There are changes coming to the Fire Wife Sisterhood. I’ve always chosen to take a transparent approach to leading here. I am just another girl who married a firefighter, but whom has been gifted the responsibility of leading this community. My style is direct without sugar coating. Ask me anything.
After much discussion, prayer and advisement from internal and external mentors and team members, we have made a decision that the community access for Fire Wife Sisterhood, and some of our member resources, will require a paid membership. Please read on for the details.
The Back Story of the Sisterhood
(Because we want you to appreciate and understand why we came to these decisions)
Just over 4 years ago, after I had been blogging for a bit at FirefighterWife.com, I made a rather spontaneous decision to open a private FB group called the Fire Wife Sisterhood. I created it from my ipad while I was sitting next to my 5 year old playing in the bathtub. By the time we got dried off and into our PJs, 40 women had requested to join. Within 24 hours we had 100 members.
It was clear to me that the fire wives who had connected on our rapidly growing Firefighter Wife Facebook page, wanted a private place to connect. It grew so fast that by May of 2013, we made a change to charge $8 / month (or $60 / year) for the Fire Wife Sisterhood community. We offered 100 women the chance to become lifetime charter members for $50 and within 4 days we had filled all those spots.
We grew and grew but not as rapidly as before. In 2015, we received support from a corporate partner, QALO, and decided to try offering once a again a free Fire Wife Sisterhood access, with the goal being to reach as many fire families needing marriage support as possible. We offered annual and monthly donor options with the assumption that those who were receiving good support from our organization would want to become financial supporters to help us sustain this service. And that these givers would cover our expenses to serve the masses. This was simply not the case and to date we have had no more than 50 monthly donors at any given time. Therefore we are needing to change our funding model in order to help us meet the need.
What has been the impact of our services?
What drives me more than anything is being sure that what we do is truly making a difference in marriages. Our biggest impacts happen in 3 places:
1. With our online resources – we literally reach millions – see the numbers I share below
2. At Commitment Weekend – no other service we offer does more to strengthen marriages than this
3. When we show up at the large fire service events (FDIC, Firehouse Expo, etc) – hearing firefighters and wives share in person the impact we’ve had on their marriages truly shows us what a difference we are making in the resources we provide. Showing up in person makes it so real for them.
Since 2015, we’ve released a book, expanded our library of resources in the member portal and have served thousands. We are reaching more than we ever imagined.
It’s so easy with online friendship to see only within our own little facebook world and the groups we hang out in. To give you perspective, let me share a few statistics and facts so you can understand and appreciate the reach of our mission and the impact it is having on so many:
- Did you know that on a monthly basis, from 50,000 to 100,000 people visit the resources on our website?
- That each month we reach on average more than 1 million people via our Facebook pages?
- Within our Facebook groups, we have over 99% engagement of members? This means people aren’t just joining a group and forgetting, they are actively participating.
- Almost 300 couples have completed the Marriage On Fire course
- Up to 300 couples have now attended a Commitment Weekend
- Over 2500 Honor and Commitment books have been sold or given away
- Tens of thousands have downloaded are various free resources (12 Steamy Days with Your Firefighter and Fire Life 101 for example)
Our organization has delivered the message of encouragement for fire marriages in ways and volume that many other organizations envy. You should all be proud of that. It’s your sharing on social media and word of mouth that play a big role in that. This has all been done with a small budget, a tight tribe of key supporters (such as QALO and Scott and less than 50 monthly donors) and nearly 100 trained volunteers across the country leading our online communities.
The impact is well beyond our expectations in some ways, yet not enough in so many others.
The further we reach, the more we see the need for marriage and family support services for the fire service. We currently have 42 requests queued up for the Rescue My Marriage community. Since we opened that in December of 2013 we’ve had over 300 women apply.
The message in short is this. 24-7 COMMITMENT has reached more people than ever imagined with our services and resources. But the need is bigger than our current resources can support.
We need to expand our funding or close down some of our services. And we’d never simply close down without giving our fire families a chance first to step up and support the cause.
Where are our shortages?
Our administrative team needs to be expanded to continue to serve our communities. This includes support such as:
- the creation of the articles on our website and new member resources in areas you have requested – blended families, promotional season, retirement, PTSD and more
- creation of graphics and media we use to communicate the marriage message
- managing the posting within all the facebook groups and pages we own
- managing member access within the communities and website
- supporting members needs in their posts in the groups
- delivering FB live and other online events
Our team is facing some burn out and what is called compassion fatigue…..much like first responders who can experience PTSD after facing so many traumatic situations over the years, volunteers in service can become overburdened and weary serving so many marriages in need. I know personally I’ve had to step back from the support work to recharge my batteries multiple times. While our hearts are 100% wanting to serve marriages in need, we can only do so when we are whole and healthy ourselves. The work of reading emails, posts and chats and taking phone calls and hosting group video meetings on heavy emotional topics like marriage can take it’s toll.
Training up new volunteers is also a heavy effort. We have created a 47 page guideline that describes how we best serve online communities. It’s not just about approving posts. It’s about knowing what to do when that wife posts at 3 am that she just found out her husband is cheating on her, or is suicidal, or that she is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. There are no existing resources to tap into for this. We’ve modeled this on our own experiences of serving online and with the assistance of professional counselors.
One detail many of you may not realize. The most expensive things we do are Commitment Weekends and attending the major fire service events like FDIC. We could never do those without QALO. (Keep buying their rings! It supports our cause!) Our Commitment Weekends have never covered costs on their own. Most business advisors tell me we aren’t charging enough for that event, yet it’s on my heart to keep it as affordable as possible. We try to make up the difference with merchandise sales which is also an expensive endeavor that requires inventory purchases up front, etc.
I share this with you not because I want you feel BAD about where we are with funding but because…..we’ve been super successful as a non-profit with the reach of our message and want to do more. Many assume that funding just shows up for non-profits from big corporations. That’s the furthest from reality. Our team works diligently towards sponsors, keeping costs low and putting in a ton of man power over dollars.
If there is one mistake I’ve made in leading this organization it’s this. I’ve personally given, and let our volunteers give, so much that we’ve set the bar very high for what we can deliver for free due entirely to brute force effort. Brute force effort is not humanly sustainable. We now must ensure we have sustainable funding to keep these efforts afloat.
To carry on in 2017, we cannot do that without you.
Without additional support, we face the difficult decision to close many (or all) of our online communities. Your Fire Wife Sisterhood communities. All of you play a big role in making this the positive, supportive environment it is.
We believe in you and would never just close our communities without giving you all the opportunity to rally for the cause. We believe in all the good that has happened here. We believe you all are up for the challenge and ready to support and encourage this rally cry. Instead of closing our communities, we are offering to each of you the chance to keep the doors open and keep these services flowing.
We call this rally cry “My Commitment 2017”.
24-7 COMMITMENT has always meant that we are committed around the clock to both our families and the fire service. With the right balance and flexibility and lots of love, we know fire families can thrive. It’s all about the commitment.
Ask yourself…..what will be my commitment to giving back to this organization whose mission has served so many marriages?
What will be my commitment to my marriage?
What will be my commitment to the fire service?
What will be my commitment to myself, my health and my well being?
Giving campaigns are the method by which many non-profits receive their funding. Did you know that 70% of the funding of non-profits in the US comes from individual donors and not large corporations and sponsors?
You’ve probably seen examples with public radio for instance taking a week or two out of the year to raise funding from their donors. So far, we’ve been able to operate without the need for a giving campaign but we can no longer keep up with the need for services.
For 2017, we will determine the services we offer based on the funding raised between now and December 15th. To allow as many people as possible to make their commitment, we are adding new membership levels making it affordable for everyone, starting as low as $5 / month.
Our goal is to reach 500 financial supporters / month to maintain services at their current level for the 2017 year.
Should we reach 1000 financial supporters, we will be able to further extend our much needed services in the Rescue My Marriage groups and our Commitment Weekend scholarship.
Our new support levels will be as follows (and are listed at 247commitment.org/join):
Basic – $5 / month (paid quarterly at $15)
Includes access to all of our communities and many monthly member resources
Premium – $10 / month (paid quarterly at $30)
Includes access to Marriage On Fire course as well as monthly product partner offers and discounts
Monthly Donors ($30/$50/$100 / month)
Includes additional benefits such as discounted Commitment Weekend attendance and tax deductible donations on a portion of your financial gift.
Special Offer for All Currently Registered Members of the Fire Wife Sisterhood
Because of your dedication and support by already stepping up to become a free member of our community, you can register for only $5 for the first quarter (then $15 / quarter on going after that). Go to our registration page and use coupon code MYCOMMITMENT2017 to receive this discount.
This offer is available through December 15th only.
What happens after December 15th?
Your account access at the website will remain for free members with many free resources we still provide available at the website but your access to Basic level membership features such as our communities will be removed including Facebook group access.
(Not sure of your current membership level? Login to the member portal. It’s listed in the top right corner.)
What about Charter Members?
Charter members were those first 100 women who stepped up to pay a lifetime $50 fee for access to the Fire Wife Sisterhood in May 2013. You will be gifted the lifetime Basic membership and remain in the communities. However, we encourage you to consider becoming a paid supporter of 24-7 COMMITMENT. You have seen first hand the value of this organization and probably a little behind the scenes as to what it takes to deliver these services. If you are able, we’d encourage you to consider becoming a financial supporter.
I know a corporation that might want to become a financial supporter. How can I reach out to them?
A white paper is shared at this link on our website which we share with potential corporate partners. The next step is to confirm their interest and a meeting with one of our 24-7 COMMITMENT Ambassadors. Email contact at firefighterwife.com if you have an interested partner. These can be very successful but typically take a close personal connection, sharing YOUR STORY of what this organization means to you and a lot of follow up to make it happen. This is a great way to support our non-profit.
I know someone who would donate but they are not a firefighter…..how can they help us?
The fire service does and awesome job at supporting each other but aside from standing on the corner with a boot, tends to never reach outside of fire families for support. This is a core reason many fire related non-profits struggle. Please do ask those you know who support causes to consider a donation to 24-7 COMMITMENT. Send them to 247commitment.org/donate. The donate button is in the top corner of our website always.
Are my donations tax deductible?
This is always a question to confirm with your tax advisor. In general, donations are deductible beyond the value of what is received in exchange for the donation. Our monthly supporters at $30 / month and higher do receive donation confirmation letters each January. Basic and Premium members are receiving services at the level of their $5 or $10 / month donation which is not considered a tax deductible donation.
Is someone going to be upset?
Probably. Don’t we all wish all the best things in life could be free? Yep. But it’s not reality and our organization exists in a world with expenses and costs, even with the tens of thousands of volunteer hours donated. We’ve been down this path before, have made the decision with a core team of leaders who push each other hard to do the right thing. It wasn’t easy but we are confident this is the right choice to allow us to best serve the mission for marriages.
What does this mean for you and your current membership level?
As promised you will have free access to the Fire Wife Sisterhood community for life. You will be given the Fire Wife Sisterhood Basic level access. As a member who has been here for almost 4 years now, we encourage you to consider becoming an ongoing supporter to help us serve the mission.
Rescue My Marriage participants:
We desire to be more intentional and focused in supporting your needs as you walk through a valley in your marriage. In 2017, pending the funding received, this program will become a 3 month rotational program. New applicants will be accepted when we open the application process 4 times a year. Participants will be expected to actively contribute and walk through the 12 weeks of material intended to strengthen their marriage. Current RMM participants will be asked to re-apply.
Fire Wife Sisterhood Premium is highly suggested but not mandatory. We do find that those who financially contribute to a program have more accountability and better results from participating. And this program does have a cost for us to operate. Pending our funding drive, we will offer scholarships for those in need.
Current Fire Wife Sisterhood Premium / Marriage On Fire Members:
You’re in!! Thank you for your belief and support. You are grandfathered in at your current payment level as long as you remain current and with your payments.
Current Fire Wife Sisterhood Free Members:
You will still have access to our free resources in the members area of the website but this will no longer include our communities (Fire Wife Sisterhood and all other communities). However we intentionally set the price for Basic membership crazy low so it’s affordable for everyone.
The Honor Guard will continue to be a free offering for our firefighters. There are already so many barriers for guys to even engage in marriage discussion and we want to keep that flowing. The men’s group also happens to be a lot less chatty than the ladies communities (imagine that!) so keeping up on that program is not as challenging or costly. Keep enjoying guys!
** If a firefighter wants to access Marriage On Fire and his wife is not a Premium member, it’s still available as a paid course and access is shared with the spouse account.
What if I chose to stay a free member?
We are allowing all of our currently registered free members the opportunity to join as a basic or premium member by December 15th. If you do not by that time, you will still have access to the free resources at the website but you will no longer have access to our community support groups.
Why is the Fire Wife Sisterhood Group locked down (as of Dec. 1)?
Making this change is a big effort for the team. After much consideration we determined it would be easiest to create a new group for our Basic and Premium members and to place the settings for the current Fire Wife Sisterhood to “admin posting only”.
You can still comment on posts and connect with members there through December 15th if you are wanting to stay connected as friends.
NOTE: Please do not go on a mass FB friending exercise. First of all, Facebook is likely to shut down your account if you do so. Secondly, we still recommend that you use discretion in who you chose to become FB friends with. In many cases, members are still “internet strangers”. Any mass private messaging will be grounds for immediate dismissal from the group. We are not trying to create a mad panic here. Please be wise with whichever path you chose to take.
To get into the new Facebook group once you upgrade to Basic or Premium membership, you will receive a link in your email to request to be added. (Please be patient and allow up to 48 hours as we work through this transition.)