Jacqui deKievit's journey with the Flying Doctors
90 years ago, Reverend John Flynn had the vision to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for people living in the Australian outback.
He received a bequest of $2000 from Sunshine Harvester Works founder H.V McKay when he passed away. With that money, Reverend Flynn leased a plane from Qantas and flew the first medical flight as the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service, which was later renamed the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS).
Since then, the RFDS had grown to become Australia’s most reputable charity. Famous for their emergency and rescue missions, the RFDS treats one patient every two and a half minutes. Even their own staff are in awe of the work they do.
“It’s quite an amazing organisation,” said Jacqui deKievit, the General Manager of Marketing and Fundraising at RFDS Victoria.
Having grown up in country Victoria, Jacqui has a natural affiliation with the RFDS’s mission.
“I understand what it's like to have to travel to see an orthodontist or for services you couldn’t get. We didn’t have a picture theatre in the town that I lived in - so you knew that you were missing out on things when you live in the country,” she said. “Unfortunately for some people, it’s doctors and other medical and professional services.”
Today, the RFDS owns 69 fully instrumented aircrafts and operates from 24 air bases in Australia. As technology develops, they seek to incorporate more efficient aircrafts into their arsenal, such as the Pilatus PC-24 business jets for Western Australia - something Reverend Flynn could have never imagined.
In states with larger remote areas, RFDS focuses on outback rescues. However, in Victoria, there is only one RFDS plane and most transportations are done on the road. Many transfers for specialist appointments are provided, such as transporting a patient to Epworth Hospital from Sale.
In addition, they also link up people in rural communities to specialists in cardiology, diabetes and many other fields through their telehealth service.
“If you’re looking for diabetes management and live in Mildura, we can hook you up via webcam with a specialist such as an endocrinologist here in Melbourne,” said Jacqui.
As urban housing becomes less affordable, more people are drawn to live in rural areas. Due to the burgeoning population in these regions, there is an increasing need for specialist healthcare access, especially for the aging demographic.
“Unfortunate accidents do generate interest and many Victorians have seen our vans travelling across rural roads,” said Jacqui. “We’re all about providing hope.”
Since joining the RFDS five years ago, Jacqui has seen the Victorian branch grow from 35 to 500 employees. Her mission was to build a positive culture and an awareness of the services here in Victoria.
“As the organisation grows, it’s important that you build and maintain a grassroots culture that reminds us that we are a donor-funded organisation and that we owe a lot to the history of the flying doctors,” she said.
Like any charity, the donors are the lifeline of RFDS and senior citizens make up a bulk of their devoted supporters. It is not uncommon to find groups like the Flying Doctors Bayside Auxiliary, a group of mature women aged 60-90, who are dedicated to raising money for RFDS.
“They stand out on the streets at Bentleigh selling books and handicrafts in all weather,” Jacqui spoke with admiration. “It’s the passion of those people, and when people give, to see how thrilled they feel to give. It’s really heartwarming.”
Fundraising events also serve another purpose to connect the charity with the community itself.
“We give them information and stories to take back into their own communities and explain why they feel so fulfilled supporting the RFDS,” she said.
While charities and not-for-profits (NFP's) tend to attract mainly values-based people, Jacqui said there is a misconception that focusing on the cause is the most important part of running a NFP.
“You have to run a very professional organisation even when you are a not for profit,” Jacqui advised. “You can’t run it without policies, procedures and standards.”
Jacqui, who completed her Master's Degree in Business Marketing at RMIT University, stresses the importance of having a formal education if you want to work for a NFP.
“Sometimes a not-for-profit has to be savvier than a commercial business because we have to be more resourceful, more respectful to our shareholders, donors, stakeholders and suppliers,” she said. “We have a lot more weight on how we operate.”
“Smaller charities struggle to work out how to use their money as effectively. There needs to be a balance between promoting, building trust, and giving people the opportunity to donate, as well as benefiting the organisation and making an impact in the community.”
As for students who are interested in a NFP career, Jacqui’s advice is to do what she did - work in the sector while studying, “I was able to apply what I heard and thought, and what the theory meant in practice.”
Jacqui continues, 'I feel that some people may think that NFP is only about the cause. [But] it's really about the process, the procedures, the rigor, the business application to be able to then achieve the cause and the impact.'
Jacqui worked for the Flying Doctor for five years and has very recently taken on a leadership role at another not for profit - Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria.
Jacqui completed the RMIT Master of Marketing (Business Marketing)
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