Since their inception around twelve years ago, podcasts have continued to grow in popularity. According to Edison Research, 44% of Americans have listened to a podcast at some point and 26% have listened in the last month. 48 million Americans listen to at least one podcast each week.
That’s a MASSIVE chunk of the population spending 30-60 minutes a week listening to podcasts!
What is a Podcast?
If you have been living under a rock, or are too intimidated to open the purple icon on your iPhone, podcasts are essentially free, on demand radio programs. There are podcasts on every subject imaginable, from politics and art to storytelling and video game strategy.
I can practically hear you saying, “That’s great Abra, but what could I possibly talk about on a podcast?”
Well, that depends on who you create the podcast for and how you want to use the medium.
If you want to share updates on programs, fundraising, and policies that affect your nonprofit organization, consider creating weekly or even monthly podcast episodes. Your podcast may not attract new donors, but it would be a great way for your organization to disperse information in a format that your audience can consume on their own schedule.
If you are interested in telling stories that highlight your organization’s work and beneficiary success stories, podcasting is a phenomenal medium. Some of the most popular podcasts (This American Life, RadioLab, etc) are story based.
Here are some fun podcast ideas that I know would attract an audience - including me. I even made up some fun podcast names that you are free to steal/use.
- Bark, Bark, Meow, Meow - Nonprofit: Animal Shelter
Interviews with adoptive pet parents on the day they take home their new pet and then follow up with them six months later to talk about how having a pet has changed their lives.
- Homeless - Nonprofit: Homeless Shelter
Tell the story of a different homeless person each week. What their life was like prior to being homeless, how/why they became homeless, what their homeless life is like, what steps they are taking to get a permanent home.
- 10,000 Apples - Nonprofit: Food Pantry
Present recipes using only items from the food pantry that day or week. Stories of people that have used or currently use the food pantry.
- Lord’s Prayer - Nonprofit: Church
Stories of how your church members found God and how it transformed their lives.
Your podcast doesn’t have to be long. Ten minutes or less is the perfect length for a short podcast that tells a great story.
What You Need to Get Started Podcasting
To start a podcast you absolutely must have:
- A computer
- A decent microphone
- Recording and editing software
- An internet connection
- A quiet place to record
That’s all you need.
When considering microphones, you don’t need to spend a fortune but you do want something more than your built-in microphone.
A myriad of technical sins can be mitigated by recording in a quiet environment. You want a room removed from your family or coworkers and without an echo. There are many tips and tricks on the internet for turning unused closets into recording spaces or for setting your space up to record the cleanest audio possible. That’s the key.
You’ll also need some recording and editing software. You can go all out and buy expensive software to record and edit your podcasts, but you can do all the basics using free programs like Audacity.
If you plan to interview people over the internet, you will also need call software like Skype.
Factor in any prep time you need and your actual recording time. Set aside three to four times your recording time for editing your podcast. It seems crazy, but that is how long it takes, especially when you are learning.
If your nonprofit has the financial means, you can also hire someone to edit your podcasts for you.
Before you jump in and start recording your first episode, let’s talk about the reasons why you should and shouldn’t start a podcast.
Your Nonprofit Should Start a Podcast If….
You want to build a community around your nonprofit and maybe reach a new audience. Podcasts are a great way to connect your organization with people across the country and even the world. Many times these are people who would never have learned of your organization any other way. Exposing a new group of people to your nonprofit and mission can help grow awareness of the issues facing the communities you serve. Establishing a consistent release schedule for your podcast content allows you to remain in consistent contact with your audience.
You want to encourage people to take action in their community. Podcasts are a great way to expose people to issues they may not know exist. Issuing a call to action over your podcast, encouraging people to donate their time either with your organization or locally to them, can increase the number of people involved in nonprofit work.
You want to be a part of the larger conversation. It’s so easy for each of us to live happily in our little bubbles. Podcasts expose people from all over the world to new ideas and ways of looking at things. Your podcast can be a jumping off point for building a larger online community. Using your podcast as a way to interview experts and other people involved in your industry can further extend the reach of your podcast and contribute to the larger conversation by exposing your listeners to people and ideas they may be unfamiliar with.
You want to reach younger demographics. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Millennials are the future of philanthropy. If you want to grow your donor base you need to cultivate millennial and next gen donors. The biggest consumers of podcasts, according to Edison Research, are 12-54 years old. This is your target audience!
You have stories to tell. Producing consistent (weekly or monthly) content for your listeners to consume means you’ll need stories to share week after week. Be sure that you have enough people who are willing to tell their story.
Your Nonprofit Should Not Start a Podcast if...
Your goal is to make money. Almost no one makes money podcasting. People do it as a hobby or to supplement their business. This doesn’t mean you can’t use your podcast to ask for donations to your organization. You absolutely can. And who knows, some of your listeners may very well turn into new long-term donors. However, you should not get into podcasting expecting it to have a significant impact on your donations.
You are already stretched in a million different directions. Let a board member or volunteer take this on if you think it could be an interesting idea. It’s not hard and you can learn the basics off of YouTube or by listening to one of the many podcasts about podcasting.
Podcasting may sound intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is to make sure that you are contributing something of value to the conversation with every episode. Tell an interesting story. Share a unique perspective. Teach your listeners something new.
What would you name your nonprofit’s podcast and what would it be about? Comment below and share your ideas. Let’s see that creativity!