It’s not really the true headline but I wanted to get your attention.
The real headline is something like ‘The 350,000 odd kiwis who listen and watch what Rhemamedia produces each week and are in fact the real stakeholders and owners of the stations, got together and raised the money so THEIR radio stations could expand’. Of course that’s a ridiculously long headline. Of course many thought it could not be done. Of course there were dramas, and of course, even as the actual week unfolded, many thought it would not happen. Of course it was nerve wracking. Of course 80% of the audiences would not give. But those who used words such as ‘ours’, ‘us’ ‘community’ ‘together’ and ‘we’ did believe.
The government had casually announced they’d sell by auction, what was suggested might well be the last 178 FM radio frequencies available in NZ. Of course we wanted to get some of them. And of course so did every other man and his dog. And they had money!.
In hindsight there were a couple of critical moments. The decision to amalgamate a written letter to the data base asking for their help with the scheduled Rhema yearly appeal. What to call this appeal was another, and how (then) to connect the dollars raised via the letter, to the on air appeal also presented an opportunity to ‘lose our way’.
So what was it that made it happen? Of course as Christians we believe in the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. But like Gideon sorting out the 300 we had some work to do.
Back to what made it happen. My friend Brian Noble would say that was ‘inertia’. The positive inertia that people first felt on day one of the appeal when they realised that close to a quarter of a million had already been gifted. People back a champion team. Success breeds success. Starting from $1.50 was never going to work.
Then there was the message. It was simple : Bigger, Better, Stronger: ‘Bigger’ to allow us to buy more frequencies. ‘Better’ to keep up with the technology and ‘Stronger’ as a result that would enable us to keep the powerful messages coming. This campaign had worked last year. It made sense. ‘We’ got it.
Then there was ‘ownership’. The team to a man ( and woman) bought into it. Three radio stations and a TV channel who have never ‘crowd sourced’ together, ‘delivered’ as a single unit. The on-air people grabbed the concept and sounded the clarion call.
Of course New Zealanders are world leaders in giving. Of course there was a strong call to action. More frequencies was a very attractive proposition. And the ‘sale ends Friday’ concept connected to the reality that these might well be the very last frequencies ever to be offered for purchase.
But it was more than that. I suspect it was the thousands who gave, ( many who gave more than once during the week) who were the real champions. These radio stations and TV channel have long been understood to be all about the listener and the viewer. They gave to something they has already invested in. By already listening to ‘my radio station’. Add in the inertia, the skill and heart of the on air team, the sheer determination of the back room people, staff and volunteers labouring together regardless of the hours and you begin the get a sense of the week.
Sure, it required leadership, yep, it had to have talented communicators who could effectively share the clarion call. But without the listeners and viewers picking up the phone it just would not have happened.
On the Friday the goal seemed well out of reach. The required amount had never been raised in a single day before. Yet by just before 11PM an incredulous Program Director Luke Weston, who had produced the on air campaign refreshed the ‘screen’ and saw the figure of just over one million dollars pop up. Perhaps the only time in his life that his mouth had been open and quiet.
Of course they did a great job. But I come back to ‘inertia’, coupled with a plan that evolved out of necessity and strong talk. There were about 100 people in the station but many thousands who were listening and they made it happen. The days following we got a number of emails and calls asking ‘did WE do it?… Did WE get the million?. And you could almost hear the screams of delight around the country when we said ‘WE’ did.
News flash! : The auction is over and we secured 25 FM frequencies around NZ . These are exciting days. Some perspective however. Amongst the frequencies we targeted as ‘possible’ was a frequency for Christchurch. Remembering that our total ‘war chest’ was less than one million dollars we gasped with amazement as the bidding finally stopped at…wait for it…. 7.8 million dollars… That is not a typo… You read it correctly. $7.8 million dollars! … Amazing. Needless to say, it did not go to us! And Luke’s mouth was open and quiet for the second time in his life.
So did it really take a week?. Course not. It took three months with the one week on air campaign not dissimilar to the house auctioning process.