The other day I was engaged in a group chat with Christian music pioneer Matthew Ward from 2nd Chapter of Acts. Matthew saw a comment asking him, “How do you keep things fresh when you perform the same songs night after night?”
Matthew’s response was, “Even though the songs I perform are mostly the same, I know the audience is NOT the same as the one I played for the night before or the one before that.”
I think there is something we can learn from this.
Matthew or any other artist has a totally new audience each night, so the challenge isn’t in the performance, but considering it from the audience’s perspective.
Think about how often we turn over a radio audience. Perhaps it’s 8, 10, 15 minutes at best for the vast majority of those listening. So you have a new audience three times an hour. Sometimes we try too hard to keep it fresh when in reality your audience has never even heard what you’re saying. The challenge is NOT how to keep it fresh, but learning how to SOUND as though it’s the first time you’ve said it.
So many times we feel that hundreds of listener stories or comments are needed during our fundraiser, but that’s simply not the case. My good friend and former boss Todd Isberner says, “Quality trumps quantity,” so I would much rather have two dozen amazing life-change stories than hundreds of mediocre ones. Your audience is turning over frequently, so stick with the best of the best.
Consider the thought process you use for your music rotation. You wouldn’t want 1,200 “okay” songs in rotation. You choose the best 100 or so songs to play. You want to make sure each time your listener tunes in they hear a hit.
The same goes for stories and pitches that work for fundraising. When you play or share a story, make sure it’s a hit. Even if a listener hears the same story twice in a day, it’s no big deal. Your listeners don’t say, “I already heard that song today, what’s going on?” No, they love that song. So don’t worry if your listener has heard the story or pitch before. Learn how to make it sound like it’s the first time you’ve ever shared the story or played the listener comment. Resist the temptation of getting tired of the same messages and appeals. The audience won’t get tired if you keep it sounding fresh.
Here are three tips for overcoming boredom on air…
1.) Plan your breaks before opening the mic.
2.) Get creative and figure out how to say the same thing but in a different way. Be entertaining as you do this.
3.) Get the mindset that this is the first time the listener has heard your story or pitch.
I hope your fundraising season goes really well in 2020. I look forward to seeing many of you while I am out on the road. If I can ever do anything for you, please hit me up at Bill@VidareCreative.com.
Happy fundraising this Spring!
On the surface, it’s counterintuitive: decrease your station’s income in order to increase it? Look a little deeper, and it makes perfect sense.
It was probably 25 years ago. A group of us were taking a quick tour through a commercial Christian station. I had been looking forward to learning about their mission and as a young broadcaster was taken back by mission statement language that went something like this:
“Our mission is to serve our business advertisers by providing them an audience of listeners to help them sell their products and services.”
The concept took a minute to absorb. I had always worked in non-profit radio where our focus was on serving our listeners directly, but it made sense, it was their business model.
What’s your business model? How does your mission statement direct you?
When coming to WGTS 91.9 a year ago, I remembered that station visit years earlier. It didn’t take long to decide that in the Nation’s Capital, market #7, we would serve our listeners first–putting them above other considerations. We dove into what this would mean, how it would change our on-air content. We studied the demographics of our listening area: audience growth potential, the income level of the counties we served and more.
Over a 6-month period, we removed for-profit businesses from the on-air product, offering them the opportunity to put their business on our website as a supporter of WGTS 91.9. We would do this when they make a $100 per month recurring donation.
We also cut the spot opportunities for non-profit entities to 2 per hour and made 30 seconds the standard length. We increased the rate significantly as well, which thinned the number of sponsors and allowed the content of those that remained to really stand out.
Most importantly of all–we run everything that goes on the air through a filter: “Is this in the best interest of our listeners? Would they want to hear about this?”
Of course, there are exceptions, but they are rare, and all exceptions must go up the ladder for approval.
By the end of 2013, our broadcast was significantly cleaner of spot interruptions, which meant more music and more talent connection opportunities.
We had removed all of the for-profit business announcements (traffic sponsors continued until the contract with the provider ended at which time those ceased as well), changed the clocks, allowing only one spot per break; 2 breaks per hour, changed entirely how we wrote and styled the non-profit entity spots that continued so they would be listener-focused and rich with listener-valued content (mostly concerts, churches, Christian schools, and special events), evaluated our own “station business,” minimizing it through spots; promoting more through social media, website and talent talk.
The direction we took was affirmed by our listeners in their actual giving when in May of 2014 our Spring Fundraiser ended 39% higher than a year earlier and our Fall Fundraiser in mid-September saw similar impressive results.
Intentionally running every programming and promotion decision through the listener-focus filter has helped us make better decisions—including–killing our business underwriting program.
I encourage all station leaders to get your team together and ask tough questions. Perhaps a change would benefit your listeners–and your station. Perhaps you’ll land on something totally different than we did, but I challenge you–make the tough decisions; it’s why you are entrusted with a leadership position. Pursue strategic, intentional, transformational change.
As most of you know, I’ve been doing fundraisers for decades. I’ve been a part of over 700 fundraising events over the years.
I have seen more than once, a radio station that had determined how their listeners should give. They decided what the pure way for them to give was and the supposed “right way.” Let me tell you why I find that really odd. Can you imagine a Music Director telling the Program Director that the music will now be chosen on the principle of what they felt the listener needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear? How effective do you think your programming would be? Let’s face it, your audience would become smaller by the day. That is not how you program, instead you research what your listeners like, you have them tested on the songs you are playing and perhaps the ones you are about to add. The last thing you want is to be playing music that caused your listeners to change the dial.
We all laugh about the idea of choosing music that our listeners “need” to hear but at the same time we program our fundraisers and tell the listeners how they ought to give and then get frustrated when we don’t see the results that we had hoped for. Let me give you a couple of examples, but first, let me ask you this question: What do you think the number one reason a listener will call and give is? If you said a great story, changed lives, to reach their community, because of the music, etc., you would be wrong. The number one reason a listener will make that call is because of an incentive. Ok, before you stop reading, hear me out. The number one reason a listener decides to give is because of a great story, but for the majority of them to call, it takes incentives. We often confuse the reason to give and the reason to call. They are not the same thing! Often we convince our listeners that they should give with an amazing story and yet they don’t call because you haven’t closed the deal yet. This is where a great incentive comes in. Remember your audience is dealing with traffic, kids in the back seat, cell phones, texting, and the list goes on. Yes, you convinced them to give but calling now seems to be problematic so they decide to do it later and yet we all know the rabbit trails we all encounter in life and then we forget to follow through. If you have a great incentive you’ll find that not only will they decide to give because of your story, but they will also follow through with a call at that same moment.
I have heard the argument that a station doesn’t want to buy their listener’s donations. That is absolutely crazy. Do you honestly think someone will give you $20 a month for your $5 t-shirt? They could find an amazing t-shirt for a $240 gift, so do you think your audience will give you $40 a month for a chance to win a trip? Your listener has decided already that giving to your station is the right thing and your incentive convinces them to give at that very moment.
I will be so bold to say, show me a station who doesn’t use incentives, prizes, challenges, matches, deadlines and I’ll show you a station that is leaving money on the table. I can hear someone say, but Bill, we have trained our listeners to give only when there is a match or an incentive. Have you ever thought that this is the way that they love to give? That they want to get involved during an exciting time, that this is what breaks through all the clutter of their day so they make your station a priority? Why do you so badly want to tell your listener how to give as opposed to what works for them and what motivates them?
I had a good friend call me on this exact topic a while back. They hadn’t hit their goal in the last 7 years. They wanted a break down on why and how stations are using incentives. I explained everything I have written in this article with them. My friend decided to give it a try and the results were amazing. I spoke with my friend a few weeks later only to find out they hit 110 percent of their goal.
At the end of the day, you need a deadline, great urgency and an unbelievable opportunity for listeners to give. Listeners need to know if they give now, their giving can have a greater impact then both your station and the listener wins!
You’ve heard about data breaches at Target, Yahoo, Equifax, and others. How many letters and Life Lock alerts have you received about somewhere you’ve shopped or provided with your payment info? They invested in security precautions and were sure it couldn’t happen to them. Until it did.
The volunteers who help answer phones for your fundraiser are listeners so they must follow Jesus and trustworthy. Right? But what if they aren’t? All it takes is one person with the wrong motives and your ministry could be the next.
Before you run screaming from the station and set your hair on fire, there are steps you can take to protect your ministry no matter what the size.
Secure personnel. Require a criminal background check for volunteers who take pledges and payment info. If a questionable report comes back, tell them that while you and Jesus love and forgive them, your bank is not as gracious – tell them thanks but no thanks. NOTE: Consider paying your phone people. We don’t pay much but find they are more reliable and invested in providing a quality experience for our donors when they are paid. If they don’t work out, we can (and do) gently “release” them. The ROI for this extra expense has been a higher percentage of credit card gifts, cleaner data, and improved fulfillment.
Secure your phone room. No pens, pencils or paper. No cell phones, tablets, cameras or recording devices. We have hooks for purses and bins for those OUTSIDE of the phone room. No Facebook live or videos from your phone room!
Secure computers. We use basic computers to take pledges but position the screens so they can’t be seen from outside windows. They don’t have USB or CD drives. They’re wired to the internet and locked down to our donor software site. Phone people can’t Google, check Facebook or any other internet activity!
Secure paper files. It’s harder to ensure someone is not making copies of payment info when using paper forms. Have staff closely supervise the phone room at all times watching for misconduct. Written forms need to be securely stored and then later destroyed.
Security beyond your pledge drive/Sharathon. Faxes, emails, or attachments with payment information – even transmitting scans of checks – put you at risk. Make sure communications with payment info are encrypted and password protected. Lock desks, file cabinets, and offices where personal and payment info is stored.
Don’t store donor payment info. Not on paper, in a spreadsheet or in your donor software. If your vendor does store that info, make sure they provide written assurance that they are PCI compliant.
Become PCI (Payment Card Industry) Compliant. Any organization (including yours) that allows credit card payments is subject to PCI standards for accepting, storing, processing and transmitting payment data. They will question how you do things! Do you have written records? How are they secured? Is payment info stored on your donor system? Is it encrypted? Who has access? How secure is your network? If you need help, there are vendors who can assist you with your assessment. NOTE: There are stiff penalties for non-compliance if you have a breach. Your merchant account could be terminated or your transaction fees increased.
Consider Cyber Liability Insurance to protect your ministry if you experience a failure to secure personal information.
Johanna Antes is Director of Support for Radio Training Network. RTN is a family of listener-supported Christian stations in NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, and MO.
It’s amazing how many people who live in the non-profit world hate asking for money. I have heard while visiting stations that, “fundraising is the necessary evil that we have to do in order to keep our station on the air.” So I guess in their eye the means justify the end. If this is your attitude, you have already lost the battle for fundraising.
I think that some don’t like asking for money because they don’t like taking from people. Can I make a case that I actually believe that you are helping those who give? I often look at a fundraiser as a worship leader. We are leading our listeners in an act of worship. Giving from the heart is worship.
There are many that call your station and give and for some, it’s the first time they have ever given to a ministry of any kind. You have helped them take a step in their spiritual walk. They will begin to experience the blessings of making a gift and how God blesses them for doing that. You might have unlocked the area of giving for them. Perhaps they will start giving to their church and other worthy organizations.
How many times have you heard, the experience of giving last year was so amazing, that I just wanted to call back and increase my gift? You didn’t take anything from them, you actually gave them something.
I was watching Undercover Millionaire the other day. A man and daughter went undercover to live in the poorest section of town. They volunteered at non-profit organizations that helped the poor and homeless. At the end of the show, the man worth millions talked about how he had his money, toys, and a nice home but volunteering helping the poor and giving over $250,000 to the non-profits he was working at, made him the happiest ever. He said writing those checks and volunteering was perhaps the best thing he had ever done and would continue to do it from that point on. Nobody took from him and his daughter as a matter of fact they led his family to a better place.
The Bible says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
I am sounding like a broken record but you are bringing those who are giving to your station to a better place. There is no need to feel awkward. If your station is encouraging those listening and walking life with them, then you are worth supporting and I would never apologize for that.
This Spring ask boldly and I think you’ll be surprised at the awesome response you’ll receive.
I heard someone say the other day that small gifts are not needed during a pledge drive. All gifts are needed from everyone in your audience.
Now, there are certain gifts that last longer. For example, some stations have found those who do a $1000 gift will be a part of supporting the radio station longer than those who do $10 a month. While this is true, you still want to open the door for smaller gifts.
When I am on-site with a client helping with their pledge drive, we find a core ask. Often we find that $1 a day is the most popular giving level. That works wonders in your event having a core ask and perhaps something tied to that ask. Recently, a client had a ministry partner, if a donor gave $1 a day, it not only kept the radio station on the air but sent food, shoes, water or whatever the ministry partner was adding into the pledge. Listeners love to know their gift is going further and having a bigger impact. With that said, you still open the door for other gifts, larger and smaller. If you were to listen to one of our drives, you would hear something like, “The dollar a day gift is the most popular giving level. Not only are you supporting your station but you are sending (What the ministry partner was adding in) to a family in need. However, if you are unable to do a dollar a day, do your best gift.”
Always leave the door open for larger and smaller gifts. At the end of the day, the Bible makes a big deal about the widow’s mite:
Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all! (Luke 21:1-4, The Message)
We don’t want to stop people from doing their best gifts. It’s true if you don’t have a core ask, you’ll find people will gravitate toward a smaller gift, not because they cannot afford more but it’s just human nature for many of us. Have a core ask, that will help your average gift, ask for leadership giving, people are ready to do that as well. I would encourage you to also open the door for smaller gifts. I don’t actually say on the air that I am looking for listeners to give $10 a month but I do say, if you cannot do the core ask, please do whatever God has placed on your heart, do your best gifts. Often some of the biggest sacrifices that are made for your station, comes in the form of a very small gift and yet it may be the most extravagant give you receive all year long.
Don’t steal the blessing from someone who can only do a smaller gift for your station. Happy fundraising
As a fundraiser, I get great joy out of typing these words: “free money”. I am amazed at how many radio stations do not do a year-end event.
As I travel I often hear: “our staff is chilling during the holidays”, “our staff has worked hard all year long”, or “our listeners don’t want another fundraising event”, among others. My response? Yes, your staff has worked hard, but they also work for a non-profit station and this is one of the things that must be done in order to keep the ministry strong. Only 3 percent of your listeners ever give, so there is room for growth, and it’s amazing how many of your listeners miss your fundraising event. How many times have you finished your pledge drive and someone comes up and says something like “Oh! I had no idea you did your pledge drive.” Trust me your listeners don’t listen to radio the way we dream they do, or should.
The fact is that many people during December are giving away free money, and all we have to do is catch it. Yes, I realize there is work involved, but one that pays big dividends to the radio station.
Here are 12 interesting facts about year-end fundraising.
- Nearly one-third of annual giving occurs in December.
- 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.
- Over 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end appeal in October.
- November 46% and December 30% are the most popular giving months for making year-end asks, but 7.7% of ORGS start as early as September.
- 28% of nonprofits raise between 26-50% of their annual funds from their year-end ask.
- Almost 60% of nonprofits make between 1-3 donor “touches” for their year-end campaign.
- Direct mail is the most popular medium for year-end asks, followed by email, ORG website, and in-person asks.
- The biggest giving day of the year is December 31st.
- $48 Billion is donated to nonprofits in November and December each year.
- 53% of larger first-time gifts are made by donors in December than by donors who start their giving at another time of year.
- 70% will donate through multiple channels. Because 7 out of 10 Americans will donate through multiple media, utilized a multi-channel outreach approach for end-of-year donations.
- 64% of all donations are made by women.
I love what Mobile Cause listed as the top four primary reasons donors give over the holidays:
- To be happier by helping others
- To feel good about themselves by making a difference
- To be connected to something positive
- To take advantage of tax deductions
I asked, Dave Stephens, Development Director at the River in Columbus, and BJ Oneal, Chief Development Officer at WAY FM, to weigh in on why they find a year-end event so important to their ministry.
“Nationally, nearly 1/3 of charitable giving occurs in the month of December. We believe that an intentional year-end fundraising strategy is an opportunity to bring onboard new listeners and encourage existing supporters while they are already thinking about giving. At our station we have also partnered with the local Salvation Army to provide Christmas dinners to local families in need. So for us, year-end Fundraising is a way to partner with River listeners to feed both souls and mouths in our community.” – Dave Stephens, The River
Fundraising at the end of the year is more critical than ever before. Because of analytics, we see with better clarity that people more and more purposely budget to give at the end of the year. The obvious – they are in a giving mood, but more important, they are looking for the places to support that they identify with. That’s great news especially for faith-based organizations where giving is apart of the fabric of our faith. We should make EOY fundraising as easy and smooth as possible because people are ready! – BJ Oneal, WAY FM
I do a few year-end events and it amazes me how many people are ready to give, they are just looking for the right place to make their donation. I love the fact that because it’s a year-end event and a single ask, 99% of what is raised is in your bank account within a few days.
It’s helpful to find a ministry partner to go with the year-end ask. For example, I have one client who has tied their year-end ask to a local food bank so families in their area could have food for Christmas. It was a one-two punch. The station tied the ministry partner to a certain level of giving. Example: each $100 gift or $365 gift also released food for Christmas to a family in need in their community and kept their station on the air.
I would look at what a year-end event would look like for your station. I would also run promo’s, a social media marketing campaign, and have your website set up for donations on December 31st as well.
At the end of the day, it’s free money for those who are ready to receive it.