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Don Hughes
CEO Great Plains Christian Radio

Essential Elements of what should be
included in a mailing to raise funds




You need to learn from the big boys. Mailings conducted by Publishers Clearing house always contain a lot of material. You can be sure that what they do is tried and tested. It produces results. Ask yourself what you can do in a mailing to raise funds that will be similar to what they do? They are of course trying to sell a product to make a profit. They may consider public image, but very little would be considered unethical. As Christians we do not want to manipulate people into giving, however we need to create a vision for the ministry that will motivate listeners to become involved in becoming a regular supporter.

Each mailing should include the following:

• An appeal for funds. This does not always have to be a strongly worded letter informing your mailing list of how little money you have. You need to measure the way you ask for funds so that the recipient does not have the sense that every letter is the same. People give to overall vision for what you are doing rather than specific needs. Your vision needs to constantly be in front of your supporter. You need to tell them of your vision for ministry and you need to show it in your actions.

Keep in mind that the decision to give is one of emotion or even conviction rather than a reasoned plan.

• Make it easy for people to respond by including a return envelop.

• Include a simple response card that outlines three specific things people can do to help the ministry. Your letter will outline the vision for ministry and the overall need. Your response card should outline three simple, very specific things people can do to meet the need.

• Have some type item for people to complete and return to you that does not involve money. This can be a survey, quiz, game or contest. Many times some kind of meaningful prize will be associated with it. If people spend time with this survey or contest they are more likely to include a donation when it is mailed back to you. You will find that about fifty percent of those participating will send a donation.

An item like this will also create a desire to open the envelop. People will know that your mailing has more in it than just an appeal for money.

• In the various elements that are included with the mailing always keep ministry in mind. Use the letter, the contest and even on the response card as a vehicle to speak to needs of the recipient.

Since fund raising is an on-going program and not a one time shot you need to develop your image in the mind of the recipient. There are other things that should be included with the mailing from time to time.

• Write a newsletter. Think about how busy people read things. You need to grab the reader’s attention and try to get through as much information as you can in a short amount of time. Be creative by using catchy headlines, pictures, graphs and charts. Make your news letters look more like The USA Today newspaper rather than the Wall Street Journal.
Include information that people want to know, i.e. a Concert Calendar of
special events. Insert quotes or verses of scripture that minister to
various needs that people have.

The newsletter can be used to present the vision for your ministry by
telling and showing people what you have done and what you will do.
What do you want people to believe about your ministry? In politics they
call this “spin control.” Create a mailing list and use it to establish your
image with your constituency.

• Any salesman will tell you that testimonies are an important element of sales. Include a testimony in the appeal letter. From time to time send a page front and back of testimonies you have received through the mail. If someone mentions something to you in person or on the phone get their name and address and write them a letter repeating what they told you and ask permission to use it. Some testimonies may be very personal and a person would not want their name used, however most of the time people would love to see their name in print.

Use the airwaves to your advantage.

Since you are going to include some interesting and attractive things in your mailing you need to tell people about it on the radio so they will anticipate opening the envelop you are preparing. To say we are sending a letter telling you about how much money we need does not sound very exciting. However, since you are including a survey, game, quiz or contest the people on the mailing list will look forward to their opportunity to express their view in the survey or win some kind of prize in the contest.

Identify who is listening to your station.

Station promotional activities need to be developed in such a way to identify who is listening to your station. Constant development of your mailing list is essential. Most of the time it takes two to three years to develop the relationship with a new listener to the point where they feel comfortable making a gift to the station. You will find that most of your donations come through the return envelopes that you send to those on your mailing list. The number of donations you receive in a hand addressed envelop will be small. Identify who your listeners are for station promotion advertising and fundraising.

How much would you be willing to pay for a mailing list of your listeners? With a mailing list of 10,000 names you should be able to raise $400,000 to $700,000. There could be some rare exceptions, but with some work you should be able to build a mailing list of 10,000 addresses regardless how small your market is.

Here is one idea on building your mailing list:

There are publishers that offer specials on books where you can get a discount when ordering in quantity. Well known titles can be obtained for $3 to $5 each. Barbour Books often will have some titles that can attract attention for as little as $1 each. There may be other items that can be given away as well. Get 100 to 500 copies of a book or obtain that same quantity in two different titles to give the listeners a choice. Promote your book give away several days in advance. Tell them you are taking a survey and want to find out who listens and where they listen. Everyone who calls in gets a copy of the book. Make it a fun day and talk to some callers on the air. It is a great promotion to have people hear that many people listen from all walks of life. You of course will obtain addresses for your mailing list.

We have done this type thing for years at KJIL. We now have 12% of the homes in our listening area on our mailing list. Even after doing this many times, one-third of the callers will be first time contacts.

People will ask if we purge our mailing list of people that don’t give. Are you kidding? Why would someone want to discard the name and address of someone who listens. This mailing list can be used for promotion and advertising even if not every one gives. When you are doing fundraising you perhaps will mail often to those that have a history of giving. You should view the names on the mailing list of those that don’t give as potentials supporters. It could easily take three years to develop a relationship where the person feels comfortable enough to make a donation.

You should also identify the giving patterns of donors. Look for a pattern of giving and send out different letters depending on the donor’s interest in support. There are those that will give $25 a month. Others may give $500 or more to a capital campaign. We have those on our mailing list that will not make a pledge to be a monthly donor, but they give almost every time we send a fundraising letter.

Hey! Let’s get a move on. A recession only means you need to work a little harder.

If you want to talk about your situation give me a call, 620-873-2991.


Don is observing forty years in broadcasting in 2009.  Great Plains Christian Radio consists of seven full power stations and thirty-six translators. The flagship station, KJIL, has been named Station of the Year most recently by NRB and in the past they have received that honor from GMA, NAB (Marconi), Focus on The Family and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.  Don Hughes and his wife Polly have been married for thirty-one years and they have six children. 

Don Hughes can be reached at