Recruitment and Retention Award

2020 Winner

Chatham Fire Department



Chatham is a rural village of about 1,700 residents that serves as a bedroom community to the City of Albany and New York City. Because of these demographics, the volunteer pool is limited.

Faced with some members aging out and the inevitable loss through uncontrollable factors (roughly half of all newer members leave within five years due to changes in job, family, etc.), the department decided to develop a formal recruitment program to supplement the modest number of volunteers they have taken in through ongoing efforts and RecruitNY.

Serendipitously, Recruitment Coordinator David Levow had a neighbor, Doug Welch, who was retiring from his job as Creative Director at a large NYC ad agency. His idea was to personalize the recruitment campaign and to showcase members as neighbors, friends and relatives of the population they serve with the theme “We Need Help.”

Traditional methods like posters at local merchants were supplemented by outdoor billboards, postings on the department’s outdoor electronic sign, ads on the screen of the local movie theater and newspaper coverage. Large banners were hung at local merchants along with displays in local banks, TV and radio coverage and heavy use of social media.

A number of local publications ran the ads at no charge. Chatham FD also set up a special email address for recruitment inquiries that go directly to the Recruitment Coordinator. The department is a regular contributor to local papers and Fire News and participates in local street fairs, distributing recruitment materials. Chatham FD partners with the local school district with two special posters placed in the three school buildings. They host periodic community breakfasts and fish fries to further cement community ties and to meet potential volunteers.

The initial campaign in 2019 resulted in five recruits, all of whom are still with the department and in various stages of BEFO and IFO training and are active participants.

They’ve also received inquiries from potential volunteers who lived outside Chatham FD’s fire protection area. Those were referred to their appropriate department.

The department continually receives comments and accolades regarding the campaign. They believe that providing visibility in many different contexts reinforces their message and they have found in more than one instance it was not the first time a recruit saw the marketing message, but the second or third time in a different format that pushed that person to finally come in.

Past Award Recipients

2019 Albertson Hook & Ladder Engine & Hose Co. No. 1