September 12, 2017
Discipline: Membership

In difficult times, the power of music is vital to our listeners as a reflection of our lives, as a respite from difficult news, as an inspiring and energizing force.

However, when it feels like the outside world is turning upside down, with a political environment that’s as divided as ever, and now major natural disasters impacting millions of Americans, fundraising for music can be decidedly tough, especially for a distracted audience.

Conducting fund drives while  natural disasters unfold requires a great deal of sensitivity. Settling on the right strategy and finding the right messaging mix is essential.

We know that some donors will reallocate money they might have donated to their local station to disaster-relief. That’s understandable. But it’s important to continue to educate your listeners – with sensitivity – about the importance of supporting the music programming they value. Our set of scripts for music stations to use in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma can help you give context and balance to your messaging efforts.

Strategic Recommendations

As a music station, it’s important to understand the current fundraising landscape.

If your fall fundraising is scheduled in the next couple weeks, and you’re in the southeast part of the country in particular, you might want to consider moving these efforts back by a week or two, to gain some space from the massive hurricane relief appeals overwhelming the fundraising landscape. This includes a national “Hand in Hand” telethon on Tuesday, September 12th on all TV channels and many radio channels, a large social media presence, and hurricane appeals at nearly every point of purchase retail credit card machine.

If you are planning on forging ahead in the next couple weeks, you’ll need to take special care to make sure your pitching is focused on the core value of your programming service and the personal importance your station has to listeners as a refuge during times of disaster and strife. You’ll want to make sure your pitch teams have internalized the ideas, messaging priorities, and bullets below.

Here are three ideas that can strengthen your fundraising in a difficult time:

  • Focus on passionately educating listeners about your vital role enhancing and improving the lives of so many people through the arts; a vital part of what it means to be human. Even if your listeners don’t give as much this fall as they have in the past, making a strong case for when they do return or join for the first time is important.
  • Focus on recruiting sustainers. The more sustainers you have in your program, the less you will need to worry about fluctuations in revenue when challenging national and world events occur.
  • Bring in community voices. Make sure listeners can truly hear the impact of your station from the people who listen and love it the most. Let people connect, share, and become more involved.


  • Do not apologize for fundraising right now. Your station provides an important service to listeners that they depend on.
  • Keep your main message on your station’s powerful mission and unique, quality product, which is worthy of support.
  • If there are stories with a bigger impact in your region, like wildfires for instance, keep them top-of-mind and do not fail to address them in some way so that your listeners won’t think you’re tone deaf to the challenges your community faces.

Here are a few proven messages that you can use to contextualize the importance of your station’s service during difficult times.

  • The power of community support is top-of-mind for many in the country right now as we see neighbors helping neighbors through the natural disasters. When we work together in our communities, this station and the music we all love thrive.
  • We know deeply the power music has to heal, to soothe. Right now there are so many in our country who are experiencing heartache because of natural disasters. The music you hear on public radio is a valuable part of how we connect to the world and how we support ourselves in trying times.
  • After national tragedies strike, many people turn to their local public radio stations for news, of course, but also for music. They know that local stations will be there for the community to help inform and comfort. Listening to music programming isn’t ignoring what is happening in the world, rather giving it context and support through music.
  • Music brings so much into our lives. Think back to a time when a song on this public radio station helped you get through a tough day or celebrate a great moment. You know how much the music you hear on public radio means in your life.
  • The implications of a natural disaster will trickle out in many different ways. With careful thought and sensitivity, one important role public radio can play is to give our community a space to connect, to grieve, to heal. That’s the power of the music you hear on [STATION].

Trying to decide if you should postpone your drive? Want more ideas for strategy? Looking for scripts? Get in touch, we’re always happy to help. Contact Jay Clayton or Melanie Coulson.