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Stories and gossip: Molly Beck shares podcasting best practices with nonprofits

April 3, 2020 Category: FeaturedLongMethodPurpose
“By 2023 everyone you know will have a podcast,” said Molly Beck, the dynamic founder and CEO of the hosting platform, at the beginning of a deep dive into the ways nonprofits can take advantage of the rising popularity of this form of audio content.

Originally slated as an in-person event, Generosity’s first Tech in the Commons of 2020 was adroitly turned into a virtual session through the efforts of  series partner Comcast NBCUniversal, after COVID-19 “stay at home” safeguards were put in place in Philadelphia.

Now in its fourth year, Generosity’s Tech in the Commons series seeks to familiarize nonprofits with trending technologies, and “Podcasting 101 for Nonprofits” via Zoom quickly hit maximum registration capacity. Registrants came from across the sector, including City Year Philadelphia, GreenLight Foundation, Hopeworks, the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Women’s Way and the Economy League, among many others.

“So we know this is an especially busy time for all of you, especially this audience of nonprofits,”said Julia Reusch, director of national strategic partnerships and community impact for Comcast Corporation, in her welcome. “That said, we really wanted to take the opportunity today to provide you with a tool that will enable you to connect with the communities you serve, which we know is perhaps more important now than ever.”

Beck — a member of the second cohort of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator — opened the session by promising to have participants ready to create their first podcast by the end of the 90 minutes.

“We live in a place where people don’t just want to consume, they want to create,” she said as she explained why podcasting is booming. “Sound is fitting our fluid lives [and] we want to consume content without having to have our eyes on it,”

“There are three reasons why your nonprofit needs a podcast now,” she said. “The first is that having a podcast helps you stand out.”

The second, she added, is that the space isn’t crowded: “We know that blogs which were so new and innovative five years ago, 10 years ago; we know that social media which was so new and innovative five years ago, 10 years ago — those platforms are crowded now.”

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The podcast market, on the other hand, isn’t saturated yet. “The people who start their podcasts now are the ones who will have the time to build those [large] audiences,” Beck said.

The third reason, Beck said, is that podcasts can help nonprofits engage target communities. “Know that podcast listeners are farther down the marketing funnel than other platforms,” she said. “If people are actually finding your podcast, hitting play, and listening for 45 minutes to your organization talk about the work that you are doing, they are so much more engaged than on almost any other platform.”

“And because they are so engaged,” she continued, “you can look at the analytics and see what that super-engaged listener wants more of.”

Here are four aspects of podcasting Beck elaborated on during the session:


  • Brainstorm ideas. You can run a poll on Instagram to see what your audience wants the content to be. Or you can explore possible topics with your team. Another way to settle on the type of content you’ll be podcasting is to explore what interests you.
  • Decide what angle you want to take. Are you the expert, or an interviewer, or something like a journalist examining the topic?
  • What should your format be? Podcasts tend to fit in one of three: the solo format, the interview-style format, and the tips-based format.
  • People don’t remember anything but stories and gossip. Take a personal, anecdotal approach to your topic, or take people behind the scenes. That’s what people like.


  • Book guests who can help you expand your market. Look at their social following and other factors that can help get more ears on your podcast. Protip: pre-interview the guests. According to Beck, a rambling speaker is the worst kind of guest to have on your show. But by pre-interviewing them, you can help them key into concise answers to your questions.
  • Cross-promote with other podcast shows. Be a guest!
  • Use the press. Ask press to appear on your show as an expert on the topic. You can even create podcast content suited to their needs.
  • Use your current listeners for marketing. Ask them to talk up your show, Have people write Apple podcast reviews.
  • You and your employees are part of the marketing effort too. Include your podcast in your email signatures, and make sure it is available on all your online “real estate.

Metrics & money

  • Anticipate that only 10% of your social followers and newsletter subscribers will become listeners of your podcast. But remember, Beck said, “it’s not the size of your audience, it’s the impact of your audience.”
  • Podcast metrics work differently than website metrics. Look at analytics 30 days after the episode drops.
  • The most important metric is the average number of downloads per episode.
  • Can you sell ads or sponsorships? You’ll need to have at least 5K listeners per episode.
  • Can you become part of a network? You’ll need to have 15K listeners per episode.


  • The space you record in is very important. You need a quiet, small space. “The reason that there’s always a joke about podcasters recording in a closet,” Beck said, “is because closets are actually great places to record. Because they usually have no windows, they usually have lots of clothes, which makes it nice and soundproof, and there’s usually no one else in them.”
  • You need a hosting platform.
  • You need to put your podcast on Apple and Spotify.

Beck drew the presentation to its conclusion with two timelines for participants. If they already had a pretty good idea of what they wanted their podcast to be, she provided a plan for having the show ready within a week.

For those who were still undecided about the content, format, etc., of their podcast, she provided a plan that would have the show go live by the end of the month.

At the end of the session, Beck engaged in a lively question and answer period with participants. In addition, the attendees of this virtual Tech in the Commons session received a free, one-year, pro subscription to the Messy,fm platform, courtesy of Comcast NBCUniversal. And in a spontaneous show of generosity, Beck turned those into lifetime subscriptions on the spot.

You can see Beck’s full presentation here. It starts at about minute 13.


Tech in the Commons

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