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19 unique fundraising ideas for your volunteer fire department

From a firefighter sponsorship program to themed dinners at the firehouse, check out these out-of-the-box strategies for raising your department’s profile in the community



Volunteer fire departments play a critical role in their communities, especially in areas where municipal fire services are not available. Raising funds is essential for these organizations to maintain and upgrade equipment, provide training for volunteers and ensure they can respond effectively to emergencies. Here are some unique fundraising ideas tailored for volunteer fire departments:

1. Allow citizens to be a “Firefighter for a Day: Offer a paid experience day where participants can train with firefighters, learn basic firefighting skills and participate in simulated emergency scenarios.

2. Host a Community Safety Fair: Organize a fair with safety workshops, demonstrations (like kitchen fire suppression, CPR, etc.) and activities for kids. Charge vendors to set up booths or sell tickets for special attractions

3. Offer custom firehouse merchandise: Design and sell unique merchandise such as T-shirts, hats and calendars featuring your firefighters and equipment. Include local landmarks or themes to appeal to community pride.

4. Roll out a Sponsor-a-Firefighter program: Allow businesses or individuals to sponsor a firefighter’s training or equipment needs. Recognition can include a plaque at the firehouse, mentions in newsletters and social media callouts.

5. Host a fire-themed art auction: Collaborate with local artists to create fire-themed artworks, sculptures or photographs for an auction, either in person or online.

6. Facilitate fitness challenges for community members: Host a firefighter-themed fitness challenge or race, such as a “Firefighter Fitness Challenge” with obstacle courses modeled after firefighting tasks.

7. Create a cook-off or BBQ event: Host a cook-off challenge among local fire departments or a community BBQ event, with proceeds going to the volunteer department.

8. Create an Adopt-a-Hydrant program: Encourage community members or businesses to sponsor the maintenance of a fire hydrant. This could include ensuring it’s visible, painted and shoveled out after snowfalls.

9. Host virtual fundraising campaigns: Utilize crowdfunding platforms to run campaigns for specific needs, like new equipment or a vehicle. Share compelling stories of how the department has helped the community.

10. Form partnerships with local businesses: Develop partnerships where a portion of sales on certain days or from certain items goes to the fire department. This can include restaurants, retail stores or service providers.

11. Offer firehouse subscriptions or memberships: Offer a subscription service for regular fire safety checks, smoke alarm battery replacements or even chimney cleaning services.

12. Create an escape room event: Create a fire safety-themed escape room at your firehouse or in partnership with a local escape room business, with proceeds benefiting the department.

13. Offer firefighter-themed calendars: Produce and sell calendars featuring firefighters from your department, possibly including themes or humorous poses, with proceeds supporting operational costs.

14. Host a charity sports tournament: Organize a sports tournament (e.g., softball, soccer, volleyball) where local teams pay an entry fee to compete. Increase revenue through concessions, merchandise sales and spectator tickets.

15. Hold an open house at the fire department with an auction: Combine an open house event with a silent auction, offering items donated by local businesses. This can also include tours, demonstrations and meet-and-greets with firefighters.

16. Host sponsored community challenges: Engage the community in challenges such as “a mile in their boots” walks or runs, where participants seek sponsorships to complete tasks in firefighter gear.

17. Hold and host a community yard sale: Host a large community yard sale at the fire department or in a public space, where community members can rent a booth or table, with the rental fees going to the fire department.

18. Invite citizens to firehouse dinners: Host monthly themed dinners at the firehouse, prepared by firefighters, with tickets sold to the community. Themes can vary to keep interest high.

19. Hold an engraved brick fundraiser: Offer community members the opportunity to buy engraved bricks as part of a firehouse walkway or memorial garden, creating a lasting tribute while raising funds.

Each of these ideas not only helps raise funds but also strengthens the bond between the volunteer fire department and the community it serves, fostering a sense of shared purpose and mutual support.

FireRescue1 is using generative AI to create some content that is edited and fact-checked by our editors.

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82% of U.S. fire departments are all or mostly volunteer and, often, their funding depends on people stepping up to help

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