Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Fire Company Comments re Fundaising . . . Should Fire Fighters Supplement the Budget Deficiency with Fundraising Efforts?

Comments to my last posting have raised interesting dialogue concerning the township requirement to provide emergency service to the public vs. requirement of the fire houses to further fundraise to increase their coffers. (Read the comments to the last post). One commentator suggested that if each household gave $2, the $21K could be raised by the public. In theory, that would be correct, but as pointed out at the last Board of Supervisor meeting by several (including Bill DeHaven) the public can no be relied upon for contributions.

Read the comments and then weigh in — do you think that our volunteer fire firefighters should increase their fundraising to make up the shortfall with the township budget cut? Or how about the volunteer fire fighters base their support, on the public’s support? In other words, they hold back support until the public makes up the financial deficit?

I would be curious if the fire companies could elaborate on their fundraising efforts. For instance, I know that Paoli Fire Company does an annual contribution drive, does Berwyn and Radnor do likewise? Any details that you could provide would be helpful – however, please understand that I think that your volunteerism efforts as a fire fighter should not require anything further; you provide a service that the township is required to provide to its residents.

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  1. This is unbelievable — risking their lives is not enough? We expect the volunteer fire fighters to spend their ‘free time’ (that is when they aren’t fighting fires and working for a living) out raising money? To supplement what the township is supposed to be providing — I think that this is nuts!! Every volunteer fire fighter who services TredyffrinTownship should go on strike, than we will see how quickly the money is reinstated!

  2. Pattye,
    The fire companies have similar fundraising efforts. I’ll speak specifically to Berwyn. Our main fundraising revenue is derived from three mailers which go out throughout the year. One is for fire, one for EMS and the other is a business letter which goes to every business in our local.

    On top of that we do various events specifically targeted at fundraising. We do an annual Turkey Raffle the week before Thanksgiving which requires a mailer and a physical event at the firehouse. Outback Steakhouse and Spa Car Wash in Berwyn have also partnered with us for various fundraising efforts (for example Spa will give the fire company a certain amount of $ per car which goes through on a given day, in exchange our personnel will bring a truck over and grill for their customers). There are other miscellaneous things we do throughout the year as they arise or are set up by our fundraising committee but this gives you an idea.


    1. Thanks Matt. Do you have any idea what percentage (or $ amount) of Berwyn’s budget is brought in through these fundraising efforts? Just fundraising, not grants, state, local money — can you offer a ballpark idea, I’m just curious.

  3. Your information is helpful, Matt. Hopefully, the attention on your current financial challenge will help the local citizens better understand the importance of supporting Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor with their charitable dollars.

  4. Pattye,
    Our approximate breakdown for financial support (company funds, NOT relief dollars) is as follows:
    50% Ambulance Billing
    20% Fundraising
    20% Tredyffrin/Easttown Townships
    10% Other income (such as rental income from cell phone companies for space on our tower)

    We look at about a $1.2-1.4 million operating budget (taking Relief out of the equation).

    On the Relief side, the sole revenue source is the PA Relief Association.


  5. I can further add information about Berwyn’s Fund raising. It is important that people know as much information as they can about the fire companies and what they do.
    I served as fund raising coordinator at Berwyn for 5 years from 2001 – 2006. It was some of the most frustrating years of my life…I lost far too much hair on my head those years.
    1) Motivating volunteers who already give hundreds of hour to training and running calls to put in time to fund raise. Fund raising is not why they joined.
    2) Fund raising is not as easy as it sounds. During my time as coordinator, I probably had 200 conversations with local residents who stated they don’t donate because they pay taxes. When they are advised how little of their taxes go to the fire companies, they feel that it still should not be their responsibility to have to pay more money on their own. It’s a losing battle.
    3) I was often told that we need to do a better job of getting our message out there. Every fund raising letter that was sent out (2 times per year per household) had the breakdown of where our funding comes from and the importance of the funding. How many people do you think open this letter? How many people do you think treat it as junk mail and put it right in the trash?
    4) Businesses… We have our few reliable, local, mom & pop business that contribute regularly each year (and a few others). But for the most part, the larger businesses are too busy, too difficult to contact the right person without weeks of games, or are often not headquartered in our area. Getting money out of businesses is a full time job. The small shops who struggle to stay in business donate, but the big boys won’t play. We appreciate what we receive by our businesses, as it is such a small number, every dollar counts.
    5) I personally spent over a thousand hours over 3 years putting together the revitalization of the Berwyn Fair. We did 2 years, Very Few Came.
    The Horse show was too expensive to hold it there, we weren’t welcomed anywhere else. We had trouble finding ride companies to do it based on poor attendance.
    6) If people are hurting for money, they won’t donate, and that is simple arithmetic.

    As far as statistics: (note: this is Berwyn numbers only)
    In 2008
    Fire Fund drive (10,000 residents) = approx 25% return
    EMS Fund Drive (same 10,000 residents later in the year) = approx 25% return
    *overall: approximately 32% of 10,000 residents donated once, therefore some residents donated twice. But that means 68% of residents do not donate at all.
    Business Drive (2200 businesses) = 5% return, therefore 95% of business do not donate.

    2009 Numbers are slightly lower, probably to the tune of 8-10%, but final numbers are not in and some people wait until the end of December (tax time).

    The fire company has anticipated another decrease for 2010.

    I stepped down as fund raising chair after 5 years because I grew tired of the frustrations noted above. Fund raising at many non-profit organizations is an employed position. Berwyn Fire Co raises over $200,000 of money on our own. It is the equivilant of a part time job by itself to coordinate that, but it’s being done by volunteers. To do more would be a lot to ask, especially at a time when so many are out of work or on fixed incomes…. the money is harder to ask for and receive.

    A bit more about me… (because I feel as though the interpersonal aspects of the volunteer world get lost very easy)
    I have been a member of Berwyn Fire Co for 13 years as a Fire Police Officer & EMT. I have logged over 700 hours of formal certification training in my time. I Have served three three-year terms as Captain of the Fire Police (which also holds a Board of Director’s seat). So therefore I have been a Board of Director for 9 years. I was recently re-elected to another 2 year term which begins January 7th. In my younger days, I averaged 300-400 Fire calls per year and another 300-400 ambulance calls per year… In the last 4 or 5 years I have significantly grown a business from scratch that I stated as a young businessman out of college 8 years ago. So these days, I run closer to 200 fire calls and 100 Ambulance calls. In my time at the fire company, I have served my community well with a variety of plaques on my wall, which have minimal amount of value in comparison to the lives I have helped save and protect.

    I am not unique. The Berwyn Fire Company has many many members who each have their own list of accomplishments and values they add to the table. We are filled with a variety of people from CEO’s, Chemists, Police Officers, Architects, Mechanics, and the list goes on.

    Thanks for your time, and considerations on this matter. Politics aside, if this reaches people so they learn more, it did it’s job today.

    Mike Baskin

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