Recent Question/Assignment


The Royal Flying Doctor Service is amongst the most trusted and reputable not for profit institutions in this country, offering a comprehensive range of health services to those that choose to live, work and travel throughout the rural and remote areas of our vast island continent.

Once referred to as “perhaps the single greatest contribution to the effective settlement of the far distant country that we have witnessed in our time”, by former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, the RFDS began as the dream of the Rev John Flynn, a minister with the Presbyterian Church.

He witnessed the daily struggle of pioneers living in remote areas where just two doctors provided the only medical care for an area of almost 2 million square kilometres.

Flynn’s vision was to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for these people and on 15 May 1928, his dream had become a reality with the opening of the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service (later renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service) in Cloncurry, Queensland.

Today, the RFDS, as a federated organisation with a fleet of 61 aircraft, operates from 21 regional bases across Australia, represented in each State and Territory, delivering vital rural and remote health care services to around 290,000 people per annum – that’s one person every two minutes.

RFDS Queensland is the largest of the five operating sections, with nine regional bases delivering the following health care services:

• 24/7 emergency aero-medical retrievals
• inter-hospital patient transfers via air ambulance
• primary health care clinics
• child, maternal and family care clinics
• immunisation services
• a mobile dental service,
• social and emotional well being services
• indigenous health services,
• medical chests
• remote telemedicine consultations
• health promotion field days focussing on chronic disease or mental health concerns

The provision of such services is around 80-85% funded through a combination of both State and Federal Government service contracts, with the RFDS a trusted provider of these “free to the public”, health care to 130 regional, rural and remote Queensland communities.

RFDS enjoys considerable community support, with around $9m-$10m in fundraising income being raised each year through a combination of individual donations, corporate support, bequests and third party fundraising. These vital funds help to sustain our operations and are used to help purchase new aircraft, upgrade and replace medical equipment and develop and enhance new and existing health program initiatives.
Despite this enviable support, the RFDS recognises that it’s supporter base is ageing (65% are over 60 years old) and collectively most reside outside the most populous area of our State ( 43% of our donors do not live in the S/E corner of the Queensland, which represents around 68% of the population). So it is not surprising that the RFDS’ level of unaided brand awareness (2%) is also traditionally lower in metropolitan areas such as Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
Recognising this, the RFDS has been keen to engage a younger, metropolitan support audience and has invested time and energy over the past twelve months to improve its digital and social media communications and adopt a more emotive and assertive story telling approach to its fundraising activities.
This approach is paying early dividends with the RFDS Facebook following growing from 20,000 to close to 60,000 in the six months to June 2014, its Twitter account growing by 20% and its annual fundraising appeal income also showing similar growth.
However, to survive generational change, the RFDS must also look to innovative ways to engage the public in its cause, share the legacy of its founder and make supporting the organisation just as relevant a priority as its health services in rural and remote communities are to this day.

Look up in the Sky:

In 2012 a national survey discovered that only 5% of Australian school aged students knew about the Royal Flying Doctor Service and its founder the Reverend John Flynn, despite his presence on our national currency ($20 note) and the Service’s important contribution to Australian history, not to mention the ongoing health and sustainability of outback communities.

Some 20-25 years ago the story of John Flynn’s mission and vision was part of the school curriculum incorporated into Australian history studies, sadly its has been absent in recent decades, with most of the urban population’s recognition of Service confined to the popular TV drama series, “Flying Doctors” screened in the late 1980’s, early 90’s.

In collaboration with the Victorian Education Department and Melbourne University, the RFDS Victorian Section in 2011 developed an Education program called “Look up in the Sky” (LUITS), that aimed to re-introduce the RFDS story into the classrooms of Australia.

Targeting a primary school aged student population ( Grades 3-6), the program was designed to focus on key learning outcomes in History, Geographic, Citizenship, English, Science and Maths, linking it to both Australian and State curriculums.

The program, as well as obtaining support and endorsement from the Education sector, was designed to be a fun and interactive resource for students and teachers alike and to provide encouragement for participating schools to include an “incursion” where an RFDS simulator aircraft model would visit the classroom.

Offered free to teachers and students the program provided:

• A 74 page student workbook
• A teacher’s manual with 21 separate lesson plans
• A short DVD documentary on the work of the RFDS
• A website –, with further resource and contact information, which has now has evolved to house all learning materials online.

The initial launch and marketing of the course was undertaken by RFDS Victorian Section, who employed a full time Program Manager and former teacher, Tom Ryan, to spearhead this activity.

The launch included:
• A direct mail promotion to over 1500 Victorian Government primary schools
• A similar direct marketing promotion to all Tasmanian primary schools
• Attendance at various teacher’s conferences, including participation in DEECD Victorian Education Week
• A telemarketing program that made contact with over 700 schools
• Advertising in several specialist interest publications whose primary target audience were teachers.

In its first year (2012/13), over 90 schools participated, delivering program education to around 6,500 primary school aged children across Victoria and Tasmania. This level of participation has continued in 2013/14 with a further 7,000 students participating in the program (131 schools).

The LUITS program capital and recurrent costs in Victoria/Tasmania are as follows:

• $180k capital cost of the Aircraft simulator, which is emblazoned in RFDS brand livery and mounted on a trailer for ease of transportation. When not used as part of the Schools program the simulator is currently utilised for general promotional purposes such as the Royal Melbourne Show.
• $170k in recurrent costs per annum, which is inclusive of a full time Program Manager’s salary (commensurate with teacher remuneration), lease payments on 4WD vehicle to transport the simulator, petrol and insurance costs, travel & accommodation costs, web site maintenance and hosting costs and marketing collateral and promotion expenses.

In meeting both the capital and recurrent costs of the current program, the RFDS Victorian Section has received the support of the Lord Mayors Charitable Fund for the past three years, which has effectively underwritten the program. For the program to be rolled out in other State jurisdictions, it will require a similar, if not larger scale, injection of funds and a commitment of both staff and resources.

Assignment Brief:

The RFDS Queensland Section in considering its brand awareness objectives and community engagement strategies over the next 2-3 years, is giving serious contemplation to the implementation of the Look Up in the Sky program, with an initial focus in the south east of the State, with geographic markets including the Brisbane metropolitan area, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and the Darling Downs (Toowoomba).

The current intent is to develop a feasibility study and concept paper to its Board in late 2014, with the prospect of a program rollout in July 2015, should the business case be successful and the necessary funding support achieved.

To assist RFDS Queensland Section to articulate this endeavour requires a carefully prepared marketing plan and business case that aims at effectively benchmarking and contributing to the following overarching objectives:

• Achieve a lift in the RFDS unaided brand awareness in the S/E Queensland from 2% currently to 4% by June 2017 (McNair 2013)
• Increase the proportion of metropolitan based supporters of RFDS in s/e Queensland from 43% to 55% by June 2017.
• Lift the community fundraising support by approximately $75k -$100k per annum over the first two years by engaging participating schools in a “fundraising activity”” and optimising public event attendances of the Simulator across s/e Queensland.
• By June 2017 to have provided the LUITS program to approximately 20% of eligible state government, private and independent primary schools in s/e Queensland.

Funding Support

As a not-for-profit charitable institution, if the RFDS is to consider implementation of such a program, it must do so in a cost neutral manner, so an essential ingredient of any marketing plan/business case will be the ability to demonstrate a strong likelihood of securing corporate or philanthropic support for both the capital (simulator) costs and the program’s recurrent commitments.
Students will be asked to research and provide recommendations on the types of corporate entities that would be likely to derive brand synergy and achievement of their CSR outcomes for a Queensland based program that not only supports the RFDS but is also fundamentally directed at school aged children and their parents. A list of sponsorship/exposure benefits would need to be developed with the only caveat being that the LUTIS online education resource material cannot carry a corporate logo.
Budget and Launch Plans:

To implement the LUITS program in south east Queensland to a similar, if not larger scale to the experience in Victoria and Tasmania, will require the following:

• Capital costs – RFDS aircraft simulator
• The recruitment of a full-time Community Education Manager and volunteer strategy
• The lease of a suitably sized 4WD vehicle and its running costs, insurance, registration, petrol etc.
• Travel and accommodation expenses for visitation that requires an overnight stay due to distance from Brisbane where the simulator will be housed.

Overall program costs in the first year post launch, excluding marketing expenses, will be in the vicinity of $350k, which will need to be underwritten by secured corporate and philanthropic contributions for it to proceed.

To fund the public launch of the Program and initiate an appropriate engagement and solicitation of the targeted schools and teachers a further marketing allowance of $100k will be provided.
This marketing allowance will be amortised over a two year period 2015-2017, but it is envisaged that expenses will be largely front-ended. (This has been the experience of the RFDS Victorian Section, whose maintenance marketing spend is now around $20k per annum).

To meet the strategic objectives outlined earlier in this assignment briefing, it is essential that students will be asked to incorporate into their marketing plans:

• A fundraising/ corporate sponsorship procurement strategy designed to secure the initial capital and program costs and outlines the exposure benefits and value proposition to identified corporate prospects.
• A launch strategy that optimises the public awareness of the program across eligible school communities and sets measures for manageable levels of participation (no. of schools/students).
• A strategy around the use of RFDS simulator, when not used for school incursions, at high profile public events in s/e Queensland, designed to optimise community fundraising revenue and increase RFDS’ volunteer base in this part of the State.

Word Limit: (JCU to advice on it and other assignment parameters)

Resource & Reference materials:

• LUITS Education Program summary 2013/2014 – Vic/Tas ( see attached)
• RFDS Queensland Section Annual Year in Review 2012/2013 (see attached)
• Flying Doctor Magazine – Queensland Section – July 2014 ( see attaCHED