Last week we lost the brilliant actor, John Mahoney. Best known for his role as Frasier’s father, Martin (Marty) Crane, in the 90’s sitcom; he delivered some of the best one-liners in TV history and gave a gruff, loveable edge which won the hearts of millions of viewers.
I’ve never needed an excuse, but the news inspired another series re-watch from episode 1. And like many of you who write about your work, I couldn’t help but notice some links to fundraising to give me a reason to write about my love for Frasier – and be able to share my nerdiness with you.
So what can Frasier teach us about fundraising?
* spoiler & very tenuous link alert *
You are not your audience
Let’s start at the beginning. Did you know the Frasier series was created around the often rocky relationship between Frasier and his father? The show was meant to be based on the contrast of characters; rough and wise vs sophisticated and exasperated. But after the pilot episode, producers noticed the audience responded better to the interactions between Frasier and his brother, Niles; and the whole concept was overhauled. Thanks to the change, what resulted was eleven amazing series of character chemistry and quick-witted exchanges, winning audiences and awards for over eleven years. Pretty impressive.
No matter what YOU think or hope will work, if you’re audience isn’t digging it then you’re going to have to change it. Find out what they love and go there.
If you’re wasting time, you’re missing out
Who can forget the moment Niles falls in love with Daphne in Season 1? (“you’re Daphne?!”). What came next was seven seasons (that’s seven YEARS) of Niles hopelessly adoring from afar and watching her fall in love with other men before finally asking her to be with him instead. It drew in audiences and provided plenty of laughs but if this were real life, it’s actually pretty sad. Because of his fear of rejection, Niles and Daphne missed out on seven years of building their relationship and creating wonderful memories. Sound familiar?
Getting to know supporters is a wonderful part of our job but if you’re not asking them to give, you’re wasting time and losing out on income. You need to ASK or they’ll run off with your ‘Donny Douglas’ of charities. Which leads me on to…
Timing is important
He was never nominated for an Emmy, but Frasier wouldn’t have been the same without Marty’s dog, Eddie. His timing was impeccable and his scenes with Frasier was what got me hooked on the series in the first place (that, and the “I am WOUNDED” delivery). During one of my favourite episodes, ‘Eddie the Wet-Nosed Reindeer’, he rushes in at just the right moment dressed as a reindeer for the Crane family Christmas card, adding extra hilarity to the ridiculousness of Christmas in October.
Get your timing wrong and you risk fluffing it. Learn from Eddie and listen for the cues that your supporter is open to be asked and go for it. It might be your third meeting, it might take even longer, but leave it too long and you’ve lost that magic moment where everything has fallen into place.
Don’t be afraid to take risks
If I mention the 1980’s sitcom Cheers, who would be the first character that comes to mind? Norm? Carla? Maybe even Sam? Chances are it wasn’t Frasier. Yet following the show’s end in 1993, Frasier was the one that got his own spin-off show. Initially cast as a temporary character, producers thought they might be onto something and took a gamble basing the spin-off show on a character originally intended for just six episodes. And it paid off; Frasier is the most successful spin-off TV show created and has over 100 awards nominations and over 40 wins.
Don’t be afraid to take risks; failing is only a bad thing if you keep doing it. Fundraisers should feel supported and brave to try new things and not be afraid of it not working out the way they’d planned. Wonderful things will happen if we try, learn, and better ourselves in the work we do.
How could I write about Frasier and fundraising without referencing this iconic, and relevant, catchphrase?! In the series, Frasier utters this infamous line to every caller on his KACL radio talk show (voiced by famous actors!). It told the caller he’s listening, he’s ready to support them and wants them to do the talking; and then he actually listens. I don’t need to say much more on this one really.
Too often we listen to reply. Next time you’re meeting a supporter, truly hear what they’re telling you; why they’ve come to you, how they want to support and what matters to them. I love this TedTalk that teaches us how to be better conversationalists, take 10 minutes out of your day to watch it.
Thank you for allowing me to indulge in my Frasier addiction. If you’ve made it to the end without smirking at my attempt to pass watching TV off as work, you’ve done canny well!
There’s one final thing from the show that I’d like to share with you. Watching the series, you watch the characters evolve and get to share some of their best and difficult moments in their lives. Through it all Frasier is at the centre; driving the stories forward and, despite the moments when it doesn’t work out, brings a smile to the millions of viewers who are huge fans of the show…that sounds a lot like the wonderful job that you have.
So on that note…
Goodnight fundraisers, we love you!
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