A crash course on Giving Tuesday and year-end fundraising

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

With the Thanksgiving holiday getting closer, the minds of many nonprofits, including those in noncommercial radio, are focusing on another reason we are grateful: year-end fundraising.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the United States, Giving Tuesday is considered the launch day for nonprofit year-end giving. You may recall Giving Tuesday is right after the major shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Facebook, Amazon and many big corporations are waiving fees, doing matches and providing avenues for fundraising by nonprofits. And literally thousands of nonprofit organizations across America are heeding that call and making an appeal for donations.

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In case you are rolling your eyes, thinking this Giving Tuesday and year-end giving stuff is just a pointless marketing ploy, the numbers may actually surprise you. M+R points out some impressive statistics about fundraising. While giving last year saw some decline, 2016 saw a big spike attributable to the election and other issues that generated passions and dollars. In spite of that, there was a 12% increase in year-end gifts, with nearly a quarter of it being raised on December 31. Such strong numbers hint that the possibilities here remain rich for community media.

If you wanted to participate in Giving Tuesday, your radio station should have made plans early. Good planning is the essence of successful revenue strategy. However, if you are behind and want to crib something together in short notice, there are a few resources.

The first, most evident, question is about your story. Why should people support you? What do you do for the community, really? In an information-rich age where marvelous music, incisive public affairs shows and contextual news can be had on demand, for free, from your pocket, your story matters. You can’t just rest on tunes and talk, because chances are your audience can find even better stuff elsewhere. So what exactly is it about your station that makes you special, inspiring and worthy of support? Think of explaining your impact or results locally, collecting words and video of big-time fans about what you mean, and how your Giving Tuesday and year-end campaign presents your station.

Once you are clear on your story, it is best to start at the Giving Tuesday website. Here you will find many resources, graphics and social media templates to help you get started. Organizations like the National Federation of Community Broadcasters also have radio-specific tools for you to use.

Once you have a few items in hand, consider how your community media organization understand fundraising today. Where do your listeners tend to give, online or via phone? What is your average gift? How often do contributors tend to give? Have you thought of checking what ZIP Codes in your region have the biggest concentration of listeners? Are there projects your Giving Tuesday ask can bring to life? These may seem like complicated questions, but a look through your member database should reveal a great deal. Bear in mind, this sort of homework helps you know your donors better. When crafting your appeal, it also tells the prospective donor that you are attentive to them and their habits, and that you notice how often and how much they help you.

If you are using social media – and you should be using social media — hashtags like #GivingTuesday, #communityradio, #communitymedia, #(your city) and #pubmedia are all must-use. Don’t assume people will find you and figure it out. Always include links to donate and make the ask explicitly in every post. And station images and video to drive home your ask are crucial to draw interest. Live performances, testimonials and your station in the community are always winners, because they demonstrate in a way text never can about the ways you touch others locally. And do not be afraid to be creative in your appeals — funny videos, unique pitches and the like, so long as they’re on message, can only lift up your drive.

There are a range of good tools you can use for social media scheduling, you can sprinkle these posts throughout the day and night for Giving Tuesday. However, you will also want and need to be present on all the platforms you are in. Recognizing people and thanking them for their support means everything to your most loyal listeners, and even to the casual fans. It shows them you are around, you care and you appreciate their contribution.

It may be a little late to have the most dynamic Giving Tuesday, but there is no reason why every community radio station can’t have a merry year-end fundraising season. Listeners care, love to help and sometimes just need to be asked.

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