Division A
Category 9 – Special Events
Marion County Fire Rescue’s 30th Anniversary Campaig

Research/Situational Analysis: Marion County Fire Rescue celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2009. While three decades sure seems like a long time, MCFR is a mere babe when compared to other traditional departments across the nation. However, in just 30 years, this young department has shed its volunteer firefighting roots, quickly becoming a model of progress and professionalism across Florida. Now, MCFR consists of 24 full-time fire stations staffed with state-certified firefighter/paramedics and firefighters/EMTs and only six volunteer stations. MCFR is the second largest fire department north of Orlando. To commemorate this historic anniversary, preserve the department’s rich heritage and increase awareness, among county citizens and employees, MCFR formed MCFR’s 30th Anniversary Committee, composed of seven staff members, and launched this year-long campaign in 2009.

Objectives: We identified four objectives for MCFR’s 30th Anniversary Campaign: (1) increase exposure of MCFR’s 30th Anniversary by generating $25,000 in advertising value equivalency; (2) launch the department’s first yearbook by December 2009, photograph at least 95 percent of MCFR employees and sell 300 yearbooks; (3) create two specialty items to boost morale among at least 75 percent of respondents; and (4) host an employee ball, keeping ticket prices less than $50, selling at least 200 tickets, establishing a break-even budget and encouraging at least 50 non-firefighters (e.g. staff assistants, volunteers, dispatchers, etc.) to also attend the 30th Anniversary ball.     

Implementation: Commissioners proclaimed 2009 as MCFR’s official 30th Anniversary on December 15, 2008. Soon after, our 30th Anniversary committee worked with a local graphic designer to create a special 30th Anniversary logo to brand the campaign. We used this logo on media releases and specialty items throughout the year. We also used this logo to create two specialty items: 1) keepsake patches and 2) challenge coins. The Ocala Star-Banner printed a staff-written guest editorial on the anniversary in March 2009, and Ocala Style magazine published a staff-written seven-page, full-color feature article in October 2009. We partnered with a yearbook company to create the department’s first yearbook. The company’s staff photographs and lays out the yearbook at no cost to the department and makes its money from yearbook sales. Stations rotated into headquarters over a two-week period to take individual and special team photos. We then partnered with MCFR’s Volunteer Fire Chiefs’ Association to gather historic photos and stories to include in the yearbook. We also took updated photos of every fire station, coordinated “buddy shots” of firefighters and identified fire rescue families. The committee sold the keepsake patches and challenge coins to staff for $5 and $10 respectively. All proceeds helped fund the Four Alarm Formal: Part Deuce casino-themed employee ball held October 24, 2009. For this black-tie event, we created a Web site so employees could easily access information and purchase tickets online. We also partnered with E-One, the Firefighters’ Union, the Volunteers’ Association, the Employee Morale and Recognition Fund and the Media Group 3 to secure in-kind and monetary sponsorships. We incorporated various casino-themed and 30th Anniversary items into the ball, including: branded table markers, table assignments resembling playing cards and poker chips featuring the 30th anniversary logo. We hired a casino party company to provide attendees with free casino games. Attendees won “funny money” which was exchanged for raffle tickets to win luxury prizes that we purchased or received through sponsorships. We framed keepsake patches to thank our top community partners.

Evaluation: (1) We garnered $31,468.98 of advertising value equivalency, exceeding our first objective. Eighty-five percent of surveyed employees also felt that the 30th Anniversary campaign increased MCFR’s exposure. (2) MCFR successfully launched its first yearbook and received it by December 2009. Only eight of MCFR’s 594 employees were not photographed. The company sold 320 yearbooks, meaning 54 percent of employees purchased the yearbook. We exceeded our second objective. (3) We raised $1,520.82 for the employee ball through patch and coin sales.  Eighty-five percent of employees surveyed felt the anniversary specialty items boosted department morale, exceeding our third objective. In fact, 95 percent of respondents said they liked the 30th Anniversary logo, which was used for the keepsake patch and challenge coin. (4) The Four Alarm Formal: Part Deuce employee ball was a hit. Through ticket sales, community sponsorships and revenue from specialty items, we sold tickets for a mere $36 each. This event also sold out with 300 people attending. We even had a waiting list of 25 people. Eighty-four people, or 28 percent, were non-firefighters (e.g. staff assistants, volunteers, dispatchers). Instead of a break-even budget, we had a $1,430.29 surplus of funds. All five of the county commissioners attended, as well as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Larry Cretul. These results enabled us to surpass our fourth objective.

: The MCFR 30th Anniversary Committee secured monetary sponsorships totaling $7,574.24; no county tax dollars were spent. We opened a SunTrust Bank account to handle the funds. Total costs to committee: yearbook = $0; media exposure = $0; patches = average of $1.94 each (accounting for discounts) and sold for $5 each; coins = $4.86 each and sold for $10 each. We ordered 600 patches and 200 coins and made a profit of $1,520.82. (We gave some coins and patches to sponsors as gifts.) The revenue from the Four Alarm Formal: Part Deuce employee ball = $19,340.38. The event costs = $17,910.09, including food, decorations, entertainment, prizes and keepsakes. We donated the remaining specialty items and balance of the account, which was $1,430.29, to the Firefighters’ Benevolence Fund, a fundraising arm of the Firefighters’ Union.