The Christian Radio Homepage

column archive








Todd Isberner
ShareMedia Services

Can They Trust Us With Their Money?





Most of us working in Christian broadcasting make our living directly or indirectly off the Gospel.  True?  Whether you have a commercial or noncommercial radio or television station, a program or a support ministry to those in broadcasting, ultimately you get money from the people to whom the Gospel is preached.  The question is, can we be trusted with their money? 

These people who we call “donors” are the listeners, viewers, and consumers who are exposed to the media through which we disseminate the Gospel message.  And when they feel like our ministry is helping them spiritually, they will likely give back financially.  Just like the Apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 9:11, “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?”


Though at times it seems difficult to “reap” as much funding as we would like, it is remarkable how relatively easy it is to get the audience to pay for ministry.  All we do is ask for money.  And they give it!

We send them a letter, do an on-air appeal, or ask them to buy a product or patronize a business and they do it.  Not all of them, but lots of them.  They give millions of their hard earned dollars every year to countless broadcast ministries who promise to use that money to effectively present the Gospel.


And in the process of paying for all the operational costs of our ministry, we also get to eat.  That’s biblical, too: “Don’t you know that those who work in the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?  In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel” (2 Corinthians 9:13-14). 

Whether we ask a 5-year-old, the coveted 35-54 year-olds, or senior citizens – they give their money.  After 36 years in ministry I still find it incredible. But it’s also frightening because of the responsibility it places on us to use every dollar as carefully as if it came directly from the hand of God. 

After all, these people who so easily hand over their money do so with complete trust.  They trust us when we tell them about the need and how the money will be spent.  They trust our fundraising appeals and respond as we direct them to.  They trust the impact we tell them their gift is making.


So how trustworthy are we? 

If they could trace their dollar from the time it left their wallet to what we spend it on for salaries, equipment, office supplies, fund raising – would they approve?  Even scarier, would God approve of the way we got it and how we spent it?

This is why it’s so frightening to have the responsibility for the money God’s people entrust to us for “the work” of ministry.  He is very protective of His people and obviously angered when they are taken advantage of.

Of course we never intend to take advantage of our donors and believe we are 100 percent trustworthy with their money.  And because we want to please the Lord by upholding integrity with his givers, we ought to deliberately track and assess the way we are getting and spending His money.


Start with a built-in system of accountability – one that is organized, structured, and effective.  Maybe it’s monthly meetings with your board, a committee, an accounting firm, or trusted associates who ask questions and keep tabs on at least three critical areas.  

  1. Presenting the need.

Financial needs are relative to the vision and execution of ministry goals. But I’ve seen some ministries where the drive for excellence and sophistication has blinded them from seeing who is picking up the tab. On the other hand, there are some organizations that are unprepared, never have enough, and are always in need.


Ask yourself these questions:

·         How have we determined our real expense and is our budget in line with what Jesus wants His sheep to pay for? 

·         Has there been any rationalizing of some areas of spending because of thinking we deserve it for working so hard for the Lord? 

·         Is there even the slightest exaggeration when presenting the need? 

·         Is there anything we have disguised? 

·         Can a donor be assured his dollar will go directly toward what we said, or will it be used on something he has no knowledge of? 

·         And is there a good, clear, easy-to-understand written record of every financial transaction available to donor anytime?


  1. Making the appeal.

Can we be completely trusted not to abuse our privilege to ask for money?  When we do fundraisers for stations, our team members have a list of do’s and don’ts in front of them for what is done on the air; number one is “Don’t beg, threaten, whine, bribe, manipulate, guilt them [sic], or repeat myself over and over again.”

How trustworthy are we to provide them with the right kind of motivation for giving?  Are the motivations biblical, like “willing hearts from those who are prompted to give” (Exodus 25:2)?  Are the donors “rejoicing because of the willing response of those who gave freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:9)?  Do you encourage them to be “cheerful” givers because they are performing a service by supplying the needs of God’s people and giving thanks to God?

Or is it easier to get them to give by dangling carrots in front of them like irresistible premiums, or over-exaggerated promises of what their gift will do for God?  And are we sensitive as to how often we ask for their help?  Do they feel like the only time we show any personal interest in them is when we want their money?  Does every letter have to end with a postscript about needing their financial help before it’s too late?


  1. Reporting the results.

If they can trust us to be honest in presenting the need and not to abuse our privilege in making the appeal, can they also trust us to accurately report the results of their giving?

I recently received an annual report from a well respected ministry. It was impressive.  It left no questions as to how my dollars were used. It shared exactly what their ministry accomplished in the last year using pictures, stories, budgets, statistics, charts, strategies, goals fulfilled, and plans for the future.

Can you say the same for your ministry?  Do your donors know the specifics of how their money was used and the effect it had on someone for Christ?  Are we in any way holding back from reporting the details because it is too difficult to explain the financial matters or worse yet, because the results of ministry are just not there?

I have a friend who has consulted mission organizations for years.  After thorough research, he sometimes discovered a ministry spending all its money, time and efforts merely on self-perpetuation.  His advice?  Pull the plug.  He used to say,  “If God is through with a particular work, let it go, and let His people send their money elsewhere.”

Are we brave enough and caring enough toward God’s givers to do the same if it’s time?  Or are we stuck in the notion that God needs us to complete His work?  Have we selfishly declared that we are indispensable and forgotten God has “reserved 7000 others” who are waiting to take our place?


Ultimately, it all comes down to the issue of stewardship; responsibly using what God has given for the work that needs doing. 

And those of us in ministry … who are in any way handling the resources that originate from the pockets of God’s people, must be found trustworthy before asking for their help.


Todd Isberner is president of ShareMedia Services, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in fund raising for listener supported Christian radio and faith-based ministries.  Since 1975, ShareMedia has produced and hosted over 3,500 fund raising broadcasts, raising over $1 billion for radio and ministry.