I want to contribute to the update on the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and the ideas for fund raising. First a short disclaimer, for those not aware of it. My wife Diane and I own The Supply Cache, and I serve on the Board of Directors for the Foundation. The Foundation struggles every year financially to be able to provide service and assistance to families in time of tragedy. The wildland firefighting community is tremendously supportive of the Foundation when the individuals understand what it does. Often people outside the “wildland firefighting community” are also very supportive. But getting that message out to as many people as possible is quite a challenge. So while “thinking outside the box” to help us raise funds, also think of ways to spread the message of what our mission is. I know this sounds very basic, but I feel there are hundreds of folks out there wearing the memorial t-shirts and the ribbon pins or wreath pins without realizing where they came from and what they support.
Here are some ideas I have used to help raise funds and spread the word:
1) Last year, our company was sponsoring a softball team of wildland firefighters. When Tanker 123 went down on the Big Elk fire, we dedicated the season to the pilots and used it to raise funds and awareness. I requested corporate sponsors from our manufacturers and vendors and the firefighters chipped in a dollar each for every run we scored. At the beginning of each game we would let the other team know why we were playing and request donations. From this experience I learned that the local community and the industries that exist for supporting wildland firefighters will get involved and support the Foundation financially. So softball teams, tournaments, bowling nights, dart tournaments, 5k races, or any activity in which you may be able to generate local interest, activity and support is worth the effort. Especially if these activities are already in place, or if you participate in them for fun and you just need to do a little extra leg work to generate sponsors.
2) Sales of Wildland Firefighter Foundation merchandise. Not to toot our own horn, but here is another way to help. Our company sells T-shirts and pins for the Foundation. We purchase them from the foundation for exactly what we sell them for. That way the Foundation gets the money immediately and gets the full proceeds of the items after production costs. This year we have had people ask to be able to sell the items at a conference, or training they are attending. So we sent out informational brochures and merchandise “on consignment” for those folks who wanted to help spread the word. If you are attending a wildland fire conference or event that we are not able to get out to ourselves, we can make arrangements for you to be an ambassador for us.
3) T-shirts. It has been one of my uncompleted goals this year to produce a new t-shirt for the Foundation. While the memorial shirt has raised a tremendous amount of money and awareness, and will not be discontinued, I think the community would respond to a new design and message. If there is anyone out there who would like to donate their creative talents and ideas to this project, let me know.
4) Corporate support. I don’t know how to express this without sounding somewhat self serving, but the wildfire community needs to ask for help from the companies that manufacture and distribute the products that wildland firefighters use. (I say “we” because I am also a firefighter.) I have had some response to requests but it is often the smaller companies or even the reps digging into their own pockets, while the larger companies tend to ignore the requests. The Foundation has had some success garnering corporate response, but could do better. So if anyone out there has any close relationships with the principals of such companies, fill them in on our needs and ask them to support our efforts to help out in times of tragedy
Let me finish with a note of thanks. Thank you to all the firefighters, businesses, business owners, government agencies and community members who have supported the Wildland Firefighter Foundation through donations, fund raisers and purchases.â€¨â€¨Also, thank you to everyone who has supported our business over the past 13 years. It is our pleasure and pride to serve you and give back to the wildland firefighter community that has supported us so much.â€¨â€¨Jim Felixâ€¨â€¨Jim, thank you for the many hats you wear and for your support of wildlandfire.com with your banner on the links page as well.