The Power of Podcasting for Nonprofits
Originally published on dotOrgStrategy.com
Podcasting is a powerful way to get a message out to millions of potential listeners. The potential rewards for a nonprofit are undeniable, and it’s not as resource-intensive or cost- prohibitive as it may seem.
Many businesses are already using podcasts effectively for marketing and income-generation. With its powerful reach, increasing popularity, and the relative ease with which podcasts can be established and produced, podcasting offers nonprofits a great way to:
- Get their unique message out into the public sphere
- Create an impact on a mass scale
- Connect with more potential supporters
- Supplement their donor revenue
Who Listens to Podcasts in 2017
A recently-released 2017 podcast study showed that podcast usage continues to rise in the United States. About 24% of the U.S. population above age 12—roughly 67 million Americans—listen to podcasts monthly; an increase of 10 million people, or 14% from last year. That means that more people in the U.S. regularly listen to podcasts than use Twitter (23%). More tellingly, the total percentage of listeners is up by 100% since 2013, doubling in just four years.
Podcasting Stats at a Glance:
Source: The Podcast Consumer 2017 from Edison Research
Nonprofit Podcasting Benefits
Studies have also revealed that, not only are listeners not averse to hearing an advertisement read by the host of the podcast, almost two thirds of them will actually remember it the next day. This is a large and steadily-growing audience that likes to pay close attention to complex topics.
Combined with the fact that podcast listeners tend to be significantly more affluent and better-educated than the average U.S. consumer, sponsorships and advertising become an attractive proposition for businesses, and a very real possibility for additional sources of revenue for an organization.
Attracting New Donors
In addition to the higher education and income levels of podcast listeners, 44% of them are age 18–24, and 33% are age 35–54, capturing a disproportionately younger population versus the overall U.S. demographics (28% and 31%, respectively). At a time when many nonprofits are interested in attracting the next generation of philanthropists, this cannot be overstated.
Many podcasts are close to an hour in length, which makes them great for presenting information that listeners may not take the time to actually read, and gives them the ability to consume that information at times that would otherwise be inconvenient or impractical. It’s an ideal format to tell stories about the work the nonprofit organization is doing, both in terms of results and of continuing needs for their services.
A podcast run by a nonprofit organization, therefore, has the possibility to reach new benefactors, and give them useful information with engaging stories in a way that was previously reserved for broadcast radio shows, with the added convenience factor of being able to listen on demand, not on a set schedule.
Building Authority for Your Organization
By using them as an ongoing communication tool, podcasts are also an excellent way for any organization to build up the level of authority they carry within their field, as well as among interested listeners outside the field. That authority is key to building up an organization that relies on donations. People won’t give to a cause if they don’t feel confident about the expertise and ability of the organization behind it to deliver what it promises. A well-produced podcast that thoroughly covers the topics your organization deals with, and which features already authoritative guest speakers carries strong indicators of authority.
Engaging Current Supporters
How many of your supporters would take up to an hour each week to read one of your newsletters, blog posts, or other updates? Over 86% of podcast subscribers listen to at least most, if not the entirety of each episode; and 82% will listen to it within a week of downloading it. Keeping current donors connected to your work is paramount to getting them to keep supporting you, and even increasing their donations.
Expanding Your Mission
With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices and internet accessibility, nonprofits can use podcasts to provide value to the very people they are focused on serving. Whether through educational content, giving a voice to an under-served community, or engaging an audience that can become advocates and champions for the cause, a podcast recorded in your office can reach—and impact—millions of people.
Costs and Tools of Creating a Podcast
Fortunately for nonprofits, producing a podcast with high production values is fairly inexpensive. There is a bit of work to be done, though. The best podcasts are carefully planned, recorded, edited, and hosted online before each episode is made available for download.
Planning and Coordination Tools
Everything starts with a plan that you can follow. For team communication, I love free apps like Slack and Workplace by Facebook, both of which I reviewed in the Nonprofit Tools section. While you’re there, take a look at our favorite project management system, Asana, for scheduling and assigning tasks.
Tools for Producing Your Podcast
Besides the content of the show, the number one factor in the final quality of a podcast is going to be the recorded audio, for which some basic equipment is needed.
The first tool you’ll need will be a good microphone that captures clear sound. A built-in laptop or webcam mic can do in a pinch, but will be hard to listen to for 30–60 minutes at a time, especially if the listener is on the move.
Several prominent podcasters have recommended the Audio-Technica ATR2100 as a decent-quality option on a modest budget. It’s actually what I use for recording audio at dotOrgStrategy, and I’m very happy with the results. Higher-end options exist and you may want to experiment based on your budget, but I recommend sticking to powered USB microphones like the ATR2100 or one of the ones from Blue, as many professional microphones require the use of a sound mixing board in order to work with a computer.
Second, you’ll need recording and mixing (editing) software for capturing and editing the show. You don’t need a dedicated recording studio, but you’ll want to check that your editing software includes a good noise reduction filter to eliminate background noises like air conditioners, computer hum, etc.
Once again, price is not a deterring factor, with two free products among the best ways to go: Apple’s Garage Band for MacOS, and Audacity for Windows (which has a great noise cancellation function built in). To record phone conversations, producers might consider free apps like Callnote and Amolto.
Finishing Touches for Your Podcast
To put a little “professional” touch on the podcast, you’ll probably want to use some intro and outro music, which can either be downloaded from low-cost or free stock music libraries, or commissioned from local artists or online freelancers at whatever level your budget allows.
TIP: I love mobygratis, which is an extensive library of background tracks created by Moby that are free to use for non-commercial uses.
Finally, each podcast needs a little bit of graphic design for its cover art. The importance of the cover art can’t be overstated, since it has to be eye-catching and explanatory to potential listeners. There are a number of ways to get inexpensive graphic design jobs like this done online, such as through Fiverr and 99designs.
Sharing Your Podcast with the World
The finished product file then needs to be shared online via a hosting service. Before you can list it on iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere the audio files have to be uploaded to a server. Buzzsprout hosts podcasts for free, but deletes old episodes after 90 days. Libsyn is popular, versatile and reliable, but comes at a cost starting at $5 per month. Amazon Web Services’ S3 is even more flexible and powerful, but may be confusing for beginners. Soundcloud is another favorite that is free, easy to use and easy to embed as a player on your website.
Need some inspiration? Want to see how some of the pros run their shows? I recently rounded up some examples of great podcasts for nonprofits. These aren’t run by nonprofits, but can give you ideas for how to structure yours.
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Boris is the founder of dotOrgStrategy, a platform for teaching nonprofits how to effectively use technology to achieve and expand their missions, without over-stretching their resources; and Speed of Like, a boutique digital agency focusing on small businesses, startups, and nonprofits. A storyteller and entrepreneur, Boris is excited to combine his passions for technology, storytelling, and making a positive difference in the world by helping organizations increase impact locally and globally, through digital tools including websites, social media, email, advertising and crowdfunding.