5 fundraising tips for public broadcasters

Your program hosts should keep best practices in mind when asking for donations.
Date Published
07/08/2015

Public broadcasters rely on donations to produce their programs. There are certain strategies television and radio stations can employ to encourage audience participation and expand their donor outreach during fundraisers and pledge drives.

1. Incentives based on interest
Many fundraising drives or events offer rewards for donors who pledge a certain amount. You’re broadcasting specific content that appeals to a certain audience. When it comes time to ask your viewers or listeners for gifts, you can reward them with items that speak to their interests.

If you’re a religious broadcaster, you can offer holy books or artwork to contributors. Radio shows that discuss cooking and food trends might reward large donations with gift cards to restaurants. Providing your audience with products associated with your programming spreads your nonprofit organization’s brand.

Slate magazine praised public radio station WYNC’s eco-tote bag pledge prize. The bag promotes the station’s content and it is an environmentally conscious product that reinforces the nonprofit’s commitment to community betterment.

2. Look outside your audience
Your fundraising efforts must capitalize on the loyalty of your core audiences members, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore people who aren’t regular viewers or listeners.

People donate to public broadcasting because they see the stations as good causes. Current, an information resource provided by the American University School of Communication, reported that PBS receives donations mostly from people who don’t regularly watch their programs. Donors are mostly older individuals looking for a worthy recipient of their disposable cash.

During fundraisers you shouldn’t just request funds on your station, you should send messages through a variety of mediums. Communicate the good your station does for the general community and the effects your organization has outside of program content. Social media pages provide free advertising tools for fundraisers and reach a multitude of users.

3. Provide online options
Many radio and television programs see the Internet as a competitor for the audience’s attention. Other public broadcasters have already turned to online strategies to widen their appeal. 

The day of the telethon is over. While some donors may still pick up the phone to call in a pledge, most of your contributors will want the ability to donate their money on their home computer or mobile device. Bidding for Good shared several examples of public radio stations who used online tools to assist their fundraising auctions. The tech options expanded the number of bidders and allowed stations to advertise prizes that caught people by surprise.

Online tools can be cost-efficient to acquire. Fundraising software is easy to implement in most offices. It allows casual computer users to establish online pledge options on nonprofit Web pages and other Internet resources.

4. Partner with local businesses
Your radio or TV station is part of your community. During fundraising you can provide gifts that are supplied by local businesses. Dinners at neighborhood restaurants or items created by local craftsmen will be familiar to your donors and might offer a sense of community pride.

Companies and organizations that partner with your nonprofit benefit from tax breaks and good public relations. Let businesses know how you will promote their services as part of your programming. Online promotions are especially effective as they can link straight to your partners.

If the partnership yields positive outcomes for both parties, the results should be used during future outreach. Nonprofit software documents can demonstrate how teaming up with public broadcasting stations will ultimately benefit a business’s bottom line or community relations.

5. Be honest
Audiences don’t like being misled. Some advertising techniques rely on being pushy or forceful with your needs. Public broadcasters can appeal to their audience using the mission they have always cared about and being by themselves.

Slate said the most entertaining part of any fundraiser is when the hosts let their hair down and stop being formulaic with their asks. Your station is requesting money to continue creating content that you and your audience loves. There’s no need to be dishonest. When you ask for donations, let them know exactly how their money is being used.

Create projections for the use of funds so you can share future plans with the audience. Let your past involvement in community affairs demonstrate your commitment to your area. By sharing your past success and future goals with your audience, you make them part of your station and get them invested in meeting your goals. 

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