Looking for a creative employee engagement program that energizes your people, gives back to your community, and builds your business? Try linking it to the mission of your organization, as Fireman's Fund Insurance, Novato, Calif., did with its Heritage program.

Founded in 1863 with a mission to support the fire service, Fireman's Fund initially created a support program to fund the spouses and dependents of fallen firefighters. In 2004, it re-launched this with a broader mission: to direct grants to fire departments and fire- and burn-prevention programs. Heritage grants can be used for equipment, firefighter training, and community education programs. Since the program's inception, more than $16 million in grants has been awarded.

How It Works

Any employee is able to nominate funds for grants to firefighters. The nominations are evaluated quarterly by employee “decision groups,” with a new employee group across the country named each quarter.

Not only do employees make the decision on grants to be awarded, but they also present the grants to the winning firefighters in the community in which the grantees are located. The company's independent agents are also able to make grant decisions, and Fireman's provides marketing and public relations support to them to promote these efforts.

At the home office, the company focuses on writing national grants to help reduce line-of-fire deaths and increase firefighter safety. These grants span the spectrum of firefighter needs, from specialized rescue tools to new fire and emergency vehicles to community education.

Funding from the program has also helped to launch the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, “Everyone Goes Home” Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives Program, and the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System, as well as part of the National Volunteer Fire Council's Heart Healthy Initiative. Most recently, the company used grants to commission an Emmy award-winning director to film Into the Fire, which initially aired on the History Channel and is available to communities to help raise awareness and funds for firefighters.

Huge Payoff

The Heritage program is a winner all the way around. It has received rave reviews from the fire-service industry, employees, and agents, who all commend it for supporting firefighters and building safer communities. Because some 75 percent of all fire departments need to hold fundraisers to reach their annual budget demands, this wide array of programs has helped to fill the funding gap.

But most important are the stories of lives saved because of the availability of expensive equipment, specialized firefighter training, and community education programs. There's no bigger payoff than that.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc.; a frequent presenter to management teams and conferences; and a best-selling author of several books, including 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and The Management Bible.

On the Web

Additional information about the Fireman's Fund Heritage program can be found at www.firemansfund.com/heritage or by sending an e-mail to heritage@ffic.com.