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Todd Isberner “The “Secret” to Successful Fundraising”

What if you could unlock the secret to fundraising and it would eliminate all the guesswork on which strategies to use?

You would think that after 43 years, hosting over 1,200 on-air fundraisers for hundreds of Christian radio stations, that I might have tapped into a secret or two about fundraising.

I was asked to share those “secrets” with the air talent from all the Northwestern Media stations at their “Northie” Gathering. As I prepared, I initially drilled down on some of the best strategies we used over the years. But then God interrupted me. He reminded me that there is something more important than the “strategies.”

There is only one main “secret” to making everything else work. 

Here it is. TELL THE TRUTH!

Yeah I know, kind of seems obvious but let’s look at what that really means when it comes to your next fundraiser.

There are three areas in which we must tell the truth.

  1. Tell the truth to YOURSELF. Your self talk reveals your mindset. It will tell what you think, believe and feel about fundraisers and your role. Be honest with yourself. Fundraising isn’t easy, and negative self-talk can sabotage your efforts. If you think “I hate fundraising!” or “I suck at this,”  or  “Listeners tune out: nobody listens,”  you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Research from Coleman Insights revealed that while audience numbers do drop during pledge drives, the impact isn’t as dire as we might think. For example, Average Quarter Hour (AQH) only drops by 20% on average. This means many listeners remain engaged, contradicting the myth that everyone tunes out.

And why do some listeners tune out? It’s often because they miss the music or feel the fundraising appeal isn’t directed at them. But the majority of the ones who do listen are your P1’s and they are your donor base. Studies have shown that if they don’t give it’s because they can’t afford it, it never occurred to them, they didn’t know the station needed funds, or they support other causes. So you can de-myth the belief that it’s all up to you to have to talk them into giving.

Get rid of the negative self-talk and transform your mindset with the truth. Believe that fundraising is a God-given opportunity and that you’re talented and gifted at this task. See yourself as a coach rather than a salesman, helping listeners who want to give. Be authentic, transparent, and real. Listeners trust you when you’re honest and genuine.

  1. Tell the truth to your LISTENERS.

My mentor and founder of on-air fundraisers, Mel Johnson, always reminded me that fundraising is about people, not just money. Listeners want to know what you need, why you need it, and how their contribution makes a difference. Provide proof, make it fun, and use listener stories to create emotional connections.

Research from a project involving 5,000 surveys across eight CCM stations and two networks showed that the highest-rated appeals were those featuring listener comments. Emotional responses triggered by stories inspire and motivate giving.

We also did research to find out the effectiveness of incentives in generating response. Things like giveaways, prize drawings, match challenges, short term goals and deadlines all proved to drive higher response rates. Bottom line is listeners need triggers to take action. While stories win hearts, incentives prompt immediate response.

However, the truth is, when things don’t go our way, we might resort to manipulation. Here are four common categories:

  1. Listener Stories: Exaggerating or distorting stories for more emotion.
  2. Match Challenges: Making things up about the donor, or the amount left to match or the time remaining.
  3. Prize Drawings: Over-exaggerating the value and “bribing them into giving.
  4. Progress Updates: Stretching the truth about time and amount left. Fudging the numbers.

These can all become “gimmicks” and that is an unkind and often dis-honest way to treat your listeners. The truth is your listeners who want to give, deserve and need your honesty and integrity especially when it comes to asking them for money.

  1. Tell the truth about GOD.

Where does He fit in on your fundraiser? Or rather where do you fit in with His plans for your fundraiser? Fundraising isn’t just a financial necessity; it’s a spiritual act. Remember, it all belongs to Him and it’s all for Him. Seriously.

Get that one right and then you will find yourself more intentionally putting God in the center of your fundraising. It starts with sincere prayer and worship. Pray with your team, pray before going on air, and keep God at the center of each one of your appeals. Ask Him what He wants for your listeners who can give.

Here are a few good biblical principles that you can model after. Exodus 35, offerings were brought by those whose “hearts were stirred.”  Generosity was  celebrated in 1 Chronicles 29, where King David’s people rejoiced in giving for the temple.  Paul used role models when he wrote about the Macedonian givers in 2 Cor 8. And Jesus gave an example of showing honor and appreciation when he acknowledged the widow’s mite in Luke 21.

The truth is if you keep God in the center of your appeals, your listeners will be better able to follow His lead. You give it your best and then trust God for the outcome.

The key to successful fundraising is simple: TELL THE TRUTH!

Be honest with yourself about your capabilities and mindset, connect genuinely with your listeners, and keep God at the center of your efforts. Embrace a positive mindset, use authentic stories to engage listeners, and trust in God’s plan. Do so and you will elevate your fundraising efforts and your ministry will make a lasting impact on your listeners.

Now retired from fundraising, Todd draws from his years of experience in training, consulting and coaching, and devotes his time to mentoring men along their journey of faith. He is author of the book, “What Every Man Needs to Know.” 

Todd and wife, Wendie also co-host their podcast: Your Biggest Breakthrough.

More at ToddIsberner.com  and https://yourbiggestbreakthrough.com/podcast/

Email: todd@toddisberner.com

3 thoughts on “Todd Isberner “The “Secret” to Successful Fundraising”

  • Love this. Especially the part about giveaways, matches etc. It seems odd that some Christian stations “fake it”
    Fundraising is hard and frustrating. …but God

  • Great perspective! I’ve always loved Todd’s authenticity and this speaks to that plainly and clearly. We should not be afraid to tell the truth. And by the way… Jesus told us that if He was lifted up, He would draw everyone to Him. He was, and He does. I believe we should continue to lift Him up during our fundraisers, just like we do the other 50 weeks of the year.


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