Podcasts for the Nonprofit Genius


Thomas Edison was famously quoted as saying, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” If you’ve managed to carry your nonprofit through the flames of 2020, congratulations, you’ve got the perspiration part of the genius equation covered. Perhaps you now find yourself seeking that one percent of inspiration to rekindle your own inner fire. But between managing your kids’ Zoom education, cooking endlessly, and serving your constituents, there never seems to be enough time.

Fret not. You can gain valuable insights by checking out these eight podcasts for nonprofit professionals, any of which can become part of your new daily routine. Best of all, the audio format will give your weary eyes a break from all that doomscrolling you’ve been doing.

Podcasts to Savor Over Your Morning Cup of Coffee

While working from home (or more specifically from your bed office) poses its challenges, the shift to telecommuting has made the morning commute obsolete, making way for more pleasurable uses of those early daylight hours, like lingering over your morning cup of joe, tea, or MUD\WTR. Here are a few short-format podcasts that you can savor while imbibing your hot beverage of choice.

First Day Podcast
Put out weekly by the Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the First Day Podcast is a great way for development professionals to access up-to-the-minute news and research in the fields of philanthropy and fundraising. The podcast, which tends to run between ten and twenty minutes, features interviews with academics from the Lilly School as well as other experts in the fundraising arena.

Each short episode is packed with data to inform your fundraising practice, much of which is drawn from reports issued by the Lilly School, including those put out by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. One recent episode looked at how COVID-19 has affected individual giving by female donors. Episodes in the first month of 2021 have focused on planning for the coming year and forecasting the fundraising climate for the next twelve months. These podcasts tend to look at big picture questions, such as “Is the COVID-19 pandemic an event or an era?”, while also diving into detailed data to guide you on the path ahead.

Tiny Spark
Tiny Spark is a podcast by Nonprofit Quarterly, which examines issues related to philanthropy, the nonprofit world, and international aid. Hosted by Amy Costello, whose reporting experience includes stints at outlets such as NPR and the BBC World Service, this podcast has a radio news format featuring “in-depth interviews and shoe leather reporting from across the globe.” If you are one of those folks who needs a morning news fix, this podcast is a great source of information on a range of current issues affecting nonprofit professionals, told from the perspective of those on the front lines. Recent episodes have focused on the growing popularity of giving circles, the role of African feminists in international development, and sexual harassment in the fundraising field. Episodes average about 30 minutes in length.

Fresh Research Podcast
If you don’t have time to sift through the latest reports, you may want to give a listen to the Fresh Research Podcast by The Nonprofit Times. Each episode is approximately 25 minutes long and features interviews with the authors of recent studies or surveys. Many episodes cover topics related to charitable giving, such as how income and wealth affects generosity, how to time planned giving requests, and how donors take overhead into account when deciding to give. These episodes leave the listener with solid ideas grounded in the latest research.

Podcasts for Afternoon Daydreaming

If your Zoom meeting has been cancelled and you start daydreaming about that new strategic plan, listening to podcasts can provide you with some food for thought. Here are three podcasts that will stimulate right-brain thinking.

Inside Social Innovation Podcast
The Inside Social Innovation Podcast is released by the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), a magazine published by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society which “aims to inform and inspire leaders of social change.” This podcast takes the format of talks and lectures by social change leaders on topics ranging from nonprofit mergers to technology-related issues to storytelling for social change. Many of these talks are actually recordings taken from past SSIR Nonprofit Management Institute conferences. So, if you miss the thrill of attending conferences, and are interested in exploring big-picture ideas, this podcast is a must. (Sorry, bagels and cream cheese are not included.) And for those interested in the topic of how to achieve more impactful philanthropy, SSIR, in collaboration with Schwab Charitable, also puts out the Giving With Impact podcast.

Nonprofit Leadership Podcast: Making Your World Better
Hosted by Dr. Rob Harter, the Nonprofit Leadership Podcast aims to answer questions such as “What does it take to be an effective nonprofit leader today?” “What are the biggest challenges?” “What are the biggest obstacles?” “How should nonprofits fundraise in an economy that’s constantly changing?” To answer these questions, Rob invites hosts from a range of backgrounds to discuss emerging trends and issues of interest to leaders and social innovators in the nonprofit field. A recent interview with professional illusionist and storyteller Harris III explored how nonprofit leaders can regain their sense of wonder to lead from a place of hope rather than fear. Other episodes examine topics such as the challenges created by COVID-19, leadership styles, creative fundraising, and leading through a crisis.

Growth Exponential Podcast
Looking for inspiration from other leaders who are doing great things? If so, you might want to bookmark the Growth Exponential Podcast. Each episode is under twenty minutes and features a different leader from the nonprofit world, philanthropy, or a related field sharing the story of their organization. Recent guests have included the CEO and founder at Crowdspring, the CEO at Jewish Family and Career Services of Atlanta, and the founder at 1For1 Water.

Podcasts for Cooking Up Something New

The closure of restaurants during the pandemic has prompted many to get creative with their culinary repertoires. Did you bake sourdough during the early days of the lockdown? Are you finally trying out those recipes that you bookmarked long ago? Podcasts may provide similar inspiration and ideas to expand the techniques you utilize in the workplace, whether it be for nonprofit management, strategic planning, or fundraising. Here are some podcasts to get your ideas flowing. You could even try listening to them while you chop onions for your evening meal.

Successful Nonprofits Podcast
The Successful Nonprofits Podcast “brings [listeners] fresh ideas and featured conversations with nonprofit thought leaders.” This podcast spans a wide range of topics, including coalition building, monitoring and evaluation, and “life after burnout.” For insights and inspiration for the coming year, be sure to check out their year-end edition, “Our Guests Share What 2020 Taught Them.” If you are concerned about navigating the current economic downturn, you might want to check out “4 Steps to Thrive in a Recession.”

Nonprofits Are Messy
The Nonprofits Are Messy podcast, by Joan Garry Consulting, “is an interview-style leadership podcast that answers the most pressing questions faced by nonprofit leaders around the world.” The podcast, which is available in chronological order on the Apple Podcasts website, or arranged by topic on the Joan Garry Consulting website, covers strategy, leadership, self-care, team building, fundraising, and more. The host, Joan Garry, starts out each episode by offering her insights into the topic at hand, then interviews experts to come up with creative solutions to these daunting challenges. In one recent episode, Garry speaks with the CEO and co-founder of Classy about online fundraising trends. Another episode draws on the insights of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine to explore how artificial intelligence can be used to retain donors. Whatever episode you choose to play while prepping dinner, you are sure to find sage advice.

We hope these eight podcasts get you off to a great start. For more ideas and inspiration, visit the Recorded Webinars and Podcasts section of GrantStation’s PathFinder library.