MN Volunteer Fire Relief Associations

Helping You Maximize Your Time As A Volunteer

“Minnesota has a strong tradition of relying on volunteer firefighters to provide fire protection services.”[1] To help retain volunteer or paid, on-call firefighters and reward them for their service, the state of Minnesota allows volunteer firefighters to receive pension benefits upon retirement. It also helps fund those benefits with state fire aid, investment income, and local government contributions. Since these pension plans are considered governmental entities and administered through nonprofit corporations under state and federal law, you have a fiduciary responsibility as a board member and trustee of a Minnesota volunteer fire relief association (VFRA) to invest the special fund’s assets.

As the founder of Minnesota Firefighter Pension Consultants, LLC—a company that provided nonprofit bylaws, consulting, and training specifically for her Minnesota volunteer fire relief associations clients— Colleen Hartmon Bollom has extensive experience working with trustees of VFRAs. At Harmon & Hartmon, we offer practical and commonsense answers to your bylaw, investment, and administrative questions so that you can spend the majority of your volunteer time focusing on your duties as a firefighter rather than a trustee of the plan.

Don’t Burn Up Hours Managing Your VFRA
With Harmon & Hartmon, you can rely on our independent outlook and breadth of knowledge regarding the operational, technical, and political aspects of managing your VFRA. We understand the mindset and unique characteristics of Minnesota’s volunteer fire service and have helped trustees evaluate the trade-offs and political considerations of active and passive investment portfolios, the Minnesota Board of Investment, and the Statewide Volunteer Firefighter Retirement Plan. Let Harmon & Hartmon help you to fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities and make decisions that are aligned with the best interests of your association and members. We provide expertise in the following:

  • Investment Policy Statements (IPS)
  • Passive or active investment models
  • Responses to local or state governmental entities

Investment Policy Statement Expertise
As your consultant, Harmon & Hartmon can help you create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) that can be used as a “working document” to help you monitor your special fund pension portfolio and evaluate your financial service providers. A well-written IPS can be a useful tool to help the board comply with asset class diversification, investment limitations, and reporting requirements of the Office of the State Auditor. An IPS also helps trustees continuously monitor whether the special fund is meeting the goals and objectives of the board. Components of an IPS may include:

  • Investment objectives of the special fund
  • Authorized asset classes per state law and percentage allocation per board’s risk and return objectives
  • Allowable investments per state law and board discretion
  • Comparable index benchmarks (e.g., Russell 3000, MSCI ACWI ex. US)
  • Frequency of investment reviews to monitor performance and expenses

Passive Or Active Investment Models
With an independent retirement plan specialist, you can choose from active or passive investment options, free from proprietary vendor or product pressures. Because investment management fees and expenses directly reduce the special fund’s gross rate of return, Harmon & Hartmon will take the time to educate both new and experienced trustees on the various types of investment products. This will help the board to discuss and collectively agree upon the investment philosophy that best meets the relief association’s objectives and communicate the rationale for its decision to the members and municipality.

Responses To Local Or State Governmental Entities
As a governmental entity that receives and manages taxpayer funds, you have a responsibility to annually report the relief association’s financial and investment information to your local government and the Office of the State Auditor. As a nonprofit corporation, the relief association also has to comply with any state and federal laws regarding its nonprofit status, employee compensation, and pension benefit payments. You also have a responsibility to the relief association’s members when administrating bylaw provisions such as calculating and paying benefits. At Harmon & Hartmon, we can help the board communicate and successfully negotiate the often competing political and financial interests of your membership, the city, and the state of Minnesota.

Call Harmon & Hartmon For A Consultation
We assist trustees of volunteer fire relief associations with fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and managing the special fund investment portfolio. To learn how we can help you, e-mail Harmon & Hartmon today or call us at 651- 332-5555.

[1] Office of the Legislative Auditor State of Minnesota, Evaluation Report Pensions for Volunteer Firefighters 2007