Where do the extra dollars come from for brigades’ “nice-to-have” items or to help pay for social events like Gold Stars and Honours Nights?
Discussion began, somehow, over dinner at the UFBA Conference... one or two novel ways of fund-raising emerged... and subsequent enquiries have revealed many more. Most brigades, it seems, can be quite entrepreneurial when it comes to finding a way to legitimately add dollars to their coffers. Raffles survive, of course, but when you look at the more enterprising efforts, appear so passé!
A South Island brigade made heaps when it put a “Cuss Box” on the bar. A contribution was required every time a member used bad language. But in the interests of keeping members from the bankruptcy courts, it operated only when women or children were present!
An Auckland brigade capitalised on a Fire Service Open Day by setting up a Candy Floss stall, its members quickly had to learn the finer points of spinning sugar together with pink colouring to get the desired colour and consistency. (And they still made a handsome profit selling it much cheaper than you buy the sticky stuff at A and P Shows!)
Catering for private events such as engagement parties, weddings, reunions and other gatherings is a common and popular method for brigades throughout New Zealand to raise a few extra dollars, with rural brigades adding such events as dog trials, A and P Shows, Pony Club Competitions and Field Days. This form of fund-raising seems to depend very much on help from wives, partners, mothers and aunties.
Location in the country also means some brigades work on the land to fund-raise. In Southland, it’s tailing lambs during the long twilights there. In South Auckland, firefighters combine with the local rugby club to provide labour during hay-making and members of another brigade in Wine Country assist in vineyards at harvest time. I was not told of any perks!
Brigade members’ labour was also “sold” in the Manawatu every time there was a race day in the town. As soon as TAB computer terminals arrived at the racecourse by truck, fire-fighters were on hand to carry them to locations in various totes throughout the venue, ready to be connected to the betting network. Dwindling patronage on-course and centralisation of racing means this fund-raiser no longer exists.
One Auckland Brigade, in days before heat pumps became popular, bought bulk coal, bagged it and went door-to-door selling it just before the onset of winter - a dirtier way of making a few dollars can’t be imagined. Several brigades still sell fuel. They purchase standing timber, have it felled and transported to a depot near their station where they split it into firewood, bundle it and sell it. One of these brigades has so many orders there are often waiting lists... and another has regular customers wanting repeat orders, a trailer load or two year after year, delivered just before the colder weather’s due.
Fire Police from several locations cash in on their expertise learned with the brigade and offer their services as marshals or pointsmen, etc to traffic control management companies for Santa Parades, sports events and the like. Since all these activities are under careful supervision and new skills are learned and old ones revised, the fund-raising kind of doubles as useful training as well.
Not sure whether this continues, but in previous days I knew of one Northland brigade which, as its main fund-raiser, had a service which fire-fighters carried out in late November - early December each year. They went around nearby baches, cleaning out the household water tanks and filling them with portable fresh water, ready for when the holiday-makers arrive. The brigade would then call back to get a donation from each bach-owner and share a little Christmas cheer! I was told this annual service also provided a good opportunity to test the brigade’s portable pumps, and get new members familiar with waterway equipment and the tanker before their busy summer season!
Where there’s a will, there’s a way - and fire-fighters are capable of as many ingenious, and legal, fund-raisers as there are ways to use number 8 wire!
Where do Your Extra Dollars Come From?
What’s your brigade done to raise extra funds? Can you top any of the ideas already listed in this article? We all know firefighters can be pretty unconventional, so if you’ve been a part of a “creative” fundraising campaign, we want to hear about it.
In the coming months, we’ll publish your submissions through this newsletter. Great ideas deserve to be shared.
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