Frasier Fundraising; Seattle’s Finest Teaches us the Basics

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 audience138381612

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 daphne

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.

I’m listening listening

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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FREE Skills Training for North East Charities

Are you a fundraiser looking to develop skills outside of your role?  Are you a manager who’s interviewed the most wonderful relationship builder, but they’re not Microsoft savvy? Or perhaps you’d like to keep your learning sharp but your organisation doesn’t have the budget to support this?

Then I have good news!  My pals at Gateshead College have £7.5m of funding to provide local organisations with skills training & courses such as:


  • Events Management
  • Digital Marketing
  • Data Analytics
  • Project Management
  • Team Leadership
  • ICT skills
  • plus much more!

Visit their website to find a course that’s right for you and register your interest.  Classes can be scheduled for your charity if you have more than 10 people you’d like to send along.

There’s no catch; Gateshead College provide the venue, training and trainer so we’d be ackas* to miss it!

Funding is available until July 2018 so act today.

Be sure to sign up to the North East Institute of Fundraising newsletter to be kept up to date with regional fundraising training, and North East Fundraising Conference news!


*ackas – daft


How F2F Creates Brilliant Fundraisers

I LOVE face to face fundraising (F2F).  I don’t miss hitting the streets at 4pm when the rain is coming down sideways, but I do have a fondness for the fundraising that helped me get to where I am today.


St Oswald’s Hospice F2F Fundraisers

I began my fundraising career as a ‘face to facer’; telephone, door, private sites and then eventually managing an in-house team for a local hospice.  I attribute a lot of my current success to my early days in F2F and I want to share five ways it’s helped me become a better fundraiser:


1.It builds your confidence to forge long-lasting relationships

You’re a fundraiser so you’re used to asking for donations.  But imagine knocking on a complete stranger’s door, no relationship building to warm them up to a ‘yes’ – you don’t even know their name!  In an average four hour shift, a door to door fundraiser may try to engage 43 strangers in conversation with their wit, observance and warmth*.  Transfer this to community fundraising and you have a fundraiser who is skilled and unafraid to arrange face to face meetings that spark long-lasting relationships.

2. You avoid ‘fundraiser frenzy’

Building relationships takes a while, right?  That corporate you met last week may not result in any income for two years but you have targets to meet NOW.  Chill.  A face to face fundraiser has weekly, even daily, targets.  They know at the end of each shift what money they’re going to bring in, and it can be brutal.  When they become corporate fundraisers they are liberated by the freedom of relationship building and relish the opportunity to get to know their contacts properly.  This means successful, meaningful partnerships that have a bigger impact on both sides.

3. Your resilience and determination knows no limits

On average, a telephone fundraiser may attempt around 200 telephone calls during a four hour shift and have forty actual conversations*.  Three of these people may say ‘yes’.  Some evenings, you go home with nothing – but you keep going.  You know that you’re the connection between community and cause, and by heck are you going to come back tomorrow and try again.  Put a fundraiser like this in any other role and you will see them nail it, time and time again.

4. Your ‘elevator pitch’ needs no perfecting

After ninety minutes someone finally stops to talk to you!  This is your moment, you have to make it count, you need to help them see why they can make a difference.  Face to face fundraisers have around two minutes to make a connection, get across why their charity exists and make the ask.  Otherwise, they get a ‘no, thank you’ or worse, they say ‘yes’ and cancel their direct debit a week later.  Face to face fundraisers are the masters of cutting out the fluff and really getting down to why their charity needs your support.  Perfect for networking, pitching and those chance conversations on the train with a CEO.

5. You get to wear fancy dress

elf and santa

Santa, the original regular giver


Alright, not technically a fundraising lesson but where else can you recruit supporters whilst making sure you’re firmly on Santa’s ‘Nice List’?  Face to face fundraisers are used to random, fast-changing situations and can quickly adapt to any fundraising role.

And they’re certainly not shy.




Face to face fundraising has its enemies and its doubters but when it’s done well, it works.  As a constant recruitment source for a regular income, a huge amount of charities across the UK rely on face to face fundraisers every day to bring in millions (more on this in another blog…).

And it attracts some of the brightest, most creative, vivacious and passionate people I have ever met.  Some of the best fundraising leaders today cut their teeth as face to face fundraisers, and I’m very proud to be one of them.

Didn’t start out as a face to face fundraiser?  Why not push your boundaries and expand your fundraising experience by volunteering on the streets or telephone with your charity?  You’ll experience all of the benefits above without the commitment.  I 100% guarantee you will love every minute and when you do, be sure to tell me how it goes.

The IoF are hosting their annual Face to Face Fundraising Conference February, 2018.  Get yourself along to find out more and meet some of those brilliant face to face fundraisers yourself.


*statistics based on 2016 data from St Oswald’s Hospice’s F2F team


You already HAVE the tool to be a brilliant fundraiser…

During a dinner conversation just five weeks ago I claimed I wasn’t a writer, didn’t know where to start and definitely couldn’t blog.

But before New Year’s I had an idea which made me feel too excited to not at least try.  Plus, it was Prince themed and who doesn’t love a bit of Prince?

Head on over to my guest blog about self-confidence and why you should never doubt how brilliant you are.

Thank you to two of my favourite fundraisers for helping me believe it myself.