I help other stations with their pledge drives today because of the late Lee Geysbeek. Lee was my boss for 12 years (1996-2008), during which time he encouraged his team to help at least one other non-com Christian radio station with their pledge drive annually. When some of us, namely me, pushed back on this, not wanting to burn precious vacation on something other than family, Lee offered us a week off a year, with pay, if we used the time to help another station with their pledge drive. This was obviously a very generous offer on Lee’s part and I believe his thinking behind it was twofold – he truly wanted us to use our knowledge to help other stations, but he also knew that doing so would benefit our own ministry as we’d likely bring back new ideas and hone our skills. Perhaps the same thinking is involved in sending members of your team to events like Momentum; your “Lee” is paying for the experience because there is hopefully value for you and the ministry.
Whether I’m helping at a small stand-alone station or a network, to this day I regularly learn new fundraising ideas and continue to hone my skills. But don’t take my word for it. I reached out to a group of friends who help other stations with their pledge drives. These friends include: Mike Couchman – JOY FM and BOOST, Chris Lemke – WCSG, Heather Erbe – Shine.fm, Brooke Taylor – Joy 99, Jeremiah Beck – The Cross, Peter Brooks – Family Life Radio, and Tracy Leek – Z88.3. I hope you find some of the lessons they’ve learned valuable!
What have you learned by hosting pledge drives on different stations?
Mike Couchman – “I don’t know where to start. Helping outside stations with their pledge drives has kept me sharp and reminded me how important it is to showcase to listeners how they’re making a difference all year. Connecting with air talents you don’t normally see can also get creative juices flowing in new ways, for me and for them. Specific things I’ve learned include:
- The importance of momentum – how to build it and how air talents accidentally kill it without meaning to. Recognize that key moment when the case has been made as best as it can, then move to the ask/close ASAP. Sometimes this means you cut the plan for the break short. There’s a moment in so many fundraising breaks where there’s no need to say anymore, and the longer you linger after that moment, the less impact the break has. Listen for that magical moment when you need to segue to the ask/close. Use hand signals with your co-hosts so that you make that transition smoothly.
- How to not just share a meaningful story, but frame it in a way that maximizes its impact.
- Support the verbal reality. Sometimes we make math (or other) mistakes in the break and then attempt to clean them up in the same break. Chances are 99.9% of your audience didn’t catch the mistake. It’s bad enough that math is done on the air during these events anyhow. Don’t make it worse by trying to fix it. If at all possible, find a way to pivot back to the case and close. Don’t let the mistake bog down the break. Get back on plan. If something has to be corrected for the sake of integrity or whatever, do it in a following break. That way, you and your team have time to simplify the message and possibly even use it to help you make another case.”
Heather Erbe – “I have learned that our way might not be the best way. There are things other stations are doing that make their fundraiser better. Someone might share a story a different way or make a different case. It’s a great opportunity to learn from others who are doing the same thing we are. It’s also been great to be reminded that God is working in all Christian stations. To hear the stories from their listeners encourages me to keep doing what God has called me to do. I have also built relationships with members of these other stations and have been able to pray for them and support them throughout the year. Looking outside ourselves to help others; that’s always a good thing.”
Jeremiah Beck – “When I first started traveling as a contract fundraiser for ShareMedia (now Dunham+Company) I hoped to both help the stations I was working with, and learn from them while I was on-site. Critical thinking skills and problem solving are put to the test when you’re on the road, and you’re being looked to as the person who can lead collaboration or make the right decisions under pressure.”
Tracy Leek – “Hosting pledge drives at other radio stations has given me a true appreciation for Christian radio. By fundraising for other stations, I got a much broader view of the impact of Christian radio across the country. You realize we are all working toward the same goal and that’s to make Jesus known :- ) It’s challenging stepping outside the comfort zone of your home station. You tend to get used to doing things the same way all the time because it’s comfortable. Walking into a new setting and fundraising with a new team keeps you sharp and really tuned into what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Chris Lemke – “The experience I’ve received in hosting other station fundraisers helped me grasp a better understanding that there’s more than one way to raise funds. I’ve learned a lot when assisting other stations, and the passion for what I do at my own station is often increased. I sincerely believe your team members would say the same thing when they’re encouraged to, as time allows, help other stations.”
Brooke Taylor – “I think the thing I’ve learned is that telling stories is the key to opening hearts and fists. Not just stories about the needs of those we’re raising funds for, but stories about God’s goodness. How he blesses those who give and provides every need so there’s plenty left-over to share! (2 Corinthians 9:8) I’ve done fundraisers where the hosts try to manipulate or guilt listeners into giving. I don’t believe that motivates listeners as well as giving them a story they can relate to. A story that shows them how God will bless their gift, not that God will be mad at them if they don’t give.”
Peter Brooks – “Hosting pledge drives at other stations has taught me:
- The importance of the local station’s air talent connecting with their audience. Some talent are not comfortable doing on-air fund raising – but they can relate to their audience in a way no outside talent can. They may not be proficient in doing ‘an ask’ but they can tell stories about station events, calls they’ve had with listeners, etc. that illustrate the station’s impact on lives and communities served.
- The power of telling stories that illustrate the need and the importance of the listener’s involvement.
- Words or phrases that freshened up some of the ones we had been using for a long time.
- The impact and importance of great production elements.”
Has what you’ve learned at outside pledge drives benefitted your home station?
Mike Couchman – “One thing I love about going to another station’s pledge drive is learning their style of making the case. No two stations do things exactly alike, and there’s always a new approach worth taking back and adapting. Hearing how another station uses listener stories also helps me keep my ears and eyes open for our own listener stories that I might have otherwise overlooked.”
Heather Erbe – “Absolutely. It’s made me a better on-air host, it’s given me more confidence on air and has broadened my experience.”
Tracy Leek – “Every station has their unique touch on fundraising and each time I open the mic, I learn and grow. That has allowed me to broaden my approach when I return to my home station. Also, you get better at it the more you do it.”
Chris Lemke – “I think, when we encourage and enable our staff to work with other stations, we all benefit from that process. Our station has implemented ideas from other stations that have proven to be immeasurably beneficial to us in our efforts.”
Peter Brooks – “Sometimes what I took away was a reminder of the effectiveness of ‘best practices’ I had previously learned and either seen or in a few cases, not seen exhibited. One station I helped had staff calling NEW donors back while the event was continuing and/or immediately after to thank them. That was a great follow up touch that I brought back with me.”
Do you think GMs and PDs should encourage their talent to help at other pledge drives?
Jeremiah Beck – “General Managers and Program Directors would be wise to consider offering these types of opportunities to their on-air teams. Biblically, we know ‘iron sharpens iron,’ but here’s an additional thought. When I sold insurance, in order to retain our license, we had to submit to ‘continuing education’ training – keeping us up to date on the current trends, legislative changes, product lines, technology, etc. Radio stations that host fundraisers (either as a form of station funding or for non-profit partners) would be wise to adopt this mindset. The creative ideas, tactics and strategies that can be learned from other stations’ leadership and on-air teams, as well as working alongside fellow fundraisers, should be considered invaluable. When your employees return, ideally, they’ll return with fresh ideas, experiences, and wisdom that can benefit your station in a variety of on-air (and behind the scenes) ways.”
Heather Erbe – “Yes, absolutely. We can support each other in the Christian radio industry by stepping up and helping. I am thankful I get to help other stations. We all should continue to grow in our craft; this is one way we can do that.”
Tracy Leek – “I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit another station and jump in to help with their fundraiser….you will learn and grow and they will too.”
Chris Lemke – “When a team member has the opportunity to help another station, I highly encourage it. Each member of our team has a lot to offer, and when they help others we also benefit from their experience. Pooled knowledge and experience like this helps everyone grow. Allowing your team members to invest in what they love to do only makes sense.”
Peter Brooks – “I think having announcers be involved with other station’s pledge drives is similar to sending them to a conference like Momentum. At those events you learn things in some of the sessions – but often your best practices are being confirmed/affirmed. Usually you come away with a couple of ‘nuggets’ to take home and apply and often those ideas come from just talking with other broadcasters – ‘picking their brains’. Similar results can occur when an air talent helps at another pledge drive.”
Rich Anderson is ready to help you with your next pledge drive, or any fundraising need, for about half the price of the big firms. Rich got his Christian radio start over 30 years ago at the legendary AM 1000 WCFL-Chicago and 103.9 WCRM-Dundee. Rich served as PD/afternoon drive at WJQK-Holland, co-hosted mornings at WMUZ-Detroit, and later started and managed WAYK/WAYG (Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids) while also on mornings. Rich has traveled the country serving major donors for Kids Alive International and conducting radio drives for ShareMedia Services (now Dunham+Company). Rich has a heart for service and has organized and led 17 mission teams to nine third-world countries. Currently Rich consults Smile FM, Michigan’s largest Christian radio network, on all things fundraising – and he’d love to help you too! He can be reached at [email protected] or 269-548-7700.