Recruiting Next Generations Volunteer.
With the constant need for volunteers, how do you recruit the next generation to join a fire department? Increasing your marketing and recruitment efforts is a positive way to gain support of local people who are yearning to make a difference. Marketing is a cost-effective tool designed to increase public awareness and encourage support from the local community. Further, it helps fire departments develop comprehensive plans that support communication and recruitment efforts. The following tips have provided fire departments with the tools necessary to grow and strengthen their volunteer family.
Determine Your Target Audience
The first step is to sit down with your newest generation of volunteers. It’s important to find out what attracted them to volunteer with the fire department. Younger generations are more connected to social media and technological advances. The ways to capture the attention of the younger population is much different than it was 20 years ago. Therefore, it’s vital to understand your target audience and what draws their attention. Create a focus group with existing or prospective volunteers to develop a new brand identity that speaks to the interests of the next generation of volunteers.
Brand Your Fire Department
“Branding” is much more than just a symbol or a name. It sums up the message you want the community to think or feel about your fire department or company. Build a strong brand for your organization, identify your distinctive niche and determine the personality you want your fire company to convey. At the Communications Solutions Group, we have developed and implemented the Bristol (Pa.) Fire Company’s “You Have the Power” campaign, which outlines to the community the steps they must take to volunteer. Currently, we are in a focus group to finalize the new branding campaign for the Abington Township (Pa.) Fire Department (ATFD).
Identify Media Opportunity in Your Geographic Area
Complete an audit of the local newspapers, radio stations and TV channels that are available to your department’s geographic area. High-visibility public relations in local newspapers and media outlets are helpful to educate the public about volunteer opportunities and fire safety initiatives.
Get Your Good News Out
It’s one thing to have recruitment programs, community events and volunteer opportunities, but these efforts won’t work to their greatest potential unless the public hears about them. Write press releases to get the word out about events. These press releases should include the date, time, location and any other important information about the event. Send the press releases to the local newspapers to increase awareness, and plan for high attendance at community events. We have written numerous press releases and articles for fire departments about events, including Bristol’s Fire Company’s Fire Prevention Events and the ATFD’s Recruitment Day and Service Learning Day. Following an event, a post-publicity write-up is an exceptional way to recap the event and inform the community of the outcome. If you want media at the event, a media alert should be sent to local TV stations. These alerts should describe what the media will see at the event.
Maintain an Organized Website
Do you have a website? An organized and well-designed website is a useful way to attract potential volunteers. The website must be easy to navigate. Information about volunteer opportunities and recruitment events should be listed on the home page. This is the perfect place to post testimonials and video clips to further promote volunteering.
Use Social Media Effectively
Facebook and Twitter, when used in the proper form, are an excellent way to get fire safety public service announcements to the public as well as recruitment opportunities. It’s important to have video testimonials from current firefighters. Posting these videos to Facebook will allow people to get firsthand information about what it is actually like to volunteer in a fire department. Whenever there are activities within the fire department, post them to Facebook. If there are opportunities to get involved, post them to Facebook. Social media is your friend!
Hold Local Recruitment Events
At what community events can you have a booth and a presence? Get involved in these events! Create a booth display that will encourage people to inquire about volunteering at the fire department. Any opportunity to remind the public of the importance of volunteerism is extremely important. All of these options in the community will support recruitment efforts and increase the presence of volunteerism.
Create Recruitment Programs in Local High Schools
If current recruitment opportunities don’t exist in your local high school, open that door. Make morning announcements at the high school and organize assemblies to target the teenage audience and encourage them to volunteer. Advertise in the high school newspaper. Fire departments should sponsor and hold service learning days to give high school students hands-on experience in firefighting. It’s proven to be an effective way to recruit young volunteers and allow high school students to make a difference at a young age. The ATFD holds a service learning day at the end of each May; the day is designed to teach students the importance of community involvement. The Bristol Fire Company holds talks annually during Back to School Night to educate parents and students alike about the opportunities that come with volunteering. It also represents a chance for the Bristol Fire Company and ATFD to recruit young people who will help continue the legacy of their volunteer fire companies.
Advertise in Creative Ways
Look at interesting venues for advertising. A recruitment ad on movie theater slides is an excellent way to draw the attention of the community. Cable advertising is another useful way to regionalize your buy and save money, while only targeting your local area. Click-Thru advertising on Facebook is a way to use social media for effective advertising. Inquire about free or reduced space with your local newspapers.
Send Out Direct Mail
Targeting direct mail to your community is timeless and will always relay the message you’re trying to send. Newsletters should be mailed to a residential mailing list to update the community on the fire department. Post cards and information on fundraising events and volunteer opportunities should be included. We create a newsletter that the Bristol Fire Company mails to residential homes and local businesses every three months. It includes stories about how the fire department is involved in the community as well as fire safety tips and articles encouraging volunteerism. We design and write a similar newsletter that the ATFD sends to their local community three times a year conveying a similar message to that of the Bristol Fire Company.
Seek a Professional
Because of fire department busy schedules, fire personnel may not have the time for marketing and recruitment. How do you know when to seek outside help? Look at the people within your department. Is there an untapped marketing wiz who would excel in developing and implementing communication ideas to improve recruitment? If not, it’s time to look outside at resources that are local, accessible, that understand the concept of recruitment and marketing for fire departments and recognize budgetary limitations, and that are enjoyable to work with. And don’t forget to ask to see samples of work they have done for other fire companies to see if their marketing strategies are right for you.
Credit: Courtesy of the www.FireFighterNation.com