Christian Media

How Does Your Media Program Measure Up?

Mary Hutchinson, of Creative One sends in this post about fundraising from an effeciency point of view. Read it over, compare what you’re doing in the media from this perspective, and let me know your thoughts:

Measuring ministry by numbers comes natural to me. I spent my high school years in some Southern Baptist pews, and no other group focuses better on the numbers than they did. How many were saved last year. How many were baptized.

Keeping our eye on the numbers is vital to the growing success of any ministry, especially broadcast ministry.

When Jesus taught the disciples the Parable of the Three Talents, He showed us that the numbers matter. Indeed, the ROI matters. And it is from that direction that I will discuss how to measure your program.

Certainly there are many measurements that matter, but if you look for your broadcast ministry to one day pay for itself, a vital measurement is the Cost To Acquire A Donor.

Simply speaking, this is the cost of the airtime slot divided by the number of new donors acquired.

Here is an example:

Channel 5 $10,000/annually 100 new donors = $100 to acquire a donor
Blessing Channel 5,000/annually 100 new donors = $50 to acquire a donor

For the purpose of this exercise, we define a new donor as anyone who is (1) new to the file (2) have a gift or asked for a product in exchange for a gift. Someone who calls for a “free gift” is not part of the analysis.

In studying a wide range of broadcast ministries over the last 18 months, we have found the lowest cost to acquire a donor to be $35 and the highest to be $4400.
At the $35 range, a ministry spending $1MM annually in airtime will add almost 30,000 new donors to the file annually. The television program will do better than breakeven within Year One.

In the $1000 range, a ministry will add only a few hundred new donors per year and will never come close to paying for itself.

What is the difference? What are the key elements that cause a broadcast ministry to acquire donors at a reasonable rate:

1) The right ask. A ministry program must have well tooled spots within the program that specially and creatively tells a viewer what you want them to do. The highest value donor you can get is an auto debit monthly partner – but that is also the hardest to get. Over the course of six broadcasts, a program needs a mix of spots that will (a) ask for a gift to support the TV ministry (b) offer a product with a value in the $25-$35 range (c) ask for partnership (d) offer a few gift (e) ask for a gift to support the related mission work. This array will bring donors and names into the ministry –which is the beginning of any ministry relationship.

2) The right presentation of the ask. You can have a great offer (or mix of offers) but deliver it in a manner that will not cause the phone to ring. For example, a Generation X looking spot promoting a product will not cause a gray-haired (typical viewer) to respond. This is not a place for volunteer talent. If you are limited in dollars you can spend on professional help, this is the place to spend it.

3) Ease of response. The toll free number has to be up often and long enough for a viewer to get to a pen or phone to respond. When they call, it is vital that someone answers quickly and professionally.

4) Ready up sell. This is another area where volunteers often cost more than a pro. A professional inbound service will be able to take your calls 24/7, have enough phone available the moment the ask is presented on TV, be able to explain the offer and up sell to another product and capture the key data in time.

With those four things in place, your cost to acquire a donor will drop.

If you are interested in seeing how you are doing vs. others in the marketplace, drop me a line. With a few simple questions, I can plot where your numbers will take you in the coming years.

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  1. Mary,

    I couldn't agree more with your concise presentation and analysis of the subject of "donor development by the numbers".  Having spent years in the field of periodical direct response marketing, I understand the concepts and agree with them. 

    However, there is a major issue that I think must be considered in evaluating "success" when it comes to ministry development and that's the word MINISTRY.  You see the ability to draw a crowd and to raise funds should never be categorically equated with "success" when it comes to ministry.  

    I live near Orlando.  Disney World is practically in my backyard.  Disney does an amazing job of effectively drawing big crowds and getting those corwds to pay to be there.  But does that mean they are ministering to people's spiritual needs?  Yes, they are fulfilling their objective to entertain people and give families a wonderful vacation.  But if our goal is to draw people to Christ, or to equip them to do the work of the ministry, or to help them find healing, hope and health, the fact that we are successful in drawing large crowds and moving them to a point of action to where they give us money, doesn't mean that we are ministering to them. 

    My point is simply this…in evaluating the "success" of a television ministry, we need to not only look at the financial grid of how many donors (and donations) we receive relative to the amount we spent in production and air time, we need to evaluate are people's lives genuinely being changed?  Are we winning people to Christ or ministering help and hope in a way that is lasting and life-changing?  Being entertaining enough to draw a crowd and elicit a response is a gift…but it is not necessarily a MINISTRY gift.  We need to keep our eye on the ball…and that's effective, Spirit led ministry.


  2. Dave, excellent points indeed.

    One of the challenges in measuring media ministry is that there is no head count.  Sure, there are ratings.  But is that a measure of ministry impact?  I don't think so.

     I think what I was trying to offer was a means of measuring if the seed you are planting in one area via media is doing better than other soil.  Money, like ratings is a measuring tool.

    Changed hearts is the utimate goal — but finding a way to capture that number is not something I have an answer for.

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