Local Christian Radio is Still Changing Lives.

Jerry Grimes Picture

Dear Christian Radio,

You and I have one huge thing in common:  We both believe local Christian radio is still changing lives.

With smart phones, Pandora and Spotify, on-line listening and the aggressiveness of networks wiping out local stations, it feels like local radio is under attack.  It feels like some people don’t believe in what you do any more.  But I still do, and you do, too.

The question is, how can we keep it going?  Sharathon income has become notoriously unstable.  Many stations are doing more on-air fundraising just to bring in the same dollars.  Most station budgets have been flat for years.  And the sluggishness in income growth couldn’t come at a worse time.  Stations need to do more marketing, more outreach and invest in new technologies to stay relevant like never before.

That’s why in addition to being passionate about what you do, I also feel like I’m on a mission from God. I want local Christian radio to not just survive, I want it to thrive.  And I have a three part plan to help every local station, whether they choose to work with me or Advocace or not.  Here it is:

  1. Grow your income streams.  Your Sharathon is great.  I ran a station that didn’t do one and when I was there, we raised more than a million dollars a year without disrupting programming for a single minute.  That doesn’t work for everyone, but it shows the power of alternate income streams you probably aren’t tapping or at least not exploiting like you could.  Direct mail, email, text to give, on-line giving, major gift fundraising, events and planned giving need to be part of the mix.  That’s the science.  The art of it all is carefully analyzing your unique local landscape to determine which income streams can be maximized in your situation.
  2. Get serious about marketing.  Most stations have a part-time promotion person or none at all. Because the other radio stations in your market are owned by the likes of Clear Channel and Cumulus, you have a golden opportunity.  Get hyper local with your marketing.  Form strong partnerships with community organizations, churches, even local government.  Raise up an army of listeners who will volunteer with you to make a difference where you live.  Earn a reputation as the people who show up, help out and get things done.  It’s not just about promoting things on-air.  You have to get your hands dirty and create experiences in real life.
  3. Make donors feel like the most important people in the world.  The average station loses 60% of its donors every year.  No, seriously.  I’ve looked at the research, done the math and had others check it because math is certainly not my strong suit.  More than HALF of the donors who are giving to you RIGHT NOW won’t give again next year!  It’s like a big hole in the bottom of the bucket that is draining away your income!  Keep more donors, raise more money.  You do that by excelling at two big things most stations (and non-profits) are getting wrong, according to donor research.  First, properly thanking donors.  Your gift receipt alone won’t cut through the clutter.  They don’t feel thanked.  Make being appreciated an EXPERIENCE.  Secondly, report results.  Tell them plainly, loudly and often what you did with the money.

Local Christian radio is changing lives.  People are coming to Christ.  We are seeing believers grow in their faith by listening to the powerful songs we all love to play.  We need to be here doing more of what we do for a long time so more lives can be changed.  And I believe we can be, if we will just take a step back and realize the opportunities before us.  Doing it the same old way doesn’t work anymore.  Doing it with more passion and more precision will change the game in our favor.

Dear Christian Radio,

  1. Check your income.  Are you doing something to grow income in each of the streams listed above? Which ones should you maximize and how?
  2. Check your service.  Do you have station volunteers?  How could you add them?  What projects would do the most good and produce the most impact for your station?
  3. Check your gratitude.  Are you super-serving listeners, but ignoring donors?  How can you thank and report results more effectively?

 

Jerry Grimes, CFRE

Vice President

Advocace

2 Comments
  • David Morrison
    Posted at 17:03h, 08 January Reply

    This “white paper” speaks eloquently and concisely to marketing and funding. But it omits significant mention of programming, especially to the interests of the listeners and the local churches. Further, I think it overlooks a significant opportunity in the future, leaning more toward broadcasting as compared to the present narrowcasting toward a too tightly restricted target. Finally, I am becoming increasingly bored with stations telling me how great they are, as opposed to showing me how creative and essential to my life they can be.

  • Dave Burdue
    Posted at 13:00h, 11 January Reply

    Great tips! Thank you, Jerry!

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