Make Me A Firefighter: Six Steps to Recruitment Success

Ninety-one percent of fire departments in the United States utilize volunteer firefighters. Volunteers additionally serve their local departments as EMS providers, rescue workers, Fire Corps members, and in other capacities. Yet many departments struggle to recruit and retain enough volunteers to meet the expanding needs of the community.

Finding and recruiting potential volunteers is a multi-step process that requires dedication, follow-up, and follow-through. The National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC) Make Me A Firefighter™ campaign was designed to help departments simplify and streamline recruitment efforts. Ready-to-use and customizable materials are available to help departments short on time and resources implement successful and comprehensive recruitment campaigns.

Follow these six steps to utilize the campaign to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your recruitment program.

Step 1: Sign Up

Recruiters can go to https://portal.nvfc.org to join the campaign and to access tools, materials, and resources. Signing up is free and easy. Once logged in you will have access to the department portal.

Step 2: Post Your Volunteer Opportunities

The NVFC has created a public site at MakeMeAFirefighter.org to connect interested individuals with local departments seeking volunteers. Users enter their zip code and preferred mileage radius to find opportunities. A contact form allows them to respond directly to the department.

Departments advertise their needs by creating opportunity listings through the department portal. This is an important step to ensure potential volunteers can find and connect with you. When creating your listing, be sure to avoid using fire service jargon, provide all of the necessary information, and highlight the benefits of being a volunteer. Watch this short video on how to post an opportunity listing. Published listings appear on MakeMeAFirefighter.org.

Step 3: Raise Awareness

Departments need to make their local communities aware that help is needed. A national survey conducted as part of the NVFC’s recruitment and retention efforts revealed that 79 percent of those polled did not know if their department was seeking volunteers. On the positive side, 44 percent of individuals polled indicated an interest in volunteering as an emergency responder.

The department portal features an easy-to-use ‘materials generator’ that allows for the quick creation and customization of campaign materials. To get started, simply log in to the portal and click on ‘Customize Campaign Materials.’ Watch this short video on how to create recruitment materials.

Items available through the materials generator include postcard handouts, posters, table tents, social media graphics and sample text, and personal invitation handouts.

Step 4: Host an Event

Hosting a recruitment event is a great way to increase volunteer interest. Good recruitment events should allow potential recruits to experience the sense of excitement, accomplishment, support, and belonging that accompanies being a volunteer firefighter.

The event planning tool in the department portal provides ideas to inspire departments to design their own recruitment event. The platform also includes an event planning guide and marketing tips for attracting specific audiences such as women, recent graduates and young adults, veterans, and minority populations.

Once your event is planned you can create invitations through the portal. Invitations can be customized with your event information, department logo, and the graphics/message of your choice.

Step 5: Track Your Recruits

Don’t let interested individuals fall through the cracks due to a lack of communication. The recruit tracking tool allows you to monitor prospective volunteers through every stage of the application process.

Volunteer applications submitted through MakeMeAFirefighter.org will automatically be added to the tracking tool. Communication can be monitored throughout the entire application process – from interest to commitment – to ensure proper follow-up. Prospects that do not come through the web site can be manually entered into the tracker. Watch this short video to learn more about the recruit tracking tool.

Step 6: Expand Your Knowledge

The NVFC offers a variety of recruitment and retention resources including guides, videos, and online training. Keeping current with trends, research, and best practices can help your department craft a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy. Find resources on the NVFC web site and training in the NVFC Virtual Classroom.