The Christian Radio Homepage

column archive





Don Hughes
CEO Great Plains Christian Radio

Do You Need A Fundraising Makeover?



Old habits are hard to break, however, sometimes you need to look at your ways of doing things and ask yourself if the performance is what you are seeking.  Now is a good time for evaluation considering the present economic climate.  Private giving is three hundred billion dollars a year in the United States.  I really don't expect a dramatic decline in donations.  This number shows that you don't have to motivate people to give, but you need to attract an adequate level of the giving that is taking place to your organization to meet operating expenses.  Sharathons may have had their place in broadcasting, but too many people are skeptical about what we say and do to obtain funds.  It seems everyone is afraid or unwilling to raise funds a different way.  We know what is available to us with present methods and message, however a new and bigger message, optimism of a greater vision tied to a new message can give you the funds needed for desired ministry goals.

Can anyone imagine promoting a Christian concert the way we conduct sharathons?  Can you imagine having announcements on the air saying Concert 2009 is coming to a city near you for about four weeks and then allowing just a few days to obtain tickets?  No one uses this type system to promote and sell products.  Why do we do fundraising in this way? A fellow broadcaster asked me once how our recent sharathon went and I told him we didn't do sharathons.  He asked how we raised money and I told him that we may air a few recorded announcements of sixty-seconds from time to time.  He asked if it were possible to raise funds in sixty seconds.  I responded, "There are many businesses presenting their products through ads of thirty to sixty seconds why would you think it would not be effective for fundraising?"  There is too much time spent resting in this single avenue of requesting funds.  There are regular listeners who tune-out during sharathon.  The percentage of people with the inclination to phone a station and make a pledge would be smaller still.  So, why a method where you have lost most potential contributors before you invite the first phone call?

We need to reach beyond just the bottom-line and what is needed for funding and embrace the listeners as our fellow ministers.  Once you have done this you will be able to develop the needed resources for ministry.  The key is not obtaining resources for ministry, but in building relationships with the listeners and have them join in a united effort.  People want leadership, a sense of unity and family in moving to a common goal.

Look at the sports world and how people develop their favorite teams and cheer for success.  You have listeners that want you to succeed and they will also join in the positive feelings of accomplishment to see the ministry's outreach in communicating hope and touching lives.

The number one thing that will motivate people to support your radio station is vision.  What do you want to do and how are you doing it?  What I hear from most stations is that they play more music on the radio than anyone else.  I agree, cut the meaningless chatter and keep the music rolling.  However, you end up communicating you are a jukebox and so the listener's reaction is, "Ok, I'll drop a quarter in the slot occasionally."  Your vision has to be more than playing music on the radio.  I have engaged industry people in conversation over this issue and they become very defensive and then tell me their vision is bigger than a "more music" format.  However, their vision for ministry is not communicated very well to the listeners.  You must electrify and energize your base concerning why you do what you do.

The second thing you must do is have the listeners take personal ownership in the ministry.  I am sorry if I offend anyone, but the tone of most fundraising is, "Give to me so I can conduct my ministry."  However, what needs to be said is, "I am a servant to you to help you conduct your ministry.  Scripture explains how we have different callings, but one mission.  The person on the air has a different role than the person who sends a monthly donation, however both work in the same mission.  It is very important for you to embrace this thinking and effectively communicate it to your listeners.  Don't just seek donations, but provide leadership.  Don't desire your organization to be bigger, but help your listeners to desire growth in wisdom and knowledge of the Lord and what He desires for them. 

Think about it!  If your listeners really embraced your vision and take personal ownership do you think you would have difficulty raising funds?  If you do these two things you will have the funds you need for your ministry without doing a sharathon.  It is a daily effort of communicating on the air and expressing yourself in print to your listeners.  Each hour you should ask yourself what you have done to communicate vision and personal ownership on the air and also in each piece of mail that you send out. 

I mentioned that you must present vision and personal ownership on the air and in print.  In order for you to have the audio and visual contact with listeners you need to identify your listening audience by name and address.  One of the most effective ways I have seen is by sponsoring special events and selling tickets.  If you use an on-line source for selling tickets or the auditorium handles the tickets you need to tell them you need the addresses for future promotion of events.  People who purchase tickets to Christian events are also willing to support your station.

The station promotions director and the one who works most closely with funding should have their desks in the same room.  Seek to conduct activities that will result in people phoning the radio station or send you an e-mail with their address?    One thing we have done is to give away books on the air.  We will obtain five hundred to a thousand copies of a good title and author and develop interest in the book over the period of a week and then have a day when we take the first five hundred to a thousand callers for a free copy of the book.  You will further develop your ministry by sending quality Christian literature to thousands of people.   You will also build your mailing list.  You should not be afraid to spend five dollars to obtain a new name and address for your mailing list. 

Your first book giveaway in this fashion will result in about fifty percent of the callers as new contacts assuming your already have some kind of mailing list.  However, after several years of building your mailing list in this way your net gain may be only twenty to thirty percent of the callers. 

Now, I know what you are thinking, "Oh, so you are not giving the hard pitch on the air for funding, but through the mail."  No, the mail gives us another opportunity to build relationships and minister to our listeners in print as well as one the air.  We like to have a ministry item in the mailing as a gift from time to time.  Your mailings cannot appear routine.  You need to be creative on what is on the outside of the envelop and what is on the inside.  You must be creative.  It is also good if mailings are personal.  Use mail-merge to create a letter with the person's name on it.  Perhaps even sign the letter yourself.  Have a team of volunteers hand address the envelop and send it first class.  The personal touch will develop the relationship and adequate funding for the ministry.

One size does not fit all when it comes to fundraising.  Even though you may vary what you say during your sharathon the tendency is to present a single mindset on funding.  People are different in the way they give and you need to direct fundraising accordingly.  Developing a mailing list and keeping good records will help you to direct letters according to a person's giving style.  You can also watch patterns and move people up in their donations.  People that have never given will receive a different mailing than those that have made an occasional gift.  Once someone has become an occasional donor encourage them to be a monthly donor.  Encourage the regular donor to give through Electronic Fund Transfer.  Watch your donors for the periodic large gift by watching when and how much they give and approach them according to the pattern.  Instead of sending a gift in appreciation for a donation, get there first with the appreciation gift and the donation will follow.

Let me encourage you to keep moving forward.  Be aware of the economic times we are in, but don't be distracted by it.  Twenty-five years ago people got along just fine without cable TV, internet and cellular telephones.  We have expanded our spending believing that we need these things.  We need to understand that most people are still working and receiving regular income and will make donations.  The unemployment rate moved from about five percent to seven percent.  It is very bad for those affected.  Pray for them and focus on the fact they need the encouragement your ministry provides to recover. 

I close with a somewhat paraphrased Philippians 3:14,  everyone needs your message of Hope to keep pressing on to the goal of the upward knowledge of Christ Jesus.


Don Hughes can be reached at






Copyright HisAir.Net