My Top 5 Nonprofit Podcasts: Professional Development For Your Ears

PodcastI love podcasts, don’t youWhat . . . you don’t listen to them?  If you’re a busy nonprofit professional on a shoestring budget, then you absolutely should.  Podcasts are personal and professional development opportunities on-the-go; they’re magazine subscriptions for your ears.  They can make your life easier, more efficient, and more enriched plus . . . they’re FREE!  I also find that they come in handy while I’m waiting in long lines or running errands and doing things around the house – I just plug in my earbuds to the iPhone and  I’m learning and growing as a person and a professional even as I’m going about my busy daily life.

When I’m advising and coaching nonprofit clients, I always ask if they listen regularly to podcasts; not a single one has ever said “yes”.  I share the following list with them, just in case they have some time, and every single client has thanked me for it.  Most are incorporating some aspect of their learning in their everyday practices and some have even structured board and staff meetings around a particular podcast topic.

If your organization is small, you probably don’t have the resources to hire high-priced consultants or travel to big ticket conferences to hear experts speak about their emerging research and practices.  You probably also don’t have the funds to participate in regular webinars and retreats . . . but you do have your podcasts with you to help you sharpen your skills and expand the breadth and depth of your knowledge and ‘know-how’ on the fly.  Let the learning and growth begin!

Here are five of my favorites, presented in the order of “must haves”.  Give them a listen and drop me a line to let me know what you think about them and their usefulness.  If your favorite nonprofit podcast isn’t on this list, send me a recommendation; I’d love to give it a listen.


Cheryl McCormick, Founder and Principal Consultant, Ascend Nonprofit Consulting & Executive Coaching;

Tony MartignettiTony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio

Description:  “Big nonprofit ideas for the other 95 percent.”  Board relations. Fundraising. Volunteer management. Prospect research. Legal compliance. Accounting. Finance. Investments. Donor relations. Public relations. Marketing. Technology. Social media. Every nonprofit struggles with these issues. Big nonprofits hire experts. The other 95% listen to Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio. Trusted experts and leading thinkers join Tony each week to tackle the tough issues. If you have big dreams but a small budget, you have a home at Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.

Pros:  Based in NYC, Tony is an attorney and consultant specializing in planning giving, so his shows on this topic are especially informative. Guests include the most credible, highly-regarded doers and thought leaders in the field of nonprofit work.  The range of topics is eclectic and practical, and slightly more ‘academic’ than other podcasts (which I personally like) and it’s obvious that Tony does a lot of research prior to each show – he asks very insightful questions and is extremely engaging with his guests.  To ensure that topics and language is clear, he attempts to keep his guests out of “Jargon Jail”, and he sends out “Live Listener Love” to his audience in cities worldwide.  Tony is sharp as a whip, but it’s his wit, sense of fun with his guests, self-deprecating humor that gets me.  I literally crack up when I listen . . . he’s a riot.  His passion for his work and the nonprofit sector really comes through.

Cons: Weekly podcasts aren’t enough; they’re that good!  I love this podcast and you will, too.


Rene McGivernNonprofit Spark

Description:  Many of us are involved, as staff, board members or volunteers in new or emerging non-profits. Whether working with the homeless, the environment, children or others in need, every new staff and board faces myriad issues that can be both bewildering and overwhelming. Enter Renee McGivern, host of NONPROFIT SPARK. Renee and her guests walk through a new area of nonprofit work in clear, concise and fun themed shows. From Best Practices, developing and keeping a volunteer force, fundraising, effective governance, you can breathe easy now. Renee and NONPROFIT SPARK have arrived!

Pros: Host Rene McGivern’s upper-Midwestern roots really come through in her pragmatic, down-to-brass-tacks style, which I like very much.  She often gives perspectives from her own experience as an executive director and board chair, which sometimes helps to clarify and contextualize issues being discussed.  Her episodes are very professionally-done and edited, likely owing to support from her prized sponsor, CliftonLarsonAllen, LLC.  Rene does her homework and it shows; I really love this show.

Cons:  Only one.  Rene sometimes ridicules or criticizes nonprofit organizations, staff, or board members for various transgressions in practice or organizational philosophy.  This is discouraging, since her podcast is directed at “new and emerging nonprofits” and consequently many may be neophytes to many aspects of nonprofit management.  Her introduction narrative says it best, “Many of us are involved as leaders and board members of new and emerging nonprofit organizations . . . every new leader wonders, “Are we doing this right?”  Rene, please go easy on nonprofit leaders – they’re doing the best they can, from a place of selfless intent. . . they’re just wondering if they’re ‘doing it right.”  Love your show, though.


FR FundFund-Raising Fundamentals

Description:  Tony Martignetti hosts this monthly, 10-minute podcast on behalf of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  Fundraising Fundamentals is actually a section on the Chronicle’s online site.  Tony Martignetti, a consultant, author, blogger, and host of Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio, talks with nonprofit leaders and consultants about how organizations can more effectively raise money, build better relationships with boards and supporters, and manage volunteers. Look for new installments once a month.

Pros:  Ten minute format really drills down to the essence of the topic at hand.  Great for busy nonprofit professionals on the go!

Cons:  As with Tony’s own show, I only wish there were more of them.


Magic KeysMagic Keys Radio

Description:  Hosts Claire Meyerhoff and Kivi Laroux Miller “unlock the secrets to nonprofit marketing for their good causes”.   Whether it’s writing a newsletter or a fund raising appeal, the Magic Keys hosts bring you the latest (and most fun) strategies to bring your donor communications to life.

Pros:  Very straight-forward, practical advice about nonprofit marketing and de-mystifying marketing strategies.  With all of the proverbial ‘hats’ that nonprofit professionals have to wear, effective marketing can seem daunting and intimidating.  Claire and Kivi walk you through it.

Cons:  The podcast no longer contains recent episodes; the podcast was active from December 2008 to January 2011.  That said, most of the information is still highly relevant – what small nonprofit doesn’t need more marketing savvy skills?  Some of the episodes drew heavily from Kivi’s then-newly-published book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, which is a benefit in the sense that a nonprofit professional knew that there was a fundamental reference guide available; on the other hand, it seemed overly promoted on the podcast.  I would still recommend it, despite the abrupt end of the series.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll make a come-back.


Phil ChatPhilanthropy Chat

Description:  This podcast, administered by the Foundation Center brings you conversations with grantmakers and other experts in the field of philanthropy on topics ranging from arts funding to changing trends in grantmaking to the impact of the economic crisis on nonprofits.

Pros: Very straightforward advice from highly-credible presenters; very ‘dense’.

Cons:  Sporadic scheduling; the last podcast is dated October 23, 2012; there’s nothing ‘zingy and pithy’ about the interviews; good information, but they’re sometimes on the ‘dry side’.  For my personal tastes, there tends to be too much emphasis on fundraising through grantmaking, and not enough focus on individual gifts, which I believe sends the wrong message to small nonprofits.  We know that most of the money in nonprofit philanthropy comes from individual gifts – to the tune of 75-80 percent (source: Giving USA).  That hasn’t changed for 40 years.  Consequently, the conversation in fundraising should focus more heavily on soliciting individual gifts, particularly for new, small, and emerging nonprofits.  It’s the key to financial sustainability.


FR AuthorityThe Fundraising Authority Podcast

Description:  Host Joe Garecht presents monthly podcast episodes highlighting great tips, tools, and strategies on fundraising and development for non-profits of all sizes.

Pros:  Very practical advice; nothing “out there” or “woo woo” about it.

Cons:  Not as polished as other podcasts; few guests (usually a monologue) episodes are sometimes months apart, despite being advertised as “monthly”.



Cheryl M. McCormick, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, Ascend Nonprofit Consulting and Executive Coaching,


One comment

  1. Thank you so much, Cheryl! Number 1 and two in your Top 5. I’m touched and humbled. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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