Berwyn Firefighter Mike Baskin Responds to Fundraising Posting

The following comment just came in from Berwyn firefighter Mike Baskin in regards to fire company fundraising.  Although I posted this comment with the appropriate blog posting, I think Mike’s comments deserve more attention.  Please take the time to review Mike’s thorough examination of this local fire company’s fundraising efforts.  Remember, all this fundraising is in addition to fighting fires!

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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.
Frustrations:
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.

Respectfully,
Mike Baskin

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One Response

  1. Mr. Baskin, simple words cannot describe the gratitiude I have for your efforts. I am sure that there is gratitude, respect, and adminiration for you and your colleagues ALL OVER the township even if residents are unable, or unwilling, to express it.

    That being said, I should also thank you for showing what my family and I will be up against in the coming decade. Given the limited outcomes of your superhuman fundraising efforts, and the selfishness and stubborn ideology of current gatekeepers, I believe my “generation” of resident will be forced to implement paid fire companies.

    I’m not saying that there won’t be new groups of driven men and women willing to run into burning buildings while common sense says to run out. We may, however, run out of those who have the talent to raise funds AND save lives. One wonders why this seems to be such a mystery to so many.

    Whatever the reason, I believe there’s a good chance that the days of volunteer fire service on-the-cheap are coming to an end, and my “generation” and later will be stuck with the bill. We’ll find a way, though, because we already have good people in place, and that is usually the hardest part.

    p.s. Some simple math:
    New BFC tower truck= $900,000
    900 residents/$1,000=$900,000
    1800 residents/$500=$900,000
    3600 residents/$250=$900,000
    7200 residents/$125=$900,000
    9,000 residents/$100=$900,000
    What would it do for BFC’s financial position for the future if the residents covered this expense? I thought I read there are 42,000+ residents in the Township. Not exactly sure. . .

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