In the end, regardless of how pure your ideas are about free speech and freedom of the airwaves, it always seems to come down to money and having enough of it to make things happen.
We had a benefit concert in Jan of 04 that raised money for KBFR that went pretty well. Enought that the venue (The Fox Theatre in Boulder) invited us back (i.e. THEY made money). That was our first lesson: create something that makes money for the venue you're doing your benefit at.
The next thing we learned was it doesn't HAVE to be a benefit. Our next show is going to be "Presented by KBFR". What we seem to have stumbled on is that, by being a radio station that plays music, we have the support of pretty much all the local music talent in the area (we're one of the few places many of them can get their music on the air at), so most are willing to do shows for KBFR's benefit, even if it's not a benefit 'specific' show.
So, KBFR as promotor is what's developing. I believe pirate radio stations should consider this as a viable option for fundraising to continue operations, upgrade equipment and outfit studios.
What we're planning now is to do ONE big blow out benefit a year for KBFR. Something that raises enough money that we can operate at a (very) minimum level for a year. Then, over the course of the year, hold several 'KBFR presents" shows that augment our finances enough to improve the operation. We also, of course, sell studio free CD's, T shirts and buttons at these shows (creating a bit more income).
We're not talking big money here folks. A few hundred dollars per show. BUT, a pirate station doesn't need ALOT to run, just enough. The actual income would be considered below the poverty line (and below what would be taxed, if we were taxed). So it's even safe.
And the other thing, and most important, is you're not begging for money all the time on air. There is no 'donation' so to speak. You get value for your contribution (give us $10 for a great show.. go home happy). That allows the station to remain independent and pure in it's approach to what it does (mostly: NO censorship for it's members). If we take 'donations' from people, no matter what they say, at some point, they will want to have a say in what's on air. This is fine, if they're willing to JOIN the group and become part of KBFR as a DJ (and share the risk with us), but if we just take money without giving something of value in return (like a concert, a CD or a T shirt) we're opening the door to having people who are not of a pirate mindset trying to set the agenda.
And, of course, we're pretty clear that there IS no agenda. Just good radio created on the fly by regular folk DJ's doing what they love: Playing music and sharing ideas and opinions about the world.