Chiefs Call for Creativity in Funding

ATLANTA, Ga. -- It would be a safe bet that there's no fire department or EMS provider in the nation that would say it has plenty of funding and doesn't need another penny. It would also be safe to say many of same emergency services providers have no...

Volunteers are necessary for successful fundraising, but Nugent pointed out that they don't have to be members of your organization. They can be Boy Scouts, Rotary members, Lions' Clubs and even "the little old ladies' clubs," he said.

The key to successful fundraising is to run it like a fire or accident scene, Nugent said.

"I know we all use the incident management system and we need to run our special events and fundraising as if we had a major league motor vehicle crash," he said. "And it works. You've got to have one person in charge. You've got to have planning, you've got to have operations, and you've got to have operations."

Grant money is often available and goes unclaimed for lack of applicants, Nugent and Senter said.

"Foundations, business and organizations have got money to give away and they have to give it away to someone," Nugent said. "It might as well be you. You've got to ask and make your case."

And Senter said it's important to never give up on grants. It's how need is demonstrated to the federal government and to the public in general.

"If there are no applications, there must be no need, so the funding will dry up," Senter said. "And, just because there's not an open spigot of money, don't give up, you need to keep trying."

Many organizations and donors require emergency services providers to have federal non-profit 501-C3 status before they award money. Both Senter and Nugent encouraged departments and EMS providers to do the paperwork and get the official non-profit status.

"A lot of people think that just because they're, say a fire department, that of course they're non profit, but they're not without the paperwork," Senter said.

Outright donations can be a sustaining source of income, but it requires marketing and public education, Senter said.

"Meet your customers on a good day," Senter said. "We too often only meet our customers on their bad days." He said to let the community know what you need and how they can help. Web sites and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are places where departments can interact with the community.

And when they do contribute something, Nugent had three words of advice; "Recognize, Recognize, Recognize. You have to recognize the people who contribute, because in the end it's all about people and relationships."