The Roy­al Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice: Buy a jet’ direct mail

Exhibited by
Kathy John
May 13, 2013
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
May, 2009

SOFII’s view

In an emergency there is only one way to fly – by jet... if you can afford one. Thanks to some generous donors, the ‘flying doctors’ of Australia were able to afford theirs!

This attention-grabbing direct mail pack certainly rose to the challenge. The amount of money raised exceeded expectations, particularly when it came to major donors. But perhaps best of all, an incredible 750 people who responded to the letter generously chose to give a second time when they received a subsequent newsletter – even though they hadn't been asked again.

Creator / originator

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Victoria and agency Robejohn.

Name of exhibitor

Kathy John

Summary / objectives

The RFDS Victoria needed to raise AU$690,000 to buy a jet aircraft. It would would reduce the flying time for patients by half and possibly be the most significant advance in the RFDS since it was established in 1928. The jet would herald a new era in how we provide an airborne emergency service and provides a huge leap forward in our ability to help Australians who find themselves furthest from the specialised hospital care they require.


When the Royal Flying Doctor Service is called upon to evacuate critically ill people in regional and remote Australia, time is of the essence. Advances made in medical science over the last 15 years tell us that in order to get the best chance of survival and good long-term outcomes, we must get patients from remote areas to specialist intensive care facilities in major city hospitals as quickly as possible.

RFDS knew that the average trip normally takes six hours and 20 minutes. We needed to improve. To do this the RFDS needed a jet. A jet aircraft reduces the flying time for patients by half.

The annual appeal in May 2009 was the major fundraising appeal for the Victoria section. We had a clear goal and we knew our donors were very loyal. It was important to create a concept that would make this appeal stand out. Traditionally we send a mailing in May followed by a newsletter in June. For this year we moved the newsletter to July and introduced a reminder mailing in June to give donors more opportunities to give to this unique project.

And give they did. We were able to raise over AU$1,000,000 in one campaign to support the jet project, instead of funding it over the year. And we were still able to fund other projects at the levels of previous years too.

We were asking for something that was very new and very different. Never before had donors been asked to fund a jet and play such a pivotal role in saving lives. We had agreed to fund AU$1,000,000 for this year and AU$3,000,000 over three years. It was very exciting and certainly a fundraising challenge.

The creative development challenge was to grab attention, create excitement and provide proven direct response triggers to raise the money.

The initial campaign introduced donors to the jet and explained the medical reasoning behind the need, as well as an actual story. Major donors were also provided with a copy of the funding proposal from our Western Operations, who would be using the jet.

Wave two of the campaign followed up with a simple reminder letter. Wave three was the regular donor newsletter. Donors who had given to the appeal were not asked again with the newsletter, yet incredibly 750 responded again by cutting the coupon out of their colour newsletter.

The appeal package

We created a direct mail pack to stand out in a very competitive market.

The red envelope with two windows instantly grabs the donor’s attention as the jet shows clearly through the rear window. It was new and exciting for donors and it reinforced the key proposition that time is critical in an emergency.

The letter, which was sent from the executive director, shared with the donor the excitement and future impact that a jet would have on healthcare in Australia.

The die-cut jet shaped brochure was designed to reinforce the proposition that a donation towards a jet will save lives.

Special characteristics

We gave donors three opportunities to give and many of them gave multiple times.


Our fundraising goal from the annual tax appeal was AU$690,000 from 25,000 donors. The final result was AU$1,042,759.

Major donors, who make up just over two per cent of the audience, were engaged and challenged with the high level information shared with them from Western Operations (i.e. from ‘the field’). The major donors contributed a massive 28 per cent of the income.


The pack stood out in a time of high fundraising activity and the amount raised far exceeded the target, particularly from major donors.

The appeal won the ‘big idea, small budget’ category of the Resource Alliance global awards at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands in 2010 and Fundraising in Australia’s ‘budget renewal division A’ category.