27 May Fundraising
Dear Christian Radio,
Are you frazzled, harried, dazed or just plain tired? A lot of station folks are these days, and with good reason. Promotions, events, concerts and the day to day demands of keeping a local Christian station on the air can wear you out.
“It’s like everyone wants a little piece of me,” a GM told me a few weeks ago. “I’m overwhelmed, and sometimes I don’t feel like I can get it all done. One of these plates I have spinning is going to come crashing down.”
He’s right. Something has to give. What will it be?
The programming stuff gets done. It has to; otherwise there’ll be dead air. And those events, they all happen because, after all, we promised we’d do them. But when will there be time to focus on the people who are responsible for keeping us on the air, empowering us to reach our community for Christ? When will there be enough time to properly thank and engage the donors?
Over the past five years, I’ve wrestled with this problem as a consultant helping local Christian radio station leadership. Before that, I wrestled with it at WAY-FM as Director of Donor Marketing. And before that, I ran a station that raised more than $1 million a year off the air, without Sharathons. (Believe me, we found time to relate to donors, we had to!)
The answer may surprise you because it’s so simple. Do less so you can love on donors more. Here’s how that works:
- Instead of doing every concert or event that comes down the pike, pick a few that will have maximum impact. Develop a litmus test for each event that will take staff resources and airtime. At my station, it was a three way test: 1) Generate income, 3 to 1 return on investment. 2) Produce new names for our database. 3) Engage our listeners in somehow serving others. Anything that didn’t do that was jettisoned off the calendar.
- Get a handle on distractions. They come in all types of shapes and sizes. Endless meetings, pet projects and those little tasks you kind of enjoy doing yourself, but others really can and should be doing them. I know GM’s who still pick the music for their stations, despite having a PD and a music director! I know others who are taking calls from record labels. What’s more important, talking to someone about a song that may or may not make it on your playlist or speaking with a donor who can write a check to keep you on the air for one more month?
- Engage your team in the process. Credit for this idea goes to a number of smart GM’s who started doing it before I did. But divvy up recent donors among your team members and assign them to make calls and write thank you notes. As the GM, see yourself as the orchestra conductor of donor engagement and make sure everyone on the team plays their part. After all, you are a non-profit organization. Fundraising is everyone’s job.
Lastly, Dear Christian Radio, stop seeing donor relations as “something extra” and a “necessary evil” we have to do so we can do our “real ministry.” Instead, view relating with donors…the calls, the letters, cards, emails and visits…as ministry, because it is. When God uses you to encourage someone He is using to fund His work, you are ministering just as much as when He uses you to share the Gospel.
It’s a stewardship issue. God has given you these donors, entrusted them to your care, so take the time to take good care of them. The average station is losing 40% of its donors each year but few of us realize it because they are replaced by a new crop each Sharathon. Imagine how much more money you can raise if you just hang on to some of them. You don’t have to imagine, you can actually retain donors just by making them feel appreciated and connected to what you do. It’s worth your time.
Dear Christian Radio:
- Learn to say “No” to some events
- Conquer endless distractions
- Engage your team as helpers when it comes to interacting with your donors
Vice President, Advocace