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What Cindy Wagman Is Hearing From Her Podcast Listeners

One of the reasons she decided to start a podcast was to combat the feeling of isolation fundraisers can experience when working in a small shop, says Cindy Wagman, CFRE, who has spent a large part of her career working with small charities and is now president of The Good Partnership and co-host of The Small Nonprofit podcast.  

“The one thing that was clear to me when I worked in a small shop was that it felt isolating and it could be overwhelming,” she says. 

After starting her business in 2015, which specializes in serving smaller charities, Cindy was looking for ways to reach out. “A lot of the available resources—free and paid—didn’t deal with small groups. I wanted to do that. I wanted our audience not to feel alone.”

“We experimented,” Cindy continued.  “I blogged. We did webinars. I thought about a podcast. For me, it was also important to model what it is we think our clients should be doing.”
Podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular way for people to come together around ideas. In Canada, between 19% and 27% of Canadians are podcast listeners, seven to ten million people. And, although, Canada's smaller population makes scalability for Canada-specific podcasters more difficult, Canadian listeners are more dedicated, according to The Canadian Podcast Listener study. Among the 18-34 millennial demographic, 41% of respondents said they had listened to a podcast in the past month.

The Small Nonprofit podcast’s first episode, “How to Craft Stories to Raise More Money” with Vanessa Chase Lockshin, was aired on September 16, 2018. 

Feedback from listeners was positive. 

“For me,” says one, “listening to this podcast has been enlightening—more often than not I say to myself, “yes, that’s me” or “I’ve been there.”

“So many small organizations can’t afford a team or consultant to strategize around fundraising,” says another. "This series, drawing on the expertise of two proven organizations, fills that niche brilliantly, and offers and immense amount of value—for free!  Well done and kudos for having the vision.” 

“When I was thinking about putting together a podcast, a wise friend suggested I partner with an organization that had a broader reach,” said Cindy. “I approached Charity Village because we both are focused on small organizations. They said yes.”

Cindy describes the relationship with Charity Village as “very organic. We produce the show and Charity Village makes sure everything gets posted.  I, and one of my associates, Aine McGlynn, co-host, and Eloise Jane Mariano is the producer. If Charity Village sees something interesting, they’ll let us know.”

After 39 episodes, The Small Nonprofit podcast is now the “#1 podcast for nonprofits in Canada.”

“I didn’t have any specific expectations about the podcast when we started,” says Cindy. “I’m not afraid of failure. I like to try new things. When people reach out to me about the podcast, it’s validating. When we sustain ratings on iTunes, it’s great.”

The topics covered by the podcast are based on what Cindy and her team think will resonate. A sample of recent shows include: 

  • “A Frank Conversation about Your Systems” with Aine Mcglynn
  • “Self-Care and Productivity: Live at AFP Fundraising Day”
  • “Engaging Equity-Seeking Populations” with Andrea Gunraj
  • “Creating Long-Term Value at Your Event” with Amy Milne

“In my experience, a lot of small organizations have a social justice mandate,” says Cindy. “The sector is starting to have these conversations, and we need to make it mainstream. That’s one of the things our podcast is for.”

 “The conversations with our listeners are about board effectiveness, strategy, questions about ‘how-to.’ We break things down. Take strategic planning, for example. We talk about it bit-by-bit. We wanted a podcast full of actionable tips. In my experience, there’s no shortage of good advice. It’s how to make it happen where people lose hope and get frustrated.”

Cindy says the best part of doing the podcast is the conversations with listeners who find the content is useful and resonates. “When I hear someone recommending the podcast, it’s validating,” she says. 

The most difficult part is maintaining the consistency.

“This is not specific to the podcast, but the thing is always consistency. We are doing it once a week and that requires planning and knowing what you are going to do week-to-week. Consistency is the hardest part but also the secret ingredient.”

The podcast is taking a break over the summer and will be coming back in September with a new season. 

“We’ll be spending the summer interviewing for the fall season talking about a lot of good things,” says Cindy, “and we welcome ideas. We want to know what people are thinking about. Have a listen to the podcast. It’s there when you need it and we’re specifically talking to a Canadian audience.” 

Check out The Small Nonprofit podcast here.

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