Fundraising tips for public broadcasting

Public broadcasting fundraising can be fun and engaging for contributors.
Date Published
03/24/2015

Public radio stations that primarily rely on funding from donors and sponsors need to find fresh, exciting ways to fundraise. Whether engaging with listeners on air or through social media, public broadcasting fundraising can be successful if approached in a variety of ways.

Don’t rely on one channel
The Prometheus Radio Project encouraged nonprofit broadcasters not to rely on a single channel for funding. In particular, grants have a way of being initially very appealing to organizations, but they are also very difficult to obtain. Plus, the funding received from them likely won’t cover as much of a station or charity’s costs as they may believe. There is a lot of preparation that needs to go into each grant application, and only about 5 to 10 percent of applicants are chosen by foundations to receive payment. While grants can be one part of a nonprofit’s whole fundraising strategy, it cannot and should not be the only avenue taken.

Engage with listeners
There are endless opportunities to engage with listeners over the air waves. It’s important to include listeners in this process, as they want to feel like they are part of the organization and can make a difference. Typically, groups can designate about four times per year solely to on air fundraising. These are concentrated durations of time that really hone in on asking listeners to donate.

Promoting special station contests that engage listeners over a longer period of time is a good idea. Describe a financial goal to reach by Friday and start promoting it on Monday. During the week, invite local celebrities or notable members of the community to join in the broadcast. Have them take calls from fans or residents that want to ask questions. A station could even try dedicating an entire hour during each day that week to a specific type of music, depending on how much money its raised so far.

Engage with readers
The DIY Musician stated that promotions meant to engage a fan base need to happen across a variety of online platforms. While donors and fans aren’t exactly the same entity by definition, they are certainly very similar. Both need to feel like they’re part of the action and enjoy having a say in the goings-on of their favorite groups.

Asking donors for advice is a great way to engage them on social media. Many musicians ask their fans about song topics or potential performance venues. This often helps the singer-songwriter reach a wider audience, while simultaneously acknowledging the influence of current fans. During any sort of online contest or fundraiser, be sure to be consistent. Not only should an organization post regularly on all social media channels, the images and text should be the same everywhere. Profile pictures for Facebook should match those on Twitter, and contest links should drive all traffic to the same site location.

Promote through merchandise
If prizes are given out to online or on air contest winners, make sure they proudly display the station or charity’s logo and name. This is an advertising opportunity tied into providing a rewarding experience to a valued donor. 

The key to remember when reaching out to both listeners and readers is to always include a call to action. Set specific options up for participants to choose between, whether it’s joining in an online photo contest or calling into a sing-a-long over the radio. It’s also a great idea to let online users know that a radio station exists, and vice versa. Some online donors may have never considered the fact that they could receive updates to nonprofit activity through a radio station. 

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