I am blessed to be able to do something that very few radio guys are able to do and that is visit a radio station just about every week. Share Media has contracted me out to be part of their team of experts on fundraising for the past twenty plus years. During that time I have been to about 600 fundraisers at 100 different stations.
Working along so many radio stations on a regular basis, I am able to pick up a perspective that very few ever get. I have the chance to watch what these stations do on-air, promotions, fundraising, events etc… I get to see what works and what doesn’t work.
I was sitting at home one night when a friend from a large radio station called me. He began the conversation with, “What’s wrong with our station.” I was a little taken back by the forwardness of the call. He continued to say, I don’t think we have a Sharathon problem but we have a performance issue throughout the year. He is correct. Sharathon is the time to harvest what you have planted. If you haven’t planted or planted the right seed, you won’t be able to harvest much. Sharathon isn’t the time you use to convince people to give, that should have been done a long time ago. The biggest frustration for this station was, they had tripled their cume over the last five years and yet their Sharathons remained the same and perhaps went down some. I shared with him that I knew why and deep down he did too. You cannot use a formula that commercial stations use to build cume. Yes, you will see an increase in listeners but rarely will you see the money follow. Look, commercial radio doesn’t need to connect with their listeners the way non-commercial stations do. If the ears are there, then they win. That is not the case with non-commercial stations. Your report card is not the ratings, your report card is your fundraiser. Of course you want listeners but you want listeners that have connected with your station. I have raised way more money at a station with 70,000 cume than one with over 200,000 cume. How is that possible you ask? One station used a formula to build cume like a commercial station and the other built loyal cume with a listener base they connected with. The station with the 70,000 cume had an audience that was willing to die for their station. In my book, the station with the smaller cume won the battle at the end of the day.
Programming should equal donations. To be honest, the way a lot of Christian radio is getting their new and expanded audience, well it doesn’t equal new donors. You now have a lot of people who just use your station as background noise.
I recently had a manager tell me that he was changing the way they got new listeners. They were not going to use the method that commercial stations used. The station had tried that way for five years. They listened to the consultants and did what they were told. He said they were going to step back and connect with their listeners on a deeper level, maybe even pray on the air. He realized they would lose some of their weekly cume and they did. Their cume went down but their TSL went up. He was hoping that meant he was connecting with his listeners. I am excited to tell you 12 months later with a smaller cume they experienced a 47% increase during their fundraising event.
The bottom line is this. Non-commercial radio will never be like commercial radio. You cannot use the same methods in building your cume. Your non-commercial station is a different animal. There is a new season that has begun and I believe many stations will follow a new way of connecting with their listeners and I find that exciting. I’ll continue to blog at www.billscottgroup.com about my travels and events.