I am both paid and volunteer at two different stations and i have noticed that the things that help morale at the paid station are the same things that help get and keep members at the volunteer dept. We don't have just one way we recruit. We us 5 or six different things and with all of them together we have a membership of about 85 people.
One of the retention tools we use is making everyone that turns in a application part of a team. We have a training packet that each volunteer must complete before they are allowed to function. Each new member that turns in a application starts his training on the first Saturday of the month with all the other people that turned in applications durring the last month. that way they all start together and the training can be more organized. they spend that first day learning all the SOG's and doing anything that needs to be done in the classroom and that can be done without gear. the day is a long one but at the end of it each member is issued their gear which to them is a big deal and something for them to be proud of.
After they are issued gear they are assigned to one of our 5 duty nights. Our volunteers are all assigned a weeknight sunday through thursday and that is their crew. each duty night has a CAptain and either one or two lieutenants. Each member pulls a shift from 7pm to 7am once a week on their assigned duty night. the friday and saturday nights are on a rotation and everyone ends up pulling "weekend duty" about every ten weeks or so. All new members are assigned to a duty night that the crew on that night is responsible for continuing the training of the probationary firefighter. When they are issued gear they are issued a blue helmet until their training is completed. The new members are also encouraged to come up to the station on some of the other duty nights besides theirs to both finish training faster and also to learn some different ways of doing some things. after completion of the training packet they are issued a certificate to hang on the wall, a patch, a station t-shirt and a black helmet. all together not that big a deal but we make a big deal out of it in the form of a presentation in front of everyone. we even have a guy on the station that is a photographer and he takes their picture and gives it to them later.
I really think that having the station borken down into smaller crews helps make new people feel welcome. It is a little less imposing and they initially only have to learn 10 or 12 names instead of 85. they also have one set of officers to go to in case there are any problems.
As far as for recruiting we use many different approaches. Our most successful is word of mouth. We have a very large military base here in town and many of our members are in the military and they bring in friends of theirs from work. Since we have members stay the night up at the station we do not require that our members live within the fire district. This allows young single guys and girls that are in the military and live on base to have somewhere to go and relax and serve the community. We can do this because the big town that we are next to doesn't allow volunteers so many people live in the city but come out and volunteer with us. We also use adds in the base newspaper. Open houses or community relations days are another thing we do. Every July we have a station picinic that is open to the public. Many of the local business come and set up booths, local radop stations broadcast from the station. we have all kinds of activities for the kids and it is tons of fun. At the picinic we set up a information table for the station that tells people how they can join. In october we do a fund raiser haunted trail that has people waiting in line for up to 3 hours. wile they are waiting they look around and get interested. many have come through the trail one night and come back the next wanting to volunteer and help out on the trail. after the trail is over they have made friedns with alot of the members and they join up.
As for pay we don't pay much at all. Our members are not aoolwed to respond directly to the scene. We have crews at the station to get out the first out trucks so people respond from home to the station and ride the trucks to the calls. We pay $3 if you ride a truck to a call and $1.50 if you come up to the station to cover while the duty crew is out on a call. We also pay $5 a night when you stay at the station. Checks are issued once a year at our christmas dinner that is about 2 weeks before christmas. Mine is usually $1200-$1400 but some people get over $2000. I work 2 hours from home so i'm not around as much as some others.
A final idea that i have heard of that i thought was great is for college students. A fire dept over on the coast near wilmington build a dorm room building for college students. they can have up to 8 i think. the students are given a free place to stay while they are in college in exchange for being on duty at the station every third night. they are also given $500 a month as a group for food. If they are state certified firefighters they are allowed to work part time and make a little extra money.
I knwo this is a little long winded but compared to other stations in our area we have a very successful dept and i hope that our ideas might beable to help others get to the same level of staffing