It may not be the first thing people think about, but having a fire department to take care of your community is necessary. Fire stations need supplies, staff, and everything else other for-profit businesses need to survive. Raising money for a fire department can be tricky since people may assume everything is paid for with their taxes. In actuality, the costs of running a fire station include more than the money that comes in for taxes, especially with a constant need for new equipment. This is where fundraisers come into the picture.
There are several reasons to hold a fundraiser for your department. Money is the first and can seem like the most important, but keeping relationships open with the community is equally important. Building trust with the community and letting them know the people they can call gives your community a strong feeling of connection and lets your neighbors know your station’s needs. The following article lists 10 fundraising ideas you can use to raise money and encourage your neighbors to get to know you better.
- Family Fun Day
- Dog Wash
- Buy a Brick
- Training Camp
- Firefighters vs. Police Department
- Online Campaign
- Pancake Breakfast
- Silent Auction
- Collect Change
1. Create and sell customized calendars
One of the most popular fire department fundraisers is calendars. Even tv shows like Sex and the City included an episode about these calendars. While some calendars may be more adult-friendly, others can be created to introduce children to real-life heroes in their town.
Calendars are an easy way to raise funds for your fire department, thanks to websites like GBC Fundraising. These companies help fire departments, police stations, and other nonprofits create calendars at no up-front cost. Just upload your images to their website, and you can build a calendar in minutes.
Selling calendars is easier than ever before as well, thanks to the popularity of social media and the affordability of online donation processing systems. Fire stations can ask everyone in their community to buy a calendar online and collect funds with donation systems like Donorbox.
2. Host a family fun day for your community
You have space and the equipment for an excellent family fun day, so why not try this event for your next fundraiser? Fire stations can teach fire safety, give tours of the firehouse and trucks, and introduce the community to the men and women who keep them safe.
The cost of this type of event is minimal since you can hold it at your own location. Just add a few tasty treats and a few fun games, and this can be a fun and successful event for your station.
Pro tip: To raise more funds during the family fun day, include text-to-give. While people are learning more about your station, provide them with a campaign ID and phone number where they can show their support. Donors who send a text will get a link to your mobile-friendly online campaign page where they can make their donation, quickly and easily. With Donorbox, you get a short code plan that helps you share a shorter (801801) number with your donors, that’s much easier to remember and type in. Plus, you get a custom keyword for your campaign. Our repeat donation feature makes it very easy to repeat the last donation without filling out any forms or inputting details. Know more about our text-to-give plans here.
3. Wash dogs for free
Imagine how many dogs you could clean with that hose! Dog lovers in your community will love your station for offering a free dog wash. Events like this can be a lot of fun and a wonderful way to get neighbors together. It may not be the first thing you think of, but dog owners are very passionate about their animals. Encourage them to bring that passion to other areas of their town by letting them know you need their help.
During this type of event, fundraising can be tricky since you have advertised it as a free dog wash. It is best practice to include donation buckets or tables where people can give if they are inclined.
You can also sell things like your calendar or department t-shirts at this type of event to raise more funds. You can create your own t-shirt with online companies like Bonfire or a local screen printing company if you are confident you will sell enough.
4. Ask donors to buy a brick
Nonprofits have found great success raising funds with this fundraiser. Hospitals and libraries are a few locations where you can see this type of fundraiser in person. Your department can do a unique take on this old fundraising idea with a Buy a Brick campaign.
The bricks on your building are the perfect place to add the names of your donors. Asking donors to buy a brick gives them a literal visualization of where their donation goes. You can hold a separate Buy a Brick event or include it in other annual or online fundraisers.
With an online fundraiser for this idea, you can also set up a virtual donor wall. There you can list your donors’ names along with the donation amount and any special comment from them. This works as a great way of appreciating your donors as well as social proof. As others visit your donation page and see others have given, they’ll feel inspired to give.
Here’s a good example of how a virtual donor wall works. This campaign was created during the Texas ice storm to help the medics and fire stations. The funds helped deliver food to the first responders. In this, the donor wall highlights the donors’ names along with their comments and donation amounts. It’s a great way to appreciate donors who helped and provide social proof for potential ones. If you’re lacking space for physical brick walls, this can be an amazing alternative.
5. Set up a training camp
It may surprise you to know that there are men and women in your town who would love to see if they have what it takes to join your team. Who didn’t dream of being a firefighter when they grew up? Most do not keep that dream alive but would jump at the chance to prove to themselves and their friends that they have what it takes.
Your station already has the tests, so why not give members of your community a taste of what the firefighter life is like? Send out a call for those brave enough to try and prove their worth. You can sell tickets to fundraisers like this.
Pro tip: Turn this fundraiser into a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign where people collect pledges on how far they get. This will not only help you raise considerable funds but also work as a way to spread the word about your fundraiser. More interested people may join in.
6. Hold a friendly soccer match
Firefighters and Police have always had a competitive spirit. Both sides are fierce warriors and thrive on physical matches. Your department can capitalize on this competitive spirit with a friendly soccer game for the whole town to enjoy.
Fundraisers like this benefit both the fire and police station, so you can split the cost of this event to make it even more affordable. Set up an online campaign for this one-of-a-kind fundraiser.
Even better – a crowdfunding campaign. Add a goal meter to your campaign to create a sense of urgency. Give them a sneak peek into the arrangements, the excitement of the players, and of course, your fire department’s need for funds through images and videos.
Sell tickets and hold the game at your local high school or college. Encourage supporters to choose their favorite team and get in on a little healthy ribbing. You can even sell t-shirts for each team to raise a little extra cash. This idea can also be a great add-on during the holiday season, on Christmas and Thanksgiving, to entice more people to come and enjoy the match with their families.
7. Start an online campaign
Online campaigns have become very popular since the pandemic limited in-person events. The cost is much lower and many nonprofits have raised more than expected.
Tell the story of your station and the firefighters, include images of the firefighters at work, and include stories about how they have sacrificed to keep your community safe. If you have lost firefighters recently, this may be the right time to share their stories.
Your campaign should have a fundraising goal, and to encourage donors to help you reach it, you can add a goal meter. Adding a fundraising thermometer to social media posts, emails, and your campaign page can help donors track how close you are to reaching your goal and get them excited about giving.
Seymour Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) serves thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses in its vicinity. They set up an online campaign to raise funds for various equipment for their fire department. As you can see below, the donation form has a tier of donation amounts. And each amount has its possible impact mentioned. This tells donors where their donations will go. Moreover, the form has a tribute donation option and recurring intervals that can turn one-time donors into recurring ones.
8. Host a pancake breakfast
Pancake breakfasts are another easy and affordable way to introduce families to your department while raising funds. Pancake breakfasts can be held at a local restaurant if you can find a place willing to sponsor your event, or you can have it in your very own station.
Since pancakes are easy to make, you don’t need a special caterer for this event. You can even have a little fun with this and ask your firefighters to do the cooking!
Ticket sales are the easiest way to raise funds for this type of event, but you can add a silent auction to the event to bring in even more. Collaborate or seek help from local businesses for auction items.
9. Run a silent auction
Silent auctions can be added to any event or held on their own. The trick to a successful silent auction depends entirely on the items you include in your auction.
You can choose to stick to a theme or find the best items you can. It is crucial to get local companies involved when holding one of these events. Families are not the only ones who benefit from a healthy fire department. Businesses have an equal if not greater need. Let them show their appreciation for your efforts with in-kind donations for your silent auction.
10. Get your community to fill the boot
You may find it difficult to ask for large donations. If that is the case, collecting change can add up faster than you would expect. There are several ways to collect change from your neighbors without being too pushy.
A creative way to collect change at local businesses is to drop off an unused firefighter’s boot with a sign titled “Fill the Boot.” Not only is it an easy thing to ask, but it also adds a touch of fun and catches the eye.
Since most people don’t use cash anymore, you can also ask companies to ask their customers to add a change to their bill at the end of their shopping trip. Many companies are willing to work with fire stations to collect funds this way.
Finally, there are online options that make collecting change second nature. Apps like Benefit let donors give their change to their favorite nonprofits whenever they shop online or even in-person at big retailers like Walmart or Starbucks. Two to twenty percent of a donor’s purchase is transferred to the customer’s chosen nonprofit as long as they are a 501c3. There is no cost to supporters or nonprofits. Your station can let supporters know how easy it is to give their change with social media posts, emails, and letter campaigns.
Fire stations are essential for communities of every size. When someone calls 911 for a fire, they want to know there will be someone there for them. Your station has the responsibility to help people through some of the most challenging times in their lives. It is not unreasonable to expect the same people to help you make sure that can happen. These fundraising ideas should not only help raise money for your station but strengthen relationships with your community.
For other fundraising tips and resources, Donorbox has several articles to help. Online fundraising has continued to grow as technology advances. Your fire station can join other nonprofits in your community by using your own online donation processor with features like donor management, online campaigns, and a company matching option. Donorbox is an affordable option for stations of every size.
It’s free to start with and there’s no contract fee. Sign up now!