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Securing a BBC Radio 4 Appeal slot - The experience of charity Pets As Therapy

How Orchard Fundraising helped secure a BBC Radio 4 Appeal.

Josette Simon OBE radio appeal broadcast
Josette Simon OBE delivers BBC Radio 4 Appeal for Pets As Therapy

The phrase a dog is a ‘man’s best friend’ was first used in 1786 by King Frederick of Prussia (parts of modern day Germany, Poland and Russia) and not to leave out the other popular pet, cats, it was allegedly Sigmund Freud who said ‘time spent with cats is never wasted.’ The UK is a nation of animal lovers. According to recent statistics, more than half, 53%, of UK adults own a pet: 29% own dogs and 24% cats. There are many benefits to owning a pet, including the improvements in physical and mental health of pet owners:  a survey carried between December 2022 to January 2023 found that 94 percent of UK respondents stated that owning a pet makes them happy. Significantly 44 percent also stated that owning a pet had been a lifeline for them during the cost of living crisis.

The health benefits of pets is something that the charity Pets As Therapy has known since its inception in 1983. Pets As Therapy has been improving the physical and mental health of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in care homes, hospitals, schools, hospices and prisons for the past 40 years, through visits from its volunteers and their therapy pets. 

Highlighting the need and the solution – a winning combination 

Orchard Fundraising was tasked with supporting Pets As Therapy’s fundraising. As part of this, a BBC Radio 4 Appeal broadcast is a rare opportunity to raise funds and awareness.  Utilising their experience and previous successes, Orchard Fundraising developed an application to secure a slot on the BBC Radio 4 Appeal, a weekly 3 minute programme where the work of a charity is presented and the charity makes an appeal for donations to support its activities. Orchard Fundraising, highlighting the evidence of therapy pets for health benefits, combined with the charity’s data on the number of establishments on its waiting list, developed and submitted an application tailored to the Radio 4 listener demographic. 

Evidenced based and case studies  

The application focused on studies that show that regular, sustained visits by therapy pets improves physical activity and mental wellbeing of people in care homes and health settings, and reduces anxiety and improves behaviour and academic performance in children experiencing challenges at school. This was supported by case studies, powerful stories highlighting the transformational impact of the visits. 

A nursery manager’s comments: “A three-year-old girl who was non-verbal took a shine to Connie, the PAT dog. She would sit next to her, stroke and try to speak to her. When the time came to leave, the girl said the word ‘Connie’ clearly. This was the first real word that she had ever spoken that was intelligible. As a result of the visits, the girl became more engaged, curious and animated.”

Importantly the appeal application also articulated a clear financial ask - a request that each listener could make a small personal donation to enable one Pets As Therapy interaction with a vulnerable person - something that the BBC Radio 4 assessment panel valued. 

The bid also included the added value of PAT’s significant social media presence to support any potential Appeal and a considerable amount of governance documentation and financial projections, so it was important that all relevant policies and management accounts were up to date and well presented. 

New Year’s Eve appeal

The application was successful and feedback suggested that in a very competitive environment it met all of the assessment panels requirements. As a result Pets As Therapy was allocated a three minute slot on New Year’s Eve 2023, the perfect end to the charity’s 40th anniversary year.  Long time supporter and PAT volunteer, the actress Josette Simon OBE and her PAT dog Milo, made an appeal for donations to enable Pets As Therapy to increase the number of visits it makes to vulnerable people. Josette commented, “I’ve witnessed first-hand how enriching, uplifting and valuable a visit from a PAT pet can be for people. And the joy that each visit brings. For both sides.”

More than just money

The appeal was a huge success both financially and in raising awareness of Pets As Therapy’s work and supporting an increase in volunteer recruitment. Financially, £17,403.95 in donations was received, website traffic in the days after the Appeal increased by 54% and the number of volunteers and establishment enquiries in the months following also grew significantly. 

“The number of people waiting for a visit from a volunteer and their therapy pet continues to grow. To support more vulnerable people, we need funding so we can recruit, train and place more volunteers. We are delighted that Orchard Fundraising secured the BBC Radio 4 Appeal slot on New Year’s Eve, a really exciting and worthwhile celebration of our work and a wonderful end to our 40th anniversary year.” says Matt Robinson, Head of Income Generation and Marketing. 

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