the point of someone applying and getting voted in....... There is a VFD that I know of in my general area here. Recently, one of their senior guys told me that they were about to embark on another membership drive, and that he had expressed his opinion that they were wasting their time, since all the new members only stay for a year or less, and move on. A discreet inquiry showed that he was right, but that the folks who left had, in most cases, simply joined another VFD somewhere else. The point here is that these folks joined, started training, and decided that they liked what they were doing. What they didn't like was the VFD that they had started at, so they moved on to another where they were more comfortable. The amazing thing is that this VFD has had this problem for years, but they will not do anything to change their way of doing things so that they can keep their members. Having a big drive to bring in new members is a real waste of resources IF your organization is not prepared to do what is necessary to retain these new recruits for a reasonable time frame. In my way of thinking, Retention is more important than Recruiting...........
    Right on.

    Most organizations that have issues will not make an effort to recognize those issues much less correct them, so the departments become a revolving door.

    There has to be an established system of processing, orientating and training new members. For the first several weeks, at a minimum, they should be greeted at the door and somebody should partner with them the entire night explaining to them what is happening and how they are going to fit into tonight's drill or activity.

    Doing this is hard work. Doing this takes time and it requires training the members who will be mentoring the new members.

    I have been on departments that have done a poor job of this and saw members coming in and out. I have been on departments that did a great job with this and retained members.

    It's all about the effort your department wants to put into it once they decide to walk into your door.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Forum Member Jay Remmy's Avatar
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    Maybe doing some community fire safety things in places that could have potential volunteers and make it known that you are looking for new members.

    I had an idea for my station to do something at my college, which could boost community relations and maybe get new recruits

    Before I started volunteering, I knew little to nothing about volunteer fire fighting. I didn't even know I could. It wasn't until a friend of mine joined a department and turned me on to it. I don't think a lot of people really know too much about it, and I just think if you get the word out there, people will come.

    That being said I think the attitude in some volie departments towards new people could use some tweaking. My station welcomed me with open arms, and now I feel like it's a second home. I really felt like a lot of the guys are mentors to me. However, I've heard numerous stories about stations nearby in which new members are basically ignored, not being part of the "clique." That being said, if it's someones first experience with volunteering, I would imagine they wouldn't stay very long. I know that if I had joined a station like this, it definitely would have left a bad taste in my mouth about volunteering.

    Just food for thought.
    :-J Remmy

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    Anytime you increase your visibility in the community, you increase the chances that a citizen may see what you do and become intrested in joining the department.

    This includes didpalys at community events, or at locations in the community where there are potential volunteers. The local college would certainly be one of those places.

    I have a soft spot for recruiting at colleges for a couple of reasons.

    I got my start in the fire business at a student-run college fire department in northern Vermont. We had a mini-pumper and an engine, and not only ran fire calls on the college property, but also did a lot of mutual aid with 6 or 7 surrounding fire departments. Looking back it was a rag-tag operation run on a shoestring budget, but it was a fanatastic learning experience.

    I also ran with the college rescue squad that covered 9 towns and almost 300 square miles.

    Unfortuantly the college closed down the department soon after I left.

    Secondly, my previous volunteer department in northern Vermont had a college-based department integrated into our operations. They ran 2-3 pieces, depending on their finances at the time and provided a consistant source of very well trained, highly motivated firefighters. They responded to every one of our fire runs, and in fact, were first due in the most densly packed area of our district, and were first due with one of our AMA departments. We would have had a much tougher time covering our district without them.

    We provided them with communications, PPE, most of the apapratus tools, hose and equipment, and covered thier fuel and vehicle maintainence and repairs.

    I would highly recommend implementing a recruiting program at the college. I think that you would be surprised at the quality of the people that may come your way.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    We tried the gamut of advertising, word of mouth, holding open-house events complete with plenty of signup sheets.

    In the end, we went with this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressment

    enrollment has never been better!

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    In my opinion the best bet for gaining members is bringing the house to them. Not waiting for them to come to you. Give out applications to your friends, neighbors, peoples houses you respond to (if they ask how they can help), leave a stack at the high school office, at the grocery store. You can weed out the numnuts in the background and hiring processes.

    When I first joined I pretty much went on the basis of my father telling me to and knowing that it would look good on a college or job resume. I didnt respond to any calls until we had a huge storm and was told you signed up for it, you go give it a shot and was basically forced to go to the call (was with my father, capt. of same department). Since then, and this was over 3 years ago, I have made the highest percentage of calls in my department behind only the chief, and have decided I want to make a career out of it.

    Point is, some people just won't know how much they'll like it until you actually get them to experience it up close. And if they dont like it, whats the worst you can say; We tried? And if they do like it, well the worst thing you got is a new probie to train.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GVFC2294 View Post
    In my opinion the best bet for gaining members is bringing the house to them. Not waiting for them to come to you. Give out applications to your friends, neighbors, peoples houses you respond to (if they ask how they can help), leave a stack at the high school office, at the grocery store. You can weed out the numnuts in the background and hiring processes.

    When I first joined I pretty much went on the basis of my father telling me to and knowing that it would look good on a college or job resume. I didnt respond to any calls until we had a huge storm and was told you signed up for it, you go give it a shot and was basically forced to go to the call (was with my father, capt. of same department). Since then, and this was over 3 years ago, I have made the highest percentage of calls in my department behind only the chief, and have decided I want to make a career out of it.

    Point is, some people just won't know how much they'll like it until you actually get them to experience it up close. And if they dont like it, whats the worst you can say; We tried? And if they do like it, well the worst thing you got is a new probie to train.
    100% areee.

    Recruiting is an active, not a passive activity.

    There are some departments that can wait for folks to come them. There are not very many, but there are some. My current department does very little active recruiting yet we have 3-5 people a month come through the doors on their own looking to join. There was a department just north of my previous department in VT that always had a waiting list. Those are very much the exceptions.

    I have talked before about identifying what your department can offer potential members in the community, where you can find those members, what messages you can develop to reach those members and where you can deliver those messages to the members you are targeting. These are also active, not passive functions, that require planning and an active delivery program.

    Yes, we need to bring our message, in 99% of the cases, to the community if we are to be effective recruiters. In most cases, we cannot wait for them to come to us.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 105 View Post
    We tried the gamut of advertising, word of mouth, holding open-house events complete with plenty of signup sheets.

    In the end, we went with this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressment

    enrollment has never been better!
    LMAO

    I agree with the comment of making yourself seen in the community. We have a local paper with a section for each community to post news and events, we almost always have something in there about us and what we are doing and accomplishing, like listing members who recently received certificates for classes, or any large drills we had with other departments. We always make a presence at the town meetings too, and let them know we are out there and do care about the community in more ways than you think.

    I also like the opening of different membership levels, like support and driver/engineer. This gets people in the door and lets them see first hand what is expected and they can either advance or stay where they are comfortable, but still help with the community.
    "Amatuers train until they get it right, professionals train until they cant get it wrong."

    Brian Jones, aka "Moose"
    Captain, Carlisle Fire Department

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    Quote Originally Posted by firemoose827 View Post
    LMAO

    I agree with the comment of making yourself seen in the community. We have a local paper with a section for each community to post news and events, we almost always have something in there about us and what we are doing and accomplishing, like listing members who recently received certificates for classes, or any large drills we had with other departments. We always make a presence at the town meetings too, and let them know we are out there and do care about the community in more ways than you think.

    I also like the opening of different membership levels, like support and driver/engineer. This gets people in the door and lets them see first hand what is expected and they can either advance or stay where they are comfortable, but still help with the community.
    That is one of the best tools available. It keeps the department's activities in the public eye.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Default Numbers Game

    For our volunteer department it is a numbers game....

    It seems that for every 5 people that fill out an application, 1 or 2 will actually make it through the background checks and orientation.
    Of those that move forward in the process, only 1 in 5 will actually end up being a long-term volunteer (more than a year).
    The rest move on because of conflicting family or work commitments, they get a job with a paid department, or they can't complete the training required.

    That means we need around 25 applicants to get one or two strong volunteers..
    It is a necessary struggle, but it takes a lot of work to cultivate those good ones.

    Has anyone else looked at their applicant to volunteer ratio?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wrfdcap View Post
    What dose your dept do to find new members. Our small dept is a no pay Volunteer dept in Ohio. Trying to find ways of getting new members thay just dont walk in off the street any more. We cannt aford to pay our members and it seams that the meaning of Volunteer is leaveing this country we do pay for any members training / schooling so any ideas.

    what happen to neighbor where ever helping neighbor
    I think getting new members is an area that many departments are struggling with right now, and you can't really blame people for not joining. There's not much of an incentive to join (to many), and people are working multiple jobs merely to stay afloat in today's economy.

    I live in an area where the property taxes are some of the highest in the nation. Foreclosures were running rampant a couple of years ago, there were many layoffs, and people were all around afraid. Getting new members were hard to come by. And those that did come in rarely stayed for longer than a few months before heading off into the world.

    My department generally does open houses or some advertising. A lot of other departments in the area do radio broadcasts for advertising or use billboards of some sort.

    An idea that someone stated earlier was good - go door-to-door. This shows initiative and will get the word to reach a broader spectrum. Some people don't even KNOW that my department is volunteer (hence the reason I've been yelled at a couple times for an "elongated response" and then the all-so-great follow-up statement: I pay your salary!). Plus, it looks good to the public that you're out there actively looking to recruit new members AND your creating positive energy through mere social interaction - it's a win-win.

    Fundraisers generally help, too. We do a Haunted House yearly, have open houses, do a boot drive every year, etc. Anything to interact with the public can open the doors to potential volunteers - and I HAVE been personally asked how to volunteer through such fundraisers. Show the general public that the fire department is not just a paramilitary organization, but it's also a good time and that the people contained within are good people. Plus, joinin can open up a myriad of doors for networking.

    Stress the "incentives" (aside from helping your fellow neighbor). Here we get some money back in our tax return, we can write off mileage for running calls, we get a property tax break and we get discounts at certain stores (Ex: Verizon, Best Buy, etc). Plus, we get to learn CPR and other life-saving techniques for FREE!

    Best of luck.

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