Recruitment Techniques Part 1
Over the past year I have talked quite a bit about making your department better. By improving the environment in your department, you have now prepared it to receive new members. Creating a receptive and positive environment is key before you do any type of recruitment.
This week's column is the first of a two part series on recruitment. First we will look at ways to get potential members to look at the department, and next week we will look at ‘incentive’ plans.
As with all of my columns, we'll start with the basics. Every week I get emails and calls from potential members across the country looking to join a department. My advice to them is always to try the fire line, (http://www.nvfc.org/StateMap.html ) and to just go and knock on the door of their local department.
The reason they contact me is that they do not have a way to contact their local department, or they feel that their department doesn't need the help. Most departments that I know could always use help, so it seems that advertising the need is key. While some departments may be reluctant to publicize the need for help, unless there is a call to action, no one will answer it.
The Glenn Dale VFD has a lighted sign in front of their department that they use for recruitment. (http://www.volunteerfd.org/recruit_display.php?did=49) They have had great success with the sign, as have many others.
A good sign needs to be direct, to the point, include a 'call to action,' and a contact method. I have seen some towns that have a sign under all of their town limit signs. You cannot enter the town without realizing it is served by volunteers, and volunteers are needed. Another option is to put a sign in front of your department and have an ‘open house’ on your drill nights. It does not have to be a formal open house, but by allowing people to come in and see what you do it not only recruits members, but also it is a great public relations tool.
Open houses are a great way to get the public involved, show them where their donations go, and recruit members. Be sure to polish up the brass, put an ad in your local paper, and have refreshments. This shouldn’t be anything fancy but should include demonstrations of equipment and 'show and tell'.
Since I mentioned newspapers, let us look at what they can do for you. The press loves to print 'feel good' articles, and you should take advantage of that. Ideally you should be in the press every month. Publish you fundraisers, good calls, change of officers, and any milestone. Be sure to befriend your local writer, and invite them for drills, ride alongs, and keep them involved.
Another great way to advertise is through flyers. Flyers can be posted at your local businesses and handed out at functions. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and can be as simple as running copies at the department on colored paper. You should include full contact information including phone, email, and your website.
Any contact information should include a phone number that has voice mail or a message machine. The easiest way to turn off a new member is for them to have to chase down your department or leave a message and never get a call back. Your goal should be to respond to requests within 24-48 hours.
Your website should include details about what it is like to be a member and about your department. Many potential members will read any available information to decide if it is for them. Show pictures of your department in action, training, and fundraising. Life of a volunteer is more then fighting fires, and potential members should see that.
Many departments go door to door in their recruitment options. A door to door campaign gives that ‘personal touch’ and people love to see the shiny red trucks. Break out your uniforms, shine your shoes, and show your best side. Bring your flyers, and take the time to really talk to the public.
In my “Making it Through the Day" column (http://www.volunteerfd.org/archive/day.php) I discussed working with employers to gain members. You may also be able to get local businesses to ‘sponsor’ your recruitment efforts. If you allow the local sign company to put their logo on your sign they may do it for a discount or even free. Same goes for printing companies. Local businesses will post your flyers, and allow you to set up your truck in front of your department to hand them out.
No matter what your advertising method is, the bottom line is to get the word out and give people a way to contact you. You would be surprised at how effective these basic, and low cost, methods are.
Next week we will look at how to spend money for incentive plans, explorer posts, and LOSAP plans. If you have a very successful program, please feel free to email me the details at Jason@volunterfd.org
Discuss this column at: http://www.volunteerfd.org/phorum/read.php?f=20&i=75&t=75