Starting a podcast can be a successful, emotionally rewarding endeavor for you and your nonprofit organization. While starting a podcast may seem as simple as having a recording device and your voice, it takes a lot more effort and work. This is especially true if you want to leverage the podcast to do more than just creating informative and engaging information for your members.
Beyond creating valuable content for your members, podcasts can be a fantastic addition to your content and even entice people to join your organization. In this how-to guide, we’ll find out why and how to start a podcast successfully.
Why start a podcast?
A podcast is a great exclusive to offer to your nonprofit organization’s members, especially because nonprofits tend to be rooted in issues that generate a lot of conversation. A podcast for your membership can be an effective and convenient way to deliver important content as well. Here are some powerful benefits of a podcast:
Drive conversation on your cause
Because your nonprofit organization is rooted in a common cause, you can leverage this to drive powerful conversations on the issues. You can bring more awareness to your cause with a podcast centered on genuine conversations about your nonprofit’s mission and why it matters.
Time-efficient and convenient
The length of your podcast is dependent on you. You can create hour-long conversations or simple, digestible podcasts that are 20 minutes long. Because they are pre-recorded they make it easy for you to create and for audiences to listen at any time they want. Your members can also listen to them on the go, when they’re working or at the gym as long as they are connected to a device that can play the podcast.
Grow a community
Starting a podcast can lead to a bigger, more intimately connected community rather than a list of people who get email updates about your nonprofit organization. As your community grows, so does the awareness of your nonprofit and its overall mission.
Besides the social implications that come with starting a podcast, your organization’s members will feel more connected to you and the cause itself. This will lead to more interaction between members and management and can even lead to more advertisement and buzz around your nonprofit’s mission.
Connecting with your members doesn’t have to be a challenge, either. Using MembershipWorks’ membership software to add features to your nonprofit’s website can give your members easy, exclusive access and other perks.
Get more mileage out of existing content and programming
If you are already hosting popular webinars, conferences or in-person seminars, you could create audio recordings and share them in the form of a podcast. Members who missed out on the event could then also benefit. But carefully consider what is worth turning into a podcast and possible pitfalls. Here are some tips:
- If your seminars are typically sold out or near capacity, that’s a point in favor of turning them into podcasts.
- It’s not a good idea to podcast a presentation if there’s a lot of visual content such as slides that won’t be viewable by those who are only listening through headphones.
- If you don’t have the budget or skills to do a good job of a video recording, an audio recording could be easier to pull off. Be sure to listen to the recording before publishing to make sure it’s easy to understand and doesn’t have a lot of distracting background noises like paper shuffling.
- You don’t have to podcast an entire conference. Perhaps just record your keynote speakers or thought leader interviews.
- Be sure to secure permission — ideally in writing — from your speakers for any type of recording and distribution of that recording.
- Have attendees’ consent as well if the Q & A portion of the presentation will be recorded. You can make an announcement at the beginning of the presentation, or get attendee consent in advance when they they register.
- If you have a large conference, one podcast idea might be a conference orientation that attendees who are traveling to the conference could listen to on their way. You could even have a daily orientation podcast.
- You don’t want members to skip out on paying for an event registration because they’ll count on downloading podcasts in future years, so choose wisely as far as what you publish.
Get to know your members
You can also use a podcast as an opportunity to get to know members better and interact with them on a more personal level. Hearing your voice (or the voice of the podcast host) creates a different kind of connection. Emails are a great tool for spreading updated information about your nonprofit but are pretty impersonal otherwise. Podcasts can help bridge that gap.
In your podcast, you can pose thought-provoking questions and encourage members to reach out to you. You can even invite them to be on the podcast as a special guest—especially if they are well-versed in the mission of your nonprofit or are an industry thought leader other members would want to hear from.
What’s your podcast for?
Truly, your podcast could be for anything, but we recommend using it to talk about the issues associated with your nonprofit organization. There are many types of podcasts, ranging from comedy to informative to controversial, but it’s best to stick with what you know and think will work best for your organization.
For example, if you run a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation, it wouldn’t make sense to have a podcast dedicated to celebrity news. However, it would make sense to bring awareness to the conservation status of different animals and what issues affect them the most in the wild.
If you run a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce poverty in your region, you could talk about a variety of statistics about poverty and those most affected by it. You could take this a step further and pull statistics from your local community as well as national stats for a more well-rounded look at how poverty is affecting the entire country as opposed to your area. You can even include mission-focused podcast episodes in your new member orientation process.
A chamber of commerce could create a podcast highlighting chamber members by interviewing them. You could focus on how they are weathering the pandemic or another hot topic. This can help members get to know each other better, get business ideas and can also be used as a volunteer recruitment tool if you decide to highlight businesses owned by key volunteers such as board members. Profiled members could also share links to their podcast episode on their own website, blog, social media channels and member directory listing. This spreads the word about the chamber and the podcast further.
A museum could use a podcast format to narrate tours of its works. While it’s not as good as a tour guide who can answer questions, it is a great substitute for people who want to view things at their own pace or when a live guide isn’t available. A historical society could present a podcast on each home or building on a tour to offer a narrated guide. A downtown alliance or merchant association could produce a podcast-based tour as well. Larger organizations might opt to create an app to present this type of information, but a podcast is a cheaper, faster way to deliver this content to visitors.
Obviously, these are just ideas, but the point is your podcast should relate to your organization and help spread information that people may not find or search for otherwise. A genuine conversation that’s helpful and informative is the ultimate goal of any podcast.
Who is your podcast for?
Theoretically, your podcast will be made for your nonprofit organization members. However, if the podcast does well enough, you could release it to the public so everyone has a chance to learn about your nonprofit. A nonprofit focused on premature birth created a publicly-available podcast series to help parents navigate the challenges of having an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit. The podcast has helped the organization attract sponsors and brings new donors and families into the organization’s fold on an ongoing basis. After the success of the original podcast, they went on to record additional podcast series for dads, NICU staff and parents dealing with bereavement.
A public podcast may take away the exclusivity aspect for members of the site, but it’s more important to spread awareness of your nonprofit’s goals than maintaining exclusivity.
Depending on your credentials, you may think nothing of using industry jargon in your podcast, especially if you’re talking to someone in the same field. However, it’s important to make your podcast accessible to everyone—from laypeople and beginners to those who are more informed. You can still discuss statistics and serious topics, but accessibility will make sure your podcast can circulate through a widespread audience and not just those who already understand advanced terminology or acronyms.
12 important podcast decisions to consider
There are a few things to keep in mind when researching how to start a podcast. We’ve outlined several critical factors to help you get started and to make sure you’re making the best decisions right off the bat for your new podcast.
As with most things in life, the packaging is everything. People are more drawn to things that look and feel well put together than those that feel rushed or incomplete. Your podcast needs to have a name relevant to you and your nonprofit but flashy enough to catch the attention of those unfamiliar with your organization.
Your podcast’s name should be punchy, maybe even clever, but ultimately tell the audience exactly what they’ll be in for when they tune in. It shouldn’t be as simple as “[nonprofit organization’s name]’s podcast,” but it should relate to what you’ll be discussing in each episode.
Category or subcategory
Like we mentioned before, there are a ton of different categories that podcasts fall into. If you want to keep your audience entertained but talk about hard-hitting topics, it may be best for you to try a comedic podcast that tackles important issues to your nonprofit’s cause.
If you prefer telling facts as is, that’s okay too. The beauty of podcasts is there’s a different type of podcast for everyone. As long as you’re doing what produces the best end product for you that you feel comfortable releasing into the world, there will be someone to listen to it.
While your podcast’s title shouldn’t necessarily include your nonprofit organization’s name, the description is the perfect place to add that information. The description should be a preview of what your audience will hear you discuss and include more information about getting involved with your organization.
The description of each episode will differ based on the topic of the conversation, but the overall description for the podcast should summarize what you hope to accomplish with the podcast and how it ties into the mission of your nonprofit organization.
Length of the podcast
Your podcast should be as long as the good content you end up with allows. For example, if you end up with 15 minutes of good content, then your podcast should be 15 minutes long. There’s no reason to add filler to reach a certain amount of time.
There’s no sense in editing out content to make your podcast shorter, either, so if you have 50 minutes of content, leave your podcast at 50 minutes. The beauty of podcasts is listeners don’t have to start and finish them in one sitting. They can listen to half one day and half the next—yet another reason to not worry too much about your podcast length.
Not all of your podcasts have to be the same length, either. Consistency might help you garner long-time listeners, though, as people might be more likely to include your podcast in their schedule if they can always expect your podcasts to be a certain length.
There isn’t necessarily an ideal podcast length, though most range from 20 to 40 or 50 minutes long, with a max of an hour and a half to two hours. However, people will probably be less likely to check out your content if it’s super long and seems like a big time commitment.
Style and tonality
There are several podcast styles you can choose from. You can go with the solo podcast, which allows a podcaster to talk directly to their audience. If you choose this style, you don’t have to be the host. Maybe you have an energetic and personable board or staff member who wants to take this on under your guidance? A co-hosted podcast can be easier as you can simply have an organic conversation. Though with this format you’ll have to worry about being able to trust and work with someone else.
The interview podcast allows podcasters to get a range of perspectives on different topics. It’s definitely easier to interview people remotely and it can be fun to talk with experts on a variety of niche subjects.
Roundtable podcasts are similar in that they focus on a set topic, but instead of interviewing one person on one topic, they have a few different hosts sitting at a table with several people to converse in person. Roundtable podcasts are interesting because they allow a larger number of people to participate and might give the chance to feature big-name guests. Hosts just need to make sure everyone gets a chance to contribute to the conversation and that they keep the questions on the topic at hand.
Documentary podcasts can take extra time to put together — they will typically layer music with multiple voices — but the resulting storytelling can sound very professional.
One way to avoid having segments that are too long is to break up sizable pieces into smaller episodes to make a series. Some people do daily flash briefs and release an episode every day. These podcasts are less than ten minutes long and can be very popular, especially if they update people on specific areas of interest or newsworthy topics (like sports, politics or trends) each day.
You can also choose to upload them once a week, or more or less than that. As for formatting within the episode, it’s always best to introduce the day’s topic and then jump right into the conversation. You can allow members of your website to submit questions and then you can answer them in your next podcast.
Prominent co-hosts and collaborators
Podcasts don’t need co-hosts, but they can make the episodes more exciting and add authenticity to the conversations. Collaborating with other prominent people in your nonprofit’s niche will help further your cause and get perspectives other than your own as well.
Podcast equipment and software
Some folks choose to record themselves speaking to each other while recording the podcast, but it’s not mandatory. When learning how to start a podcast, all you need is a reliable microphone and solid audio-recording software. You can always upgrade later on.
Recording a podcast
You can choose to record and edit your audio separately and upload it to your podcast platform, or you can choose an all-inclusive podcast host that allows for audio recording and editing within its interface. If you’re just beginning, an inclusive package may be more helpful.
Uploading your first episode
You’ll need to register with a podcast host website that will house your podcast as it’s listened to across different platforms. There are a few different websites to choose from; some of them free while others require an investment. If you’re serious about your podcast and have extra money to invest, start with a high-quality podcast platform with a paid plan so you don’t have to change later and re-home all your recordings.
Launching your podcast
If you’ve got a decent membership following already, the launch of your podcast should go over fairly well, especially if your podcast starts as a member-exclusive item. If you’ve got people dedicated to helping your cause and your nonprofit grow, you can launch your podcast to a moderate audience just based on the outreach methods you already have such as your email list, blog and social media channels.
Growing your podcast
A good rule in life is to never stay stagnant. Always check out new ways to improve your podcast, whether it’s upgrading microphones, equipment or watching and listening to leaders in the podcast world. A high-quality podcast makes growth and marketing a lot easier.
Don’t be afraid to invest in learning about advertising and how to market the podcast. Better yet, set aside some funds and hire a professional to help. Consistent, effective ad campaigns can make the difference between the moderate success of a podcast and a booming success.
Start your podcast today!
You can get far with common sense, but starting a podcast can be complicated and technical at times. Once you get your bearings, though, your nonprofit organization could reach a whole new audience of people thanks to your well-researched, high-quality podcast production.