John R. Kowalski Integrative Marketing Fusion

Funding Volunteer Fire Departments, the Struggle

Funding Volunteer Fire Departments, the Struggle

fundraising, fire service, fire department

It’s no secret that fire and emergency services are expensive to operate. Specifically, volunteer fire departments. Funding these vital services is a never-ending battle, and it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, there are many ways to raise money for funding fire and emergency services. Corporate giving programs are a great way to get started, but don’t forget about federal, regional, and state grants! These grants can be the big-ticket items to help your organization with NFPA-compliant equipment such as SCBAs, turnout gear, communications, or even apparatus. There also is a need for local community fundraising. These can be tied to events and community gatherings to help not only educate your community on the value of the department but also to bring an interaction like none other. 

fire truck, volunteer fire department

Here’s a quick breakdown of the types and how I see things from a department perspective

  • Federal/State/Regional Grants – These grants are typically on an annual schedule and while being beneficial, are also time-consuming and need to be highly detailed and exact.
  • Corporate Giving Programs – These programs are typically offered by large corporations in your area or also nationwide companies that make a specific effort to help and to give back. 
  • Local fundraising – This is done department-wide and helps with direct interaction with the community and also provides an opportunity to give back and show the value an organization provides. These can be tied to events, simple giving campaigns, or campaigns for specific causes (holiday toys/food). 

Be sure to explore all of these types and to dedicate a person or team that can lead the efforts. They do not necessarily have to be a firefighter but must understand the operations and workings of a community fire organization. 

Typical elements could include

  • Fire station history and overview
  • Services provided (fire, EMR, education, etc.)
  • Current members or staff with qualifications
  • Apparatus and major equipment inventory list with dates of NFPA compliance
  • NFIRS run reports – types and number of calls (usually current and past 1-3 years)
  • Department financials (usually past 1-3 years)
  • Community demographics (population, age groups, income levels, recent and forecasted trends
  • Unique community aspects (wildland-urban interface, mountainous, utilities, water, high-risk areas, etc.)
  • Amount proposed (exact amount with vendor quote and/or detail support)
  • Proposed program
  • Benefits to the community and surrounding areas

Never an easy task but getting a start on this information and having it somewhat current will save you time. It will also give you a jump start on any opportunities that come up. Funding volunteer fire departments are critical as they make up 70% of this nations fire departments according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Any other things I missed or that have worked for you in the past?

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