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Bill Scott “Your Worse Fundraising Mistake”

As most of you know, I’ve been doing fundraisers for decades.  I’ve been a part of over 800 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 calls 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 listeners 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 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!


Bill Scott has over 30 years of experience as an on-air talent at stations like WCIE, The JOY FM, WAY FM, has produced five syndicated radio programs and has hosted about 700 broadcast fundraising events helping stations and organizations fund their ministries. You can reach Bill via email at bill@billscottgroup.com