After serving the community since 1891, St John WA is telling their story to inspire community fundraising.
One of the most recognisable brands across Australia is St John Ambulance. A cornerstone of every community, St John is there: delivering first aid courses, providing first aid at events and, in WA and NT, running the crucial ambulance service.
Despite a presence in the WA community since 1891, until last year St John WA hadn’t actively fundraised and the public had never heard their case for support. In fact, there’s a common misconception that St John WA is a fully government funded organisation. The truth is, it’s not – only the ambulance service is.
But with dreams to scale up their first aid training for schools, reduce deaths by cardiac arrest, and empower more people in the community to respond in emergencies, St John WA realised they needed to tell their story. So, last November, they launched a fundraising arm, St John Giving.
Their big hairy audacious goals
St John WA’s dreams aren’t small. Unless, you’re talking about one of their target audiences – kids. St John WA trains kids in schools in first aid, empowering youth to feel confident to act in emergency situations. Currently, they reach 10% of school children. Their vision is to train every child once a year, every year – and their deadline is 2025.
Another area of focus is around survival rates of cardiac arrest, with the current rate in WA at 35%.
“The critical thing is administering first aid. If you don’t start first aid or administer a defibrillator before four minutes, every minute after that is 10% less survival rate,” says St John WA’s Head of Fundraising, Ferdi Foorie. “The average ambulance response rate in metro Perth is 8-10 minutes. Your chance of survival is very slim.”
Helping increase those odds is the St John First Responder app. The app can ping the location of someone having a cardiac arrest who has called Triple 0 for an ambulance. Nearby people who have first aid training are then notified, giving them the opportunity to respond and assist until the ambulance arrives.
The app, which has been downloaded by more than 250,000 people, also shows you where first aid tools like defibrillators are located and includes resources such as first aid guides and tips.
It’s services like these that St John WA is promoting to the public to support – services that wrap around their bread-and-butter work of ambulance services and first aid equipment and give people every chance of feeling confident responding to, and most importantly surviving, an emergency.
“We saw a gap in community. Our passion is to close the resilience gap in Australia by empowering people to be more resilient when it comes to emergency response so they don’t have to wait for an ambulance,” says Ferdi.
Big goals require big funds
“The amazing position we’re in, and also the challenging position we’re in, is we’ve been in Western Australia for a very long time. We’ve got unbelievable brand recognition. We engage with over 55% of the WA public each year. Now it’s about going, ‘We need your support; we need you to be active participants [in the community] with us’,” says Ferdi.
The organisation’s high esteem in theWA was recently confirmed by their work with RepTrak, a company that analyses and ranks corporate reputation. St John WA scored at 97 out of a possible 100 points: the highest score in WA.
“These results revealed the extremely high level of trust, admiration and respect held for St John’s Ambulance among the Western Australian population,” said RepTrak’s SVP APAC, Oliver Freeman. “In fact, this was one of the strongest levels we’ve recorded for any not-for-profit organisation.”
Other insights from the survey showed that 92% of the community trusts St John WA to do the right thing and would welcome them into their community, and 89% would provide verbal support.
The task now is to translate that trust and respect into fundraising.
“From a fundraising perspective we’ve got that advantage – the challenge is to educate the public that we are actually a not-for-profit and we’re a fundraising organisation, which they’re not used to so that’s the mind shift,” says Ferdi.
In terms of a donor pool, they’ve had to start from scratch. Despite engaging with more than half of the WA public, prior contacts and clients cannot be solicited due to privacy and sensitivity issues around accessing this data for anything other than their medical services. But with a workforce of 11,000 volunteers donating 400,000 hours a year, they’re keen to get the message out there to the public and remind people, at appropriate touchpoints, that there are ways for people to support them financially.
The importance of a building a donor base was brought home during the pandemic. While COVID-19 gave St John the time to establish their new brand and take the time internally to ensure that they were set up right, their programs took a hit. And without an existing donor base, they missed the opportunity to tell their story and mobilise supporters to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
“We heard from other organisations that they had an amazing year because they had current donors on their books that wanted to help. We didn’t have that warm list of donors to go back to so that probably set us back a couple of months in terms of the funds we want to raise,” says Ferdi.
But this year, with a strong team in place, they’re testing out channels to see how people want to support them. They’ve launched their first fundraising appeal for their school program, First Aid Focus, predominantly run through radio and social media. As an added incentive and thank you, all donors then went into a draw to win the opportunity to meet The Wiggles at on of their concerts.
Ferdi led by example in the community fundraising space, signing up to run the Bunbury 3 Waters Running Festival Marathon to raise funds for St John Giving.
Alongside working to attract a range of donors, they’re focused on developing strong impact measurement and reporting for both St John WA and St John Giving so they can demonstrate to supporters the difference their contributions can make.
With extremely high brand recognition and trust, various avenues for donors to support them, and a strong impact measurement framework in place, St John WA are confident they have everything needed to raise those vital funds.