Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why We Ask (Bill's Take on Share-a-thon)

If you knew how much each of us doesn’t like raising money, you’d know what a miracle it is that we love Share-a-thon.

Share-a-thon (or “Sharathon” – there is no official spelling) is the on-air fundraising event that supplies support for The JOY FM, the listener-supported radio station where I work. Of course, it’s nice to have a salary. But if turning our show into a giant cash register for a week were only to pay our salaries and keep the lights on, I couldn’t do it. None of us could. Honestly.

We’ve all seen grinning televangelists whose emotional and overblown appeals only heighten their incredulous promises of leveraged miracles to those who give “sacrificially” (wheeling and dealing God’s grace: the more money, the bigger the miracle). We vomit in their general direction.

And while we’ve tried to avoid the association, we do get lumped-in with the charlatans from time to time. Still, we have to raise the money to operate. And radio ain’t cheap. It takes around 3.5 million dollars a year to run this place. We cover three media markets, or (as the car drives) over 200 miles north-to-south in Florida. The JOY FM is actually five separate FM stations with numerous, low-power “translators” that fill in the gaps. And we aren’t licensed by the FCC to sell any commercials.

Dave and Carmen (who have both been in commercial radio) regularly celebrate their freedom from playing to an advertiser and from skirmishes between the sales and programming departments. Non-commercial, listener supported radio is accountable to our listeners, not advertisers. A sense of shared ownership accompanies each gift of support. Besides, each supporter’s gift is an investment of trust.

We will never get over the fact that people voluntarily support the station. What? People willingly part with some of their money… because we ask them for it? It makes no sense! It shouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work unless there were something more to it than you can get from purchasing music on iTunes. JOY FM supporters are not consumers. They are partners in the truest sense of that word with the mission of The JOY FM. When they give a financial gift, they are investing in a relationship that becomes more valuable over time, yielding its profits in intangible benefits to themselves, the community and God’s kingdom.

Benefits become tangible in efforts like 20 Wishes, T-shirts for Turkeys, feeding the homeless, shoes for orphans, Homes of Hope for India, The Summer Cruise, and live broadcasts from your favorite artists' kitchen tables. These special programs and humanitarian outreaches are realized through The JOY FM community, not just through the on-air personalities. Community support engenders trust and enthusiasm from others, resulting in partnerships with record labels, artists, businesses and individuals who buy-in to the vision of our using our strength for service.

The bigger picture of the matrix of relationships that form The JOY FM community reveals the unquantifiable effects of daily encouragement, life-support and spiritual transformation. (We could tell stories…)

So, it seems to me when we ask for money, we’re really not asking for ourselves. It’s not the consumer cost-value equation. It’s a partnership to enable imitation of the life of Christ and instantiation of the Gospel. That’s why we ask. In the middle of a large support-drive for a mission to Jerusalem churches, Paul anchored his appeal in the giving-grace of the Gospel:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)
Giving is a grace – an enablement by God made possible by the poverty of His Son. When we learn how to give, we experience the riches of God’s grace in Christ. That’s why we stress the blessing of God during these Share-a-thon appeals. It’s real.

That’s why we ask.