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5 creative ways to fund an ambulance purchase

Think outside the box to raise funds for your department’s next ambulance purchase


Ambulance purchases are not easy. Reimbursement challenges, low call volumes and increasing rates of non-paid transports can make buying a new ambulance seem virtually impossible. The hardest part about this is that ambulances have to be replaced. They wear out at much higher rates than other vehicles and when it gets close to replacement time, they have a tendency to spend more time in the shop than on the street. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many small, rural EMS agencies.

So how can a small EMS service keep their fleet up to date while simply keeping the doors open continues to be an uphill battle? I believe the answer is a strong community partnership. This requires a lot of involvement in local events and constantly reaching out to businesses and residents.

Here are 5 creative or alternative methods to generate revenue and boost your presence in the communities that you serve:

1. Host creative fundraiser events

This is where you have an opportunity to not only engage the residents of your community, but potentially draw in hundreds, if not thousands of participants outside of your community. Try hosting events like 5K runs or even half-marathons. While community members enjoy these events, runners from around the region are constantly looking for races to participate in. The revenue generated from entry fees and sponsorships can do wonders.

Another idea is to host concerts or music fests, which may require some more money upfront, but with business sponsorships, these events can often be paid for without having to dip into your existing budget. Music festivals are most popular in the spring and summertime. The trick is to get bands that are popular around the region. Many of these groups, especially aspiring artists, enjoy playing fundraiser events for free as it boosts their exposure and serves a good cause. As you continue to host these events every year, the audience will continue to grow, and quality acts will start to seek you out.

2. Start a membership program

A membership program is a great source of regular income and a great alternative to a tax subsidy, especially for rural services. You can offer memberships for as little as $30 to $100 a year. Benefits of an ambulance service membership might include discounted transports, waived deductibles, or no billed costs after insurance reimbursement.

A handy way to encourage people to join, is to partner with the local utility company to offer a discounted “opt-out” subscription that is attached to their utility bill. For example, the residents receive notice that a $3 per month fee will be added to their bill unless they call the utility company to opt-out. Most people won’t have a problem this, especially given the benefits of the membership.

3. Local business partnerships

There are a couple of ways to go about partnering with local businesses. The first comes in the form of a benefits package for their employees. Once you have started a membership program, you can approach local businesses to offer a discounted payroll-deduction program for their employees. This would be similar to packages offered by companies like AFLAC. It comes at no cost to the employer, and the monthly revenue can help tremendously towards maintaining your agency’s ambulance fleet.

The other type of partnership is sponsorships. Maybe you can dedicate a specific ambulance to their business by putting a “This Ambulance Provided by…” decal on the back. The tricky part is making it clear that they don’t own the ambulance and setting realistic expectations for how that ambulance is used.

4. Online fundraising campaign

Group or crowdfunding technology makes it easy to set-up campaigns for civilians to make donations to an ambulance replacement fund. Try setting up a “Go Fund Me” account and running a Facebook or Twitter campaign to solicit donations.

Another way to generate revenue is to sell merchandise online with the proceeds going towards maintenance and replacement of your ambulance fleet. If done right, this can become popular and generate regular revenue for your service.

5. Retail partnerships

Have you ever had a cashier ask you if you want to donate $1 to a charity? You can do the same with your local ambulance service. If cash-register donations aren’t what you’re looking to do, try making items to sell at local stores. This can range from baked goods to t-shirts. Most businesses are open to the idea of supporting public service, so ask if you can set up some items at the cash register with the proceeds going towards your fleet program.

Many grocery stores have an outdoor burger and hot dog stand that is staffed on weekends by community groups and youth sports teams. Sign up your department for a couple of afternoons a year. Park the ambulance next to the stand to promote a child safety initiative or recruit volunteers at the same time.

All of these ideas have multiple purposes. Creating a steady stream of revenue is obviously of huge benefit towards maintaining your fleet and satisfying operating costs and the sense of partnership that it creates with the community is priceless.

Share in the comments the creative ideas you have used to raise money for an ambulance replacement.

Sean Eddy is a paramedic, professional writer and fitness / money coach. He has been involved in EMS for more than a decade and now helps fellow EMT’s and paramedics enjoy meaningful and rewarding careers by focusing on healthy minds, healthy bodies and healthy wallets. He is the author of the popular EMS blog as well as the #MoneySmartMedics social media campaign.