Todd Isberner “How to Guarantee You Will Hit Your Next On-Air Fundraiser Goal”

Published On October 2, 2016 » 785 Views»

todd_isbernerHere is my recommendation on how to hit your on-air fundraiser goal next time:

Simple … Lower your goal!

Believe it or not some stations are actually lowering their on-air fundraising goals so that the goals are easier to reach. If that’s you, it’s probably not the best solution to raising the funds you need.

if your goal is your total budgeted need and you are able to cut budget and operate on less, then yes, by all means, lower your goal.

If however, your goal is NOT your total budgeted need, whether that be for six months or a year … then it would be misleading to give your listeners a lower goal than what you actually need to operate.  

Yes of course it appears that reaching your goal on the air makes everyone feel good.  But who is everyone? You and your staff and your volunteers? Undoubtedly a feel good there.

What about the listeners? Maybe. But only if you promote it heavily after the event (since only a very small percentage would be tuned in when you actually finish the event on air.)

And if you do give your fundraiser lots of post event promotion on your web site, social media and on-air promos, you are assuring your listeners the goal has been met. Which would mean to them, the job is finished and nothing more is needed.

But then what? If your on-air fundraiser goal was met but your budgeted NEED was NOT reached what do you communicate to your listeners when the well starts running dry?

Maybe lowering the “goal” is not such a good idea. But before making any decisions about how to determine your goal, let’s look more in depth at defining on-air fundraiser goals.

There are basically three ways of determining on-air fundraising goals:

  1. A “portion” of the overall budgeted financial need.          

This is a designated amount of money expected to be raised during the on-air campaign that represents the entire financial budgeted need for the next 6 months or year

For example, if your overall annual budgeted need is $1 million from donor revenue and there are several “off-air” fundraising campaigns planned for the year such as direct mail, web pushes, call-outs, major donors, special events, etc. and each one has separate fundraising goals, then the on-air portion of your fundraising, would represent a percentage of the overall need.

So for example, you raise a total of $200,000 of your $1 million through the “off-air” fundraising campaigns, you would have an $800,000 on-air fundraising need. If you have two on-air fundraisers a year, then your goal could be $400,000. per event.

One of our clients, Hope 103.2, is brilliant at carving out the specifics of what we can help them raise through off-air fundraising campaigns throughout the year. Direct mail, email, major donors, social media and special events are all accounted for and factored in when setting the six month on-air appeal goals. The result is that over the last 3 years the on-air goals have been exceeded meaning the apportioned need has been exceeded.  

  1. The “total” overall budgeted financial need.

This is the total donor share revenue required to cover all the operational expenses for the next 6 months or year. If you do NOT raise any additional funding from “off-air” campaigns, then this approach brings greater challenges and pressure.

In fairness to your listeners, you would benefit from total transparency and present the actual total amount needed for the next six months or year. So if your annual budgeted listener share need is $1 million then your goal should be $1 million. Or $500,000 if you have semi-annual fundraisers.  

  1.  Whatever amount you “feel” or “believe” you can raise.

Often times this is based on looking back at what was raised during the last event and lowering the ampunt if the goal wasn’t reached. Or increasing it if it was. But this arbitrary way of setting a goal is unreliable and untrue to actual budgeted need.

Or maybe there is an amount you believe God wants you to go after as your goal. Absolutely possible. And if so, it will likely be in line with a percentage of your listeners who typically give. But this only works if you have the numbers to support the expectation.

Years ago I had a station ask us to come help with their fundraiser because they needed to raise $250,000. I asked a few questions including how long have you been on the air and what’s the population in the coverage area. Ready for this? On the air for 3 months with a pop count of 30,000 people. We passed.

It would seem apparent that the amount of funding raised is in direct proportion to a certain percentage of cume audience (primarily P1’s) who donate.  Over the past 20 years or so we’ve seen the listener response range from 2.5% to 7%.  On average however, it hovers around 5% of your cume that responds to your on-air fundraiser.

To the degree that percentage of response holds up for you, then when you determine your goal, based on your growing financial needs, you want to be certain at least 1 of 4 things is occurring.

  1. Your cume audience is growing
  2. Your P1’s are increasing.
  3. Your response rate increases
  4. Your average gift size is increasing

Any increases (or decreases) in those areas will have a direct correlation to how much funding can be raised.

So based on what you know, good idea or bad idea to lower your goal?  

Your decision will help determine your overall funding strategy and will affect both the short term and long term financial health of your radio station and the ministry you will have.

If you’d like to discuss this further or have a specific question about determining your fundraiser goal, you can call email me or one of our consultants. We’ll be happy to help you.

Setting goals intentionally will take the guesswork out of your next fundraiser and help you be true to your need and honest and transparent with your listeners.


Todd Isberner is ShareMedia Co-Founder & President. With over three decades of experience, Todd has become the country’s leading expert in broadcast fundraising. He is sought after as a fundraising consultant, on-air host, and radio talent fundraising coach. Todd has published numerous articles for religious radio publications, taught workshops, held fundraising schools, conducted teleseminars and webinars, and led educational forums both nationally and internationally. He and his teams have brought their positive, ministry-centered approach to hundreds of radio stations throughout the country, producing over 3,000 broadcast fundraisers and over $1 billion raised for ministry.

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