Cruisin for Solutions Recap
As I sit here in the cold, rainy, unpredictable weather of Connecticut, I cannot help but look forward to the next ‘Cruisin for Solutions’… We had a great week of fun and sun, oh yeah, and we learned quite a bit from each other.
We had departments from across the US, from sunny Florida, to rainy Alaska. Both combination and volunteer departments were represented. It was a small group, but productive. The sessions were based on the 6 core topics of VolunteerFD.org, and were given 2 hours each during our days at sea.
Each attendee was given a book of over 200 pages of information that we used as our roadmap for discussions. The discussions were in a roundtable format, where I acted as facilitator and got the fires going. (And there were some rather heated debates…)
The first session was on training. We started off by discussing instructional techniques and brining in outside instructors. One of the key points that was stressed was organization. It seemed common that departments needed to plan ahead and be able to develop lesson plans and training schedules.
The topic of mandatory drills brought up quite a few different points of view. One department has the luxury of requiring its members to attend EVERY drill. Members can be excused for extreme circumstances, but are required to be present every Tuesday night. This department also has a full membership at 10 members, and a waiting list. (Which allows them to be a bit more stringent.)
The next topic was recruitment and retention. An informal poll of the best recruitment programs of each department was surprising. While we all tend to focus on LOSAP and cash programs, when asked for the top program in each department, only one listed their point system as number one.
Most departments talked about their flyers, signs, and advertising as the leading source of recruitment. Additionally, there was a good discussion on the effects of morale on recruitment and retention. It seemed that when morale was good, the recruitment and retention problems went away. One of the departments also had the bonus that by being a combination department, the volunteers had a definite career path.
Fundraising was a topic rich in discussion, and observations… Annual requests for donations seemed to be popular, and favorites of the departments that attended. An interesting addition to the annual fund raising was the concept of taking credit cards for monthly, quarterly, or yearly ‘subscriptions’.
One of the more creative fundraisers was a department sponsored fishing derby. The concept is simple, find a lake with fish on it, rent ‘space’, and set up competitions. If you can get local corporations to give the prizes for the competitions, then it is almost completely profit.
After fundraising, we discussed grants. We had a special pleasure of having Kurt Bradley from Chief Grants (http://www.chiefgrants.com ) as an attendee. Some of the high points: The number one reason why grants are turned down is due to failure to read the directions.
Also, when you write your grants, you need to have done the groundwork first. That means a true needs assessment, and you should be able to show that you tried to raise funds through regular channels. Your fellow firefighters can be a great resource. Take your grant proposal to other departments and get their feedback. Have them challenge you to explain your proposal. Remember, you only have one chance to make an impression.
The following day brought us heated debates on the topics of SOGs and bylaws. We started with a medical, legal and ethical debate, and then broke into the true ‘fire’ topics.
There was a lengthy discussion on alcohol in the fire service. One department volunteered that they have kegs on tap in their clubroom at all times. While some of us took that information as ‘normal’, the reactions were varied.
Overall, we had a great time, and learned much from each other. Over the upcoming weeks, I will go into more depth on each topic, and let you know about the next two “Cruisin for Solutions” that will be held next year! Keep an eye on VolunteerFD.org for more info.