need some help. we are a small rural volunteer fire district. we have mandatory dues and some good equipment. we are haveing trouble keeping volunteers and also getting volunteers. we have discussed the issue in officers meetings. we aslo have discussed paid per call, but our accountant advises we cannot do this if we want to keep our volunteer status(for county allotments,grants, etc).
i was wondering if anyone out there knows wehre i can look up info on this. and also does anyone have any ideas on how to keep the ones we have. thanks in advance
LT SHANE HOBSON
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Thread: volunteer retention/recruitment
02-02-2003, 02:49 PM #1
02-03-2003, 10:28 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
- Watching your back!
First of all, I would get rid of the mandatory dues. That could be one of your turnoffs right there.
Does your state have a firefighters association? They are a good lobbying body to push for changes at the goverment level. Here in SC, the state firemans association offers its members paid life insurance, prescription card and a $3000 state tax credit for volunteers ( if they meet training and response criteria)
What kind of incentives does your department offer its members? Instead of a paid per call, how about a fuel reinbursment for your members for each call they run.
What about credit for calls when they are at outside training?
I guess you really need to asess your department and what it has to offer your members. Maybe you just need to sweeten the pot a little.
02-03-2003, 11:43 PM #3
thanks for the insight.
our mandatory fire dues was voted in by our community by almost 75% pass rate. unfortunately alabama does not have any kind of regular funding for volunteer fire depts and our county does not either, so the dues are helping keep us open. i i thank our community for that. thanks for the ideas.
02-04-2003, 01:05 AM #4
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
- Hancock, Maine, USA
Hey tridget, we have implemented a "points" system. Attend the trainings, the meetings and the calls, you get points. Do some of the house keeping chores, get some points. Special projects for the Chief, get a few points.
At the end of the year, November to be exact, the Chief pulls everyones sheets, tallies up the points, and we get a stipend of $2.00 per point give or take. We get it all in one check at Christmas time, usually just in time if you know what I mean...Helps to motivate some, and some don't care.
I think the biggest problem for us in retention and recruiting is we have very little to offer...We'll take you away from dinner, wake you up all hours of the night, and after it is all said and done, only the ones who truly care come away winners.
good luck and stay safe, hope it was a little help
02-07-2003, 10:04 PM #5
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
we use a similar point system in our department as a bonus at the end of the year.
However, the fact of the matter is, you join a volunteer department to "VOLUNTEER". It's not a life for everyone and unfortunately the ones who have to discover this, instead of knowing, are the ones you see join and shortly after resign. Now I understand that there are individuals who love this life, and have done it in the past, but had to give it up due to other time consuming commitments.
To sum it up, true firefighters have it in thier blood, and these are the individuals who you find will stick around. They don't do it for a small bonus at the end of the year, they do it to help thier community. the real trick is finding these individuals and coaxing them out. And if any one figures this out please let me know, cause god knows you're not alone with this problem.
02-11-2003, 01:07 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
This is Kinda Hard.....
This could be thought of as rude, but please take it as an attempt to offer help. If you get people, but they don't stay long, then one of the things you need to look at is your leadership. I have seen, indeed belonged, to organizations where you were one of the "In Crowd" or you took the hint and went off to do something somewhere else. Not knowing anything about your organization, I can't offer any specific advice on this that would help you sort things out, other than to say that you should step back, take a long look at everything and see if you can spot something that turns prospective members away. Also, can you explain the "dues" thing in more detail?? That might help me understand some things that I might have missed. Stay Safe....Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
IACOJ Budget Analyst
I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
02-11-2003, 01:26 PM #7
thanks everyone for the help.
the fire dues are just what the community or dictrict residents pay for fire service(funding to buy equipment,trucks etc). i dont believe this is the problem, cause it was voted in by the community by almost 70 %.
as far as far as a leadership change,things are good on that part. the newer rookies seems to favor everyone on the chain. no problems with that. it is just hard to keep them interested in volunteering, they seem to fizzle out after a few months. when i started in the fire service 13 years ago, i did not expect anyhting for my service, but i guess times are changing and some folks dont want to do anything for free anymore. i am a paid airport firefighter now, but i cannot forget the ropes i learned as a volunteer to put me there. just looking for some idea to help this generation see that it is not bad to volunteer for free
02-18-2003, 03:49 PM #8
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
- Loxley, AL
Get 'em young....
How about starting a Junior FF or an Explorer program. Our department has an Explorer program that has proved very successful. This gets prospective firefighters around the work at the age of 14. Since we started the Explorer program, 4 years ago, we have had 6 Explorers to move on to be firefighters, and I am one of those. We usually maintain around 8-9 Explorers at a time, but have set a maximum limit of 10 because we didn't want there to be too many for the firefighters to handle. Check with your local Boy Scout troop to get more information on this. It has proved to be a great recruitment tool for us.
02-19-2003, 06:41 PM #9
POC can still be volunteer
Going paid-on-call shouldn't impact your grant status an awful lot so long as you are not paying enough to be considered a career department. The only formal definition I can think of right now is in the Code of Alabama Section 9-3-17, which says in part:
A "volunteer fire department" shall have no less than 80 percent unsalaried membership
There are some departments in my area that pay a per-call stipend. These departments each pay between $10 and $25 a call and two of them have paid chiefs. Each is still considered a volunteer fire department by the state's definition. The legislation that created your mandatory fee may say that those funds can not be used for salaries (ours specifically exempts salaries, fundraising, and food) but other funding sources like donations or city/county appropriations could. Unless you're running a big call volume, I doubt that creating an expense allowance will help your recruitment and retention problem because the money will be too small to matter. Loxfire6016 is right about a junior program. We had a very successful junior program that created some fantastic firefighters but it too has pitfalls. Alabama law is very specific that you can't use someone under 18 to fight fires and it is very tempting to use them on those afternoon grass fires when manpower is short.
I know I haven't provide a single suggestion to solve your problem. If I knew a sure-fire one I would quit my day job and become a consultant . Our best recruitment tool has been to increase our visibility. We try to be very active in community projects (clean-up days, park construction projects), participate in local festivals (set up booths and put trucks on display), go to local scout troop meetings, or do almost anything that gives us an opportunity to present a professional image and get our name out.
02-28-2003, 10:01 PM #10
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
Have you asked your members what they think? They're the ones you want to keep -- so maybe you should ask them what would make them more likely to stay. I know that my department, while we do okay with membership, does sometimes foment troubles because the clique (not necessarily officers) that runs things never really asks for advice. And volunteers often feel underutilized there -- we offer to do things and are rejected, to be assigned other tasks without regard to our skills or preferences. That can be a little frustrating. I think trainings that are fun to go to, and some positive feedback for the work you do are important -- it doesn't have to be material in nature, like pay, but there has to be some kind of reward or no one will want to keep it up for long. I guess, to sum up, I think volunteer departments need to be more willing to be flexible and work with their members to make sure eveyone's content.
03-24-2003, 10:03 PM #11
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
1. Try exit interviews as a way not to persuade them to stay, but a way for them to help make you better and bring them back when thier needs can be met. Some suggestions may be unreasonable, some may not.
2. Mentoring may help keep people interested. Use a buddy system to keep them on track and interested.
3. Use a quarterly or even monthly reveiw to sit down and discuss progress in training and involvement. This gives you the ability to catch a potential problem early and give them short term/attainable goals.
4. Fundraising! We have increased our fundraising and it has allowed us to have more incentives. (Scholarship $$$, social trips to ball games, dinner, pizza and soda at meetings, etc) We sell tee shirts to the community and other firefighters, pancake breakfasts, invested in a soda machine (used) for the station (now we own 4 in our area), and sponsor a golf tournament. This can be anything that works in your area. Retention is just as important as gear.
Hope these ideas help, let me know....
03-29-2003, 12:35 PM #12
This is one of the most productive forum threads I've seen in a long time.
As a person who has dealt directly with the issues of volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention for the last 13 years, I congratulate all of you on taking great steps in addressing these issues - and most importantly - sharing them with others in the fire service.
All of the ideas mentioned so far are great. I created a recruitment campaign that doubled my department's memebership from 45 to 90 members in 4 months. But, because we focused on quantity - not quality; and because we focused only on recruitment and not retention; we lost all of those new members in less than 10 years.
We now focus on 'target shooting' instead of a 'shotgun' approach to recruitment, making a 'hit list' of identified individuals in the community that we want to belong to our organization - and then we go out and sell the benefits of our department to them.
What we have to realize is that there are no quick-fix solutions. Like any relationship, the relationship you have with current or prospective volunteers requires planning, follow-through and follow-up. In an action-oriented job like ours, our human resources are our most important ones. Invest your time and resources accordingly.
Check out my continuing column on recruitment and retention in the MembersZone or check out my web site at: http://www.onscenemarketing.com.
Hopefully that will provide some insight as to how to tackle the challenges we all share. Let me know how I can help.
Stay safe. Train often.Stay safe. Train often.
MembersZone Contributing Editor
Deputy Fire Coordinator
Erie County Division of Fire Safety
Department of Emergency Services
716/681-7111 - FAX/681-3645
Chief of Training/PIO
Evans Center Fire Company
Town of Evans NY
03-31-2003, 10:02 AM #13
- Join Date
- Nov 2002
Look at the demographics of your department and of the target recruitment pool and ask what motivates them and kind of rewards do these people need. I think you will find that the older existing members of you department have different reward/fulfillment needs than the younger people that you are trying to recruit. The trick is to develope a reward system that will meet the needs of both groups.
BrooklynFire made a good point:
true firefighters have it in thier blood, and these are the individuals who you find will stick around. They don't do it for a small bonus at the end of the year
When you are up to your butt in alligators it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.
Cap Rescue 5 - CFD
IACOJ - Swampmaster
04-07-2003, 08:24 PM #14
- Join Date
- Mar 2001
- Pennsauken, NJ
Wow! This is an issue that I am personally dealing with as well my deparment as a whole.
My deparment is urban/suburban and is a combination department. We have lost 175 volunteer firefighters in the last 10 years, and that is averaging in the new people.
Our municipal government is currently deciding to put on six more full timers in addition to the nine already on, consolidate three of the six volunteer stations, and loose a lot of equipement to save money. Our town is going to be changing a whole lot in the next ten years.
My percentage of calls has dropped from 60% five years ago, to 20% currently. Now, I work full time as a police officer in my town, and part time as an EMT, but I believe that the reason for the drop in my attendance is because I don't feel needed. As selfish as that may seem its the truth! While I am trying to figure out how to motivate myself, I am trying to figure out how to motivate my community! It is a difficult task.
I have spent countless hours and money on training and an education in the fire service, and I do not use half of it like I would like to. I feel like I am being wasted.
Thank you for this topic of honesty and reality... I have learned a few things on what I need to do to get myself in gear!Dan - FMBA Local 64 Pennsauken Township.(The views and opinions stated above are personal and not that of any organizations I belong to)Yada, Yada, Yada...(Y-a-a-w-w-n!)
04-22-2003, 03:58 AM #15
- Join Date
- Apr 2003
- Seaford, N.Y. 11783
I have read all the comments made recently regarding recruitment and particularly retention. There seems to be one problem that has not been mentioned here (that I have seen anyway.) It is one that I have at the present. With the way things are now today, a potential member can not put in the time that is needed and required by most departments. Most families are a two-income household. Factor in small children and a person can hardly find the time to put in what is demanded these days by volunteer departments. Before anyone thinks that this is a cop out, please consider my delema. I was an 18 year member of a volunteer fire dept. on Long Island. I held the rank of Captain twice and was VERY INVOLVED in my company. You could say I have firefighting in my blood! Once I got married and started a family, my percentage dropped a little. Then my wife went to work (so we could continue to afford such luxuries as food and shelter.) I could not show up for as many calls as I had in past due to my kids, which I had to be with while my wife worked on my days off from my job. Being an 18 year member, it was easier to continue being involved due to my past reputation.
But recently, My family moved to a new town and I had to resign from my department. Obviously I checked out the department in my new town (which coincidently has members from my old department!) My big problem is that this new department has strict attendance percentages which I feel I cannot meet due to the fact that we are a two income family and I am not available as much as I used to be. I would have to wait about 8 years for my kids to be old enough to leave alone so I could answer a call. This new department has a required percentage, if you do not meet it after a 6 month review, you are asked to leave.
I feel that in this day and age, volunteers are need desperately! These strict requirements are possibly keeping otherwise willing potential volunteers from joining. It scares them away. I am not saying there should not be any requirements, just that maybe there should be different classes of volunteers, one for those that can give a lot of time due to their family obligations and another for those that are willing to do the job but on a somewhat limited basis due to their family obligations. I still have alot to give, but my family comes first. I want to do the job but have less time available for it. I'm sure that if you have enough of these types available to volunteer, response crews would be bigger, there would be a larger pool of volunteers to answer the call. We would not all be unavailable at the same time! Does anyone else have this problem??
04-23-2003, 01:10 AM #16
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
- Boardman, OR, USA
I often find the same problems arise in my department. A lot of our volunteers do not have the time to commit to their duties. My department currently expects 20% attnedance at all calls and 80% attendance at all regular training events. I feel that this is important to meet just because of the line of duty we are in. It is a high risk job and we must always be on our toes.
About a year ago I was promoted to lieutenant and my work load about doubled. I have a wife and kids at home who feel the effects of this. So I would have to say that I agree with you to the point of making seperate classes of firefighters. I do think the bar could be adjusted according to department status. I think departments should work with their volunteers as much as the volunteers work with them. If a volunteer is just not willing to put in the time (we have our share) then I don't think the department should bend over backwards for them.
I'll leave you with this (note we are all volunteer except 2 of 24): our department is nothing without volunteers. I believe that this holds true for many departments around the country.
But good luck with you and your department. Be safe and always make sure and go home to your family safe.
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