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Why Do Volunteers Stop Volunteering

Why do volunteer firefighters quit? According to research published by the National Volunteer Fire Council in September 2020, the top 3 reasons volunteer firefighters stop volunteering is:

  • because of leadership/failures
  • cliques and
  • training requirements

Former volunteers were surveyed to learn the reasons for their departure and were compared to the perceptions of current volunteer leaders and non-leaders alike. The perceptions had some commonality among each group. Current volunteers in both leadership and non-leadership roles felt the primary reason volunteers leave is due to lack of support and flexibility in juggling volunteer responsibilities with other life commitments. However, those surveyed who did quit identified that issue as less important. The primary reason for leaving was the “department atmosphere [being] full of cliques and groups that exclude others.” This was, however, the second most frequently identified reason by the current volunteer group.

The current volunteers also identified department leadership not focusing on or supporting the needs of members as another one of the top 3 reasons why they would consider leaving. Those volunteers that did depart cited the lack of camaraderie or sense of community among everyone in the department. And while current volunteers cited the lack of clear expectations on how much time and effort is required each week or month to meet training requirements, those who quit did not have this issue in their top 3.

The information derived from this section of the survey clearly identifies several problems in the industry. Leadership – either disconnected from the membership or not properly trained – has a significant impact on the entire organization. Some members of the organization mimic this behavior and results in the alienation of others. This type of problem is not seen as often in emergency service organizations with good leadership. And while this is only one aspect within the organization, it is critical factor to its success. These perceptions need to be explored and further validated by replicating and expanding on the research conducted.

Read the full research report from the NVFC by clicking on the link HERE: