NEW VOICES: ‘Lights, Camera, Capital Appeal!’ – Emma Leiper Finlayson, Sue Ryder

In January 2018 a fundraising friend gave me the chance to host my first blog on their site, and a phenomenal year of opportunities followed.  I wanted to do the same for fundraisers looking to take the next step in their career and asked fundraisers to submit their first ever blogs to be featured in a month-long celebration of new voices. Today’s blog from Emma Leiper Finlayson focuses on Sue Ryder’s launch of their capital appeal; from nothing, to £3.9m with limited resource and support. Emma is a phenomenal fundraiser with masses of talent, drive and enthusiasm and I know she’s going to make big waves in the sector.

Over to Emma…

“One neurological care centre expansion, £3.9m to raise, zero prospects and no database, and little or no awareness of the charity and the centre in the city.  This was a job for a PR specialist.

When I started my role with Sue Ryder to lead on the £3.9m expansion of their Aberdeen based neurological care centre, Dee View Court, there was certainly much to do, not least with PR and marketing.  It was a daunting task. I was a fundraiser, not a PR person. I’d only dabbled in PR in my previous roles, writing some press releases, organising social media feeds; I’d never created or implemented a concerted PR strategy. Initially it felt like two very different roles, but what the capital appeal has taught me changed the way I think about fundraising:  And my epiphany was this:  Fundraising is PR and PR is fundraising.  They are one and the same. You can’t do one without the other.  Perhaps obvious to many, but it was a game changer for me.

The need to raise awareness  of our appeal– and fast – precipitated my foray into the strategic world of PR, and it’s this that I’ll outline below: What we’ve done PR-wise to drive forward the appeal, and lessons learned along the way.

Read all about it – getting press support 

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A media partnership with a local, well read newspaper was essential for us to get the word out. We were fortunate to have a contact within the local newspaper, and so we formally approached for a media partnership. A proposal was prepared which outlined that we would provide them with ongoing exclusives, such as when we reached fundraising and building milestones, or when someone important came to visit, like the Queen!  Our proposal was accepted (right time, right place) and we worked with the newspaper to prepare an ongoing programme stories, aiming for two or so features a month. I quickly learned three things:

  1. Not all stories will be run: Because of our partnership, for a while we weren’t sending press releases to any other newspapers, and it began to feel like we were missing out on PR opportunities.  And so we changed tactics.  We discussed it with the editor and came to an agreement that if they couldn’t print a story for whatever reason, then we could release it to other publications. It means we remain loyal to our media partnership by offering them exclusives, but don’t miss out on opportunities to put out news if they can’t run it.
  2. Target your press releases: Every paper has a certain culture and we need to angle our stories as such.  Our media partner is a business paper and to appeal more to the audience (and for more of our stories to be picked up) we have to emphasise the wider impact that our expansion appeal will have on the local economy – such as the creation of new jobs in the area or the benefits to healthcare provision in the area.  Likewise for more family orientated newspapers, we send stories about individuals doing fundraising events – warm and engaging stories that aren’t always suitable for a business focussed paper. The result – we have more stories running about our appeal than ever before.
  3. Direct Calls for Actions are hard to get published: News stories will be published, sure, but with overt call for support to the appeal? Trickier. Newspapers want stories, not requests.  So we balanced up our media partnership by securing sponsorship from a local company to cover the cost of paid-for features directly conveying the fundraising need and ask.  It has balanced up well with the news stories and we always receive donations off the back of that specific ask feature.

 Choose your Social Media Weapons

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At the beginning of the appeal we set up the usual social media platforms, but as Aberdeen is a tight knit business city, we quickly realised LinkedIn was our best weapon for securing corporate support.  As we built up our supporter base, our contacts would share our posts, and in turn others would see it and we have literally received donations from companies just seeing us on LinkedIn. No relation to the cause – they’ve just seen others supporting it and decided to do so too.

And so we’ve ramped up our LinkedIn presence; we post about meetings with contacts and tag them in (thus ensuring their contacts also see the post), and we’ve started posting videos taken on our phone showcasing the building work and updating on the appeal. And it works.  Video content is so hugely popular –people tend to scroll past a post but not a video.  Our videos routinely receive thousands of viewings and consequently we’ve managed to secure a great amount of earned PR – I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met that have said they’d heard about me and the appeal by having seen a video that we’ve made.  Our appeal is in the middle of a lot of noise – and a number of other capital appeals – but videos are making us be heard.

A quick note on Facebook.  We initially used it to recruit for challenge events, but with a limited audience base and many other charities promoting the same running / walking / cycling event, it just wasn’t working for us. Again we needed to stand above the noise, so we organised something a bit different – a Fire walk, which no one else was doing in the area.  At the same time we realised that Facebook Events were blossoming and we, the fundraising team, were personally seeing so many new events in the city because of it, through people liking, sharing, or posting that they were attending. And so we created our own FB event for our Fire Walk – we had two sign ups within 24 hours and more coming through later.

Network like a Boss

Networking is face to face PR. Because we had minimal awareness of Dee View Court, least of all our appeal, we had to literally get out there and tell people about it. Likewise, because we had little (read: zero) contacts we had to get out there and make them.  We needed more corporate prospects, more potential major donors, and more community challenge event participants. And so for the first year of the appeal the fundraising team went to the opening of an envelope.  And I learned this: big level events like the Chamber or SCDI are just as important for corporate/ MG prospecting and cultivation as are your smaller SME or one person business.  Why? Because you never know what might come from that one person or who they might know. At a BNI meeting I met a self-employed person who wanted to take part in a challenge event for us. Turns out they were also on the board for a Foundation and through their influence, we were invited to submit an application for over £100K (note: we’re awaiting the outcome!). Never think that a smaller networking event won’t have the high level supporters that you’re looking for.   And even if they don’t, you’ve made a new contact on LinkedIn, and they’re another person to like, share and spread your appeal messages (and not forgetting the videos!). Their audience is now your audience too.

A Pause, not a Conclusion

I won’t say ‘in conclusion’, because our appeal is still ongoing and our story isn’t over yet. There is still so much to learn, but my newfound PR knowledge can be summed up in a nutshell.  Whether it’s traditional press, social media, or face to face PR – figure out the culture of your town, your audience, and your local press and tailor your PR accordingly.  What might work for one area of the country might not work for yours.  Be noisy with your PR, but make the right noise!”

To follow Emma and see PR and fundraising in action, catch her on LinkedIn (to see those fab videos mentioned above), and Twitter, @EmmaLeipFin.  Emma is also delivering a session about this appeal at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention in July 2019.

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GUEST BLOG: Charity Websites; Turning Visitors into Supporters

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This month’s blog is from Matt Saunders, founder of Charity Box. Matt is the founder of Charity Box, a social enterprise providing cost-effective web design and online fundraising solutions to charities. With over 10 years professional experience in helping organisations of all sizes, Matt is passionate about helping the UKs third sector achieve its digital aims. Thank you Matt for sharing what you know, and for giving me a holiday from blog writing over the Christmas holidays!…Special thanks also from both of us to James Gadsby-Peet for adding your digital wisdom.

Over to Matt…

In this fast-paced age of information-overload it can be tricky enough just getting visitors onto your website. Provoking a visitor to take positive action is trickier still, but not impossible. In this article I’m going to run through some techniques that you can use to turn passing visitors into brand advocates and long-term supporters of your charity.

Start at the start
Before we delve into how to convert visitors into donors it’s important to point out that you’re sending the right kind of people to your website. You can usually curate a following on social media of like-minded people who are interested in what you do, but it’s also very easy to send the wrong type of traffic. For example, if you advertise on Google Ads it can take a lot of refinement to ensure people are not visiting your website through similar, but ultimately unrelated keywords. Being mindful of your traffic, and having an idea of who your visitors are and what they want helps to increase your chances of conversion.

Creating personas to illustrate your visitors groups can help here. This video on YouTube helps to explain the concept if it’s unclear.

Tell a story
Once you’ve got the right people coming to your website, you need to captivate them. It is an uncomfortable truth that in order to get somebody to support you, you will need to offer something in return. In the third sector, this usually comes in the form of emotional currency.

Take time to explain to your visitor why they should support you. Show them how their donation – whether it is their money or time – will help not just others but also themselves. Try to tell a story interwoven with facts and figures to support your claims, and then ask for them to take action at the right moment.

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Prostate Cancer UK go to great lengths to provide engaging and informative content in their 10 Years to Tame Prostate Cancer campaign.
In this example we see persona use clearly – we’re introduced to Andy, a dad with two sons, Errol, a black man (whose ethnicity is linked to a greater chance of getting prostate cancer) and William, a 13 year old boy who lost his father to prostate cancer.
By utilising storytelling and keeping your intended reader in mind, you help to conjure emotion in your visitors which will increase their likelihood of taking action.

Make it easy

Accepting online donations from website visitors is surprisingly easy to get wrong, and with a myriad of tools and platforms it can be difficult to make the most optimal decision for your charity. Stripe or PayPal? JustGiving or a fully integrated system? How to handle Gift Aid? What about GDPR? The difficulty here – and the key to success – is making it easy! Regardless of which integration style you choose, try and keep the user experience clear and consistent, and keep the following in mind:
● Make donation buttons stand out – experiment with the colour, size, shape and position
of buttons and links so they are highly visible
● Ensure donation forms contain only the fields needed – don’t ask for unnecessary
information and make things complicated
● Remind the visitor how their data will be used in accordance with GDPR and privacy
laws to build trust and confidence in your organisation.

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GoodUI’s example of using contrast to bring attention to specific elements

Follow it up
When you receive a donation from a first-time donor make sure you have a system in place to follow up. This could be through an automated set of rules in a CRM like SalesForce, or a manual process where you contact the donor personally.
Writing for Charity Digital News, Janet Sneddon says “We know that nine per cent of all donors make 66 percent of all donations. Without data, however, you can’t know who those nine percent are. But when you use the data you hold to identify your most valuable supporters, you can target communications more effectively.”
When you interact with a new supporter with whom you are hoping to engage long-term, you can use CRM data to gain important insights over time either of individual donors or segmented groups (i.e. by location, age or some other relevant metric). Janet continues “Your data can tell you who opens what. It can tell you when. It can tell you for how long. Carefully analysed data will show you the recipients who never read a word, but will click on a video link, and it will show you the people who will take the time to digest a story.”
The key takeaway here is to not let a potential long term supporter slip through with a one-off donation, and to ensure processes are in place to nurture that relationship through data-driven touch-points. This is crucial to developing sustainability within your charity’s fundraising efforts.

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#DonorLove Celebration part III: How Rory Green Does It – A Lesson From a Pro

Imagine our excitement when guru of donor love, Rory Green, pinged into our inbox with not just one example, but FOUR of many ways she’s shown supporter appreciation for the #donorlove celebration in partnership with John Lepp of Agents of Good.  You might have seen the excited GIFs John & I shared on Twitter…

We’ve decided to include two of these here, giving you an insight into how your approach can differ depending on who you’re thanking, and how much resource you have.

In her own words, Rory shares her experience:

Mr Big

“When I worked at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, we got word that a major donor/volunteer (I’ll call him Philip) was retiring. My VP asked me to come up with a retirement gift for him. He was a wealthy man who truly “had everything” so I knew I needed to try and find something money couldn’t buy.

Philip was an alumni from BCIT, he was on our board and on the foundation board. So I decided to put together a book that told the story of his time with us:

It started with photos from his days as a student from the archives. I reached out to all the students from his program and asked them to share memories and well wished – which they did. One of his classmates wrote that “we all knew Phillip would be the most successful of all of us!”. The photos of Philip and his friends, and the campus in the 60s were a hoot to look at!

Then I tracked down BCIT leaders from his time on the board. It detailed all the amazing things that happened while he served – giving him credit for his leadership. Former presidents, VPs, Deans and board members shared letters of how much they valued working with him and how that period was a transformational one for the university. Lots of archive photos rounded out this section.

Then we focused on his time on the Foundation Board and all the money he helped to raise: specifically a beautiful new campus. Messages of congratulations from fundraisers he worked with were shared, as well as messages of thanks from the faculty and staff who use the building he raised the funds for.

Then we talked about his personal giving, with messages of thanks from 15 years of student recipient, most of whom were now alumni – sharing what they’d accomplished and how they’d given back to BCIT since graduating.

The last letter was the most recent student recipient of his award, who shared “My biggest wish is that when I graduate I will be even able to help future BCIT students the way Philip helped me”.

It was a lot of work tracking so many people down, and going through all the archive photos – but in the end it was worth it. He announced a $200,000 donation to BCIT that night.”

Small, But Mighty

“This is an e-mail I sent to a planned gift donor (let’s call her Mary). I stumbled across a hand-written note in our printer room; one of our program staff had printed it off to hang on her desk. I saw it and LOVED it and asked if I could send it to our donors. I sent this e-mail to Mary because I knew she had a planned gift and an interest in women in engineering. Mary and her daughter were so touched by the e-mail that her daughter has since made her own planned gift! And Mary has become an engaged volunteer and increased her annual giving.”

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What both of these donor love examples have in common is the supporter and their personal experiences have shaped the ways they’ve been thanked; details Rory wouldn’t have known if she didn’t have a strong relationship with them.  Other things we loved were:

  • Rory knows her supporters well so seeing something that reminds her of them prompts a response, just as you would a friend.
  • Going it alone can have a great impact, but using connections and relationships around you a can change a simple thank you into a grand gesture; and no doubt those asked to contribute will know BCIT is an organisation that cares!
  • Thank you’s don’t have to take masses of time or money, simply being thought of and knowing the difference you have made is enough to want to do more; and it’s doable and scalable by all.

It really wouldn’t have been a donor love celebration without Rory Green included, and we want to thank Rory for her marvellous examples.

We’d love to hear your examples of showing #donorlove.  Whether it’s hand-written cards, improvements to stewardship and processes or personal interactions like these, let’s celebrate the ongoing work of amazing fundraisers and charities delighting donors on a daily basis.  Read how to enter here (there’s a cash prize for the best!).

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#DonorLove Celebration Part II: Farm Africa and Their Forward Thinking Thank Yous

Following on from our recent donor love celebration debut, today we’re celebrating Sarah Goddard and the work done during her time at Farm Africa in the #donorlove celebration, in partnership with John Lepp at Agents of Good.

In light of this week’s #YouMadeItHappen campaign, we’ve seen the impact a good thank you can have with supporters, especially when you share the difference they’ve made.  And that’s exactly what the team at Farm Africa did.

A photographer was due to visit Africa to capture the impact of the charity’s work and Sarah used this opportunity to bring supporter and beneficiary together in a thanking project for a recently won RAG partnership.

That project included taking photos of the African community saying ‘thank you’ to the people making the work possible; a nice touch, but the wonderful part is the photographer was armed with photos of the supporters as well as their stories on how they had been fundraising, and the work that had gone into making it possible.

Sarah said, ‘I insisted this was done with the groups understanding of what they were doing and we’ve found that our communities are always really keen to say thank you to those that make the work possible’. The communities loved asking questions about the people fundraising for them and found it hilarious that you could raise money out of wearing wellies!

The photos were kept a secret until the right moment which came at the RAG Conference farmwhen the outgoing and incoming chair were recognised for their efforts.  Sarah wrote, ‘I’ve never seen two university students so speechless, and one nearly cried. Which of course made me cry!’.

Whilst it wasn’t possible to remain partnered with RAG, the personal touch and strong connections to the people they were fundraising for has meant students are still involved with Farm Africa to this day, often speaking and promoting the brilliant experience they had working with the charity and encouraging others to get involved themselves.

What we like about this show of #donorlove:

  • Using an existing opportunity and capturing content for later use.
  • The wonderful touch of taking supporter pictures and stories to Africa to show the people behind the charity work.
  • The connection between the African community and RAG; meaning a stronger fundraising relationship and continuing student engagement.

Thank you to Sarah and the team at Farm Africa for allowing us to share this story in the #donorlove celebration!

We’d love to hear your examples of showing donor love.  Whether it’s hand-written cards, improvements to stewardship and processes, or thoughtful touches like these; let’s celebrate the ongoing work of amazing fundraisers and charities delighting donors on a daily basis.  Read how to enter here (there’s a cash prize for the best!).

 

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‘Fundraising for Introverts’; Tips For When You’re Shy, Anxious or Just Not Feeling Up To It…

I have this podcast/Youtube video that I’d like to share with you which I recorded recently with fundraising friend, Simon Scriver.  We were chatting about how early experiences shape your approach to fundraising, and I shared how being bullied in my teenage years had a big effect on my confidence.

Fundraising actually helped me through it but sometimes, even to this day, it can be quite difficult to muster the energy or mental power to get me through certain tasks.  I’ve had to learn tricks for moments like these and I share some in this recording.

Fundraising for introverts, people who get a little anxious, and even just people who find it a little overwhelming at times…I hope you enjoy the listen.

 

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The Time I Got it Wrong; Getting the Right Work Balance

I got a text late one Saturday night from one of my closest friends.  It said, ‘…I haven’t seen you in ages and I’m worried we’ll drift apart.’

I felt two things; I was so sad that one of my best friends was feeling this way, and secondly I was ashamed.  I was a fundraiser; relationships are what I do, what I’m brilliant at…so how did I get this wrong?

Fundraising is a tough game.  There is no ‘9-5’, you need to remember hundreds of names, stories and appointments, and you have a rolling target that starts again the moment it’s reached.  Add to that a desire to absorb as much learning as we can, volunteering to support other fundraisers or charities, the habit of always saying, ‘yes!’ – oh, and a life outside of fundraising, and you’ve got about ten minutes left in the day.

My mind was so full of work that I wasn’t nurturing my personal relationships with the same attentiveness as I do with supporters.

I’m not alone.  I know fundraisers who work through their lunch because they have loads to do in very little time, the belief that working late is the only proof of working hard, and a fear of saying ‘no’ resulting in a weekend of doing laps around Scotland.

Fundraising is a wonderful profession and I adore every minute I get to work with the supporters and colleagues who make it so.  But it’s so important to have a balance.

We need to chill.  Take a step back, look at the bigger picture and re-approach our fundraising with a vibe of calm and mindfulness.  Not only that but we need to carve out time for ourselves in the day to appreciate the goals we’ve already achieved and take time to do things that we love.

If we’re good to ourselves we can be better in our work; we’ll feel less pressure, get to appreciate the smaller accomplishments that lead to bigger goals and we’ll be better fundraisers – imagine how well we’ll build relationships if we’re always fully present in the moment.

How can we give 100% to supporters when our cup is half full?

As well at that, we’ll be looking after our mental health, personal relationships and be able to focus on what matters when it matters.

So how do we manage it?

  • Take your lunch break.  Already eaten?  Go for a walk, and take someone with you.
  • Block out your lunch break in your calendar.
  • Social media curfew; if you use social media for work, log off when your day is done and turn off your notifications.
  • Use ‘airplane mode’ for a total digital detox.
  • Block out ‘you time’ throughout your week.  Go to the gym, read a book or get some air.
  • To-do list done? Log off, go home.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ and turn it into an opportunity.  Would having volunteers make it doable?
  • Be strategic; always saying ‘yes’ to extra opportunities?  Think of your end goal and the path you need to take to get there.  If this won’t add value, let it go.
  • Work from home; less distraction, more comfort and increased productivity.
  • Turn off your email notifications.  Choose set times each day to check and respond – add this to your ‘out of office’ and manage expectations.
  • 3 minute rule; if a task takes less than three minutes to do, do it straight away. You use more energy putting it off and remembering it.
  • Speak up.  Don’t be afraid to say when things are getting too much or you need help.
  • Help someone out you think might be struggling
me and max

By having a healthier approach to my work time balance, I’ve been able to pursue my rock star dreams

 

I’ve been doing this a lot more recently and have felt a MASSIVE change.  I have more time for the people I love, freed up time in my day to devote to improving myself, and have felt more in control at work with the goals I’m aiming for; and been able to dedicate time to achieve them.

Today marks the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.  Try it now; log off, go home, switch off and take some time for you – because you matter too.

what tips can you share that help you have a healthy approach to your working day?  Tweet me @CharityNikki.

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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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