Almost all of Pennsylvania's volunteer and combination fire departments have shared a similar life cycle - years and years ago when call volumes were low, EMS was not even thought, and volunteer numbers were up there was little or no interaction with the municipal governments. There may have been the occasional, or even regular, small contribution but that was it.
As years passed, equipment because more expensive, staffing needs increased (while volunteer numbers decreased), and EMS was provided out of many firehouses, the requests for higher funding levels has been made by many companies to their municipalities. With these additional requests, almost always comes a higher level of accountability to the municipal officials - specifically they want to know that the money spent is a good investment.
There are the extremes which I have seen on both ends - either asking nothing or asking for details down to amount spent per square foot of firehouse toilet paper (as a good friend and colleague of mine says, "paralysis by analysis."). But most are in the middle. A company must lay the groundwork beforehand - determine and proactively release the information which is most relevant and most helpful to the funding requests. Also, understand what records should not be made public.
Understand that your tax returns (for those who are 501(c)(3) organizations) are already of public record. Make sure they are accurate and show your organization in a positive light. Other things to consider, and possibly make adjustments to:
- Internal checks and balances with spending (budgeting, POs/Expense Authorization, check signing procedures, bank statement reviews)
- Audit procedures - regular external audits as well as internal reviews
- Administrative policies like conflict of interest, harassment, etc.
Just remember - the municipality typically knows nothing about the operational side so they will almost always hammer on the administrative side of your firehouse. Make sure you are proactive and squared away. This will send funding talks in a positive direction.