9 Questions to Ask When Starting a Podcast for Your NonProfit

Jason Stershic • Apr 22, 2022
a women holding a microphone to create a nonprofit podcast

Podcasting. We all know someone who either listens to a lot of them or even has their own, but not everyone knows its value. This is the same conversation brands were having a decade ago about YouTube and internet videos. 

So to help you and your nonprofit organization determine where to go and what to do, here are nine questions to consider before embarking on podcasting. And if you have already started, perhaps these questions will clarify some obstacles you may be facing. 

But before we get going, remember that the most important piece of research you can do when it comes to podcasting is to listen to other podcasts. They don’t even have to be in the same niche, but listening to other shows can help you determine what you like and what you don’t, and that is a giant step along the way.

So let’s get it going.

1. Is creating our nonprofit podcast right for us?

This is a question your organization might be asking. So let’s break it down. 

At its core, a podcast requires an idea, a host, equipment, and software. Sure, some of this can be outsourced, but the idea and story you’re going to tell should come from your marketing team. The theme and topic area for the podcast is the most crucial part of the entire endeavor because this is WHY people will tune in. 

  • What are you going to educate them on?
  • What are you going to share? 

Defining this at the start is critical to ensuring that your organization has a well-thought-out plan behind the purpose and topic of your podcast. If you struggle with determining your theme, one of the ways to get ideas is to listen to other podcasts. What are other people doing, and how can that get your wheels turning? 

Lastly, if you are not yet sure about starting your own podcast, a great starting place is to be a guest on other nonprofits’ podcasts. Reaching out to existing podcasts for collaboration might be the right direction for you. (Just because you don’t want to start your own or don’t have the capital to, doesn’t mean you can’t get into podcasting)

If you are absolutely ready to go with your own show, read on for the remaining eight questions to help get your podcast off the ground and working for all of your nonprofit’s storytelling hopes and dreams.

2. What format should our podcast be?

Second, to the topic or theme, the format of a podcast is often a crucial piece of the preproduction puzzle. 

Three common options (and many iterations of these options) exist at the core of most podcasts; The Fully Scripted Podcast, The Interview Podcast, and The Conversation Podcast. 

a. The Fully Scripted Podcast

No matter how many voices there are on the podcast, they are all reading from a script and hopefully making it sound like they are not reading at all. The best fully-scripted podcasts don’t feel like anything other than an audiobook or a natural conversation, but usually, in the credits, you will find a script author, writer, or editor that will clue you in if you aren’t in the know behind the scenes. 

b. The Interview Podcast

This podcast includes a host and a guest or guests with the host asking questions. Often, the questions are scripted, but some unscripted follow-ups will be asked as well. This podcast format is utilized more for education and information than entertainment, though the really good ones are entertaining as well.

c. The Conversational Podcast

Unlike the Interview podcast, where the host and guest jump from question to answer to the question to answer, the conversational podcast is best described as having coffee together. Both the host and the guest have equal control over the questions they ask and answer. These shows are often the most compelling because they allow all of the voices on the mic to dive deep into the conversation, instead of jumping from one answer straight into the next question. 

The best thing you can do, especially if you are looking to choose between an interview and conversation (or even scripted), is to listen to other podcasts and try each format or variations on them out for yourself. Just because you record it doesn’t mean it has to be published.

Buzzsprout’s take on How to Choose a Podcast Format

3. How often should we publish episodes?

Whether you do seasons or just create a regular release schedule, the frequency should be something that doesn’t tax your organization. 

Can you do it weekly? Perhaps, but will it take away from the mission of the organization? If it does, perhaps every other week or monthly is the better option. If you do Seasons, you have built-in breaks, which is highly suggested for smaller nonprofit organizations. Remember, the podcast you are looking to create is supposed to enhance your brand’s storytelling and, by extension, your mission, not encumber it.

4. How long should our episodes be?

Length is often based on publication frequency, so this is definitely something to consider after you figure out your format and how often you will release episodes. No matter what your target length is, it is important to have a target and to hit it or be under the time limit you impose on yourself. 

Listeners, once subscribed, often subconsciously schedule your podcast to their listening habits. If your podcast runs longer than they expected, it can mean they may not get to the end. (Example: “I only listen to podcasts during my one-hour workout, if your show is over an hour, I may not get back to it.”). Also, non-subscribers to your show are more likely to look at episode length, while subscribers are more apt to just hit play than they are to look at the runtime.

No matter what, consistency sets expectations. For daily shows, the target appears to be 20 minutes or less. For weekly shows, somewhere in the ballpark of 75 minutes. And for twice-monthly or monthly shows, 90 to 120 minutes. You have control over this because of editing, but choose a target and stick with it.

Buzzsprout reports that the average podcast episode length falls between 20 and 40 minutes. Source.

5. Who should the host be?

The host of your nonprofit’s podcast will be your organization’s voice, at least in podcast form on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all of the podcast applications that exist. But it doesn’t have to be someone in your organization. You can outsource the hosting role to a local radio personality or local podcaster. The choice is yours. 

The two most important factors in choosing a podcast host are 1, do they work well with the format you have chosen to use for your podcast, and 2, will they be consistent? 

Regarding the first factor, there is no hard-and-fast rule about what comes first, the host or the format. But the decision-making process for your organization may be based on how much money you have to spend or the talent pool and time management of your existing team. 

As the second factor, changing hosts happens. But if you run a podcast by seasons, you want a singular host to get you through each season. If you just have a monthly podcast, listeners will become accustomed to hearing a certain voice as host. If a change occurs, just be honest with your listeners. If they like your show and your content, they’ll continue to listen.

6. Do we need segments?

No matter the format of your show, you should build in segments, at least three of them, the Introduction, the Conclusion, and the Sponsor. 

  • The introduction is where you tell the listeners what to expect from this particular episode and tell them how to get a hold of you. 
  • The conclusion is where you reiterate again where listeners can find you, and you can say more about what your organization does. 
  • The Sponsor can be a legitimate advertisement break where you can add a word from “Our Sponsor” which can be a partnership organization or even an advertisement read of your upcoming event or fundraiser you. 

You could add plenty of other segments, such as a mailbag to respond to listener feedback or a Question of the Episode (Month or Week, depending on the frequency of release), where you can ask the question and discuss listeners’ answers to the previous question.

No matter what additions you choose to use, you should have an introduction to set expectations. You should also share your socials and website with listeners in your introduction, and then again, at minimum, reiterate those socials and websites again in the conclusion.

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7. Do we need a transcript of our nonprofit’s podcast episodes?

For a nonprofit creating its own podcast, transcription isn’t really an option; it is almost a requirement. Not only is it great for accessibility, but putting all those words to text on your website can also gain you a lot of organic SEO value. 

For longer-form podcasts, this may seem like a large undertaking but when it comes to accessibility, the more accessible your podcast is to hard-of-hearing people or even people who prefer to read, the better off you will be. As great as this will be for you, for now, it will become more important going forward.

8. Do we need a website for a nonprofit’s podcast?

Yes, your podcast needs a website, but you do not have to build a completely separate website from your own. Your-website.com/podcast or your-website.org/your-podcast-name are acceptable. 

Podcast applications are all well and good, but there are a lot of them, and most are closed application environments. This means, for the most return on investment your podcast description and transcription should be housed on the web, as part of your website, for added SEO value, but also so it can be found when searched. 

9. How should we repurpose our nonprofit’s podcast?

When it comes to nonprofits and podcasting, you want to repurpose everything! Waste not! 

  • Cut together short video highlights for various social platforms. 
  • Create blog posts expanding on ideas mentioned in specific episodes.
  • Create Instagram posts based on little quotes from your guests or hosts. 

There is no end in sight for all of the additional content that can be generated from your own podcast or even from guesting on someone else’s podcast.

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If you have even more questions than when you started, these questions have done their job. Starting a podcast is not like going out for dinner. You don’t just decide to do it and then go. It’s more like going to the Moon. You need to plan, you need to set expectations, and you need to follow through. 

Podcasting is as much art as it is anything else. There is no right or wrong way to do it. But for non-profit institutions, the most important thing is to make sure your podcast tells your story, without hindering your ability to accomplish your mission.

Also, we’ll be more than happy to help further the discussion if you want to talk to someone with experience. We know how to make a podcast. We know it’s not for everyone to create their own, but there are plenty of reasons to get involved in some way.

About the author:

Jason Stershic, Content Strategist at Barlele

Jason is a Content Strategist at Barlele who is a specialist at taking one piece of content and turning it any many things to share across digital channels. He got his digital marketing feet wet in the travel and tourism industry and has also helped nonprofits better tell their story through a variety of content marketing strategies and tactics. 

With a history of decades of blogging and podcasting experience, with other brands and his own Agent Palmer (blog) and The Palmer Files podcast, Jason helps small businesses and nonprofits bring their content marketing dreams to life, strategically and with passion. 

You can find Jason mostly in the Twittersphere at @AgentPalmer and check out his personal podcast @ThePalmerFiles.