I remember laying eyes on my first Australian Firefighters Calendar. I was still in high school and suddenly confronted with the glossy images of half-naked, very fit looking firemen wearing not much more than yellow fire-proof trousers and suspenders. It seemed like a very good investment.
Over the past 27 years, the Australian Firefighters Calendar has become one of the most iconic and successful (not to mention aesthetically pleasing) fundraisers in the country. So popular has it become, not only with an appreciative public but the fire fighters themselves, that winning one of the 12 coveted places in each year’s calendar has become a gruelling and competitive race.
Every year more than 70 firefighters come from all over Australia, and compete in a demanding three-week photo shoot. They will lift over 100,000kg of weights to ensure they are in peak condition, over 4,000L of fuel will be burned to master the perfect shot, and at the end only 12 photos will be selected.
It’s not just Aussies who appreciate the charitable works of the firefighters. A quick glance at the media page shows link after link to international talk shows and news channels from as far away as the USA, Japan, Taiwan even the Ukraine.
It’s easy to see why.
Not just pretty pictures
Since the first calendar was released in 1993, more than $3 million dollars has been collected, with more than half raised in the last five years alone. Every cent is then donated to a number of charities around the country including hospitals, research centres, animal rescue groups, cancer services and support for burns survivors.
More than that, the firefighters selected in each year’s calendar become ambassadors of the charities, visiting them in person and seeing how the money they help raise can change people’s lives. It changes their lives as well.
In the words of Dave Rogers, the brains behind the project ‘we get to help people who can’t help themselves.’
A lesson in clever fundraising
Quite apart from the satisfaction in purchasing a calendar, and ahem, by this I simply mean because the money goes to a number of good causes, there is an important lesson to be learned by the success of the Australian Firefighters Calendar. Like the Dwellingup Pumpkin Festival the Firefighters Calendar has found a unique niche and capitalised on it. Give the punters what they want, and they will keep coming back.
While in the past the Calendar has supported some of the biggest Children’s Hospital’s in the country, proceeds from the 2020 calendar will instead be directed to a number of smaller charities with a focus on native, rescue and therapy animals. It then made sense to expand the calendar and with it, the chance to raise even more money for good causes.
Therefore, for the first time, in 2020, there is not just the Australian Firefighters ‘Classic’ Calendar, but a multitude of other themes designed to appeal to all tastes including separate calendars featuring dogs, cats, wildlife, farm animals and horses – a total of 6 magnificent calendars each available for an investment of $20 which includes postage and handling in Australia. (You can buy them online here, and they can be shipped worldwide for a small cost.) If you want to share the love with family and friends, you can also buy a pack of ten greeting cards and envelopes ($10 and free shipping within Australia).
The calendars this year also feature firefighters from Germany and France, while one of the calendars planned for 2021 will be the first ever International Firefighters Calendar.
This is the manifestation of the Keep It Simple maxim – a great idea, kept stripped back (excuse the pun) and pure.
It’s a fundamental lesson for all fundraisers – find a niche, find your strength, and stick to it.
Buy your favourite Australian Firefighters Calendar and help support:
Kids With Cancer Foundation, Rural Aid Australia, Down Syndrome South Australia, Pets Of The Homeless Victoria, Youngcare QLD, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, Precious Paws Animal Rescue, Safe Haven Animal Rescue, Healing Hooves, AMS Cat Haven, Reason to Thrive, RACQ, the Autoimmune Resource & Research Centre.