It’s no secret that volunteer and combination fire and EMS departments have struggled with recruitment and retention, but new research from the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) provides deeper insights on the challenges that exist within the volunteer fire community.
The research effort, which was completed in three phases beginning last year, was funded by a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. In part, the project identified a disconnect between why leadership thinks volunteers leave versus why former volunteers say they left. It also showed that a desire to give back to the community was the main reason that volunteers who considered leaving didn’t.
The report also offered suggestions for improving volunteer retention efforts, including:
- Introducing mentorship programs
- Bestowing honors for service milestones
- Conducting stay interviews for volunteers who have lapsed attendance
- Scheduling exit interviews for departing volunteers
While the NFPA5th U.S. Needs Assessment Survey, which was sent to every fire department in the nation this week, focuses on departmental needs, the new NVFC research findings provide a more detailed snapshot of what institutional and other drivers are influencing volunteer retention.