Should You Sponsor or Start a Podcast?


I’ve been asked some form of the following question three times in the last week:

“We want to get new donors, and we’re thinking about sponsoring a podcast.  What do you think?”

Spoiler alert: the short answer is “probably not.”   

There’s nothing wrong with sponsoring or even starting a podcast. However, it’s likely that the cost for each donor you acquire via a podcast will likely be higher than the cost to acquire a donor through more traditional methods.

In short, there are three main reasons why…

#1 – Most Donors Are Old, Most Podcast Listeners Are Young

The most recent Blackbaud study shared that the average age of a donor in the United States is 67 years old.  (It’s good to recognize that this means half of the donors are older than 67.)

And according to, only 22% of podcast listeners are over 55.

Right there we have an immediate mismatch. Generally speaking, nonprofits generally want older donors because older donors tend to give more, and tend to be donors for longer lengths of time. But the audience for podcasts is younger donors – who tend to give less, and for shorter lengths of time.

Is there anything wrong with this? No. But targeting younger people tends to be a less efficient use of resources.

#2 – But Steven, We Need Younger Donors, This Is Great!

The “but we need younger donors!” argument was part of all three conversations I had.

But it doesn’t hold much water.

For most organizations, the average length of time a donor will give to the organization is about 5 years.

So, say you sponsor a podcast and you’re acquiring donors who average about 35 years old.

Most of those donors will have left your organization by the time they are about 40 years old.  That’s roughly 25 years before they enter their prime giving years. 

Is there anything wrong with this?  No.  Will you have raised some money and acquired some “younger donors?”  Sure. 

But if you have limited resources, wouldn’t you rather acquire 60-year-old donors who would give more and for longer periods? 

#3 – Donating Is A Little Harder

In the context of listening to a podcast, there’s a little bit more “friction” between a person and their donation than there is compared to traditional fundraising channels.

For instance:

  • When a person reading your letter wants to give a gift, the reply card and reply envelope are right there
  • When a person reading your email wants to give a gift, they click on a link
  • When a person listening to a podcast wants to donate, they have to press “stop” on the podcast, then they have to search for the link to your donation page.  This assumes that the link is in the show notes and that the notes are included in the app the person is using to listen to the podcast. 

Is there anything wrong with this? No, it can still work. But always pay attention to friction – it matters far more than most people think.

There Are Exceptions

It’s easy to think of two exceptions to this advice:

  • Organizations whose donor base is overwhelmingly younger, like many social justice organizations.  If the average age of your donors is 35, then a channel that reaches that audience makes sense.
  • Organizations that have already maximized the ROI from traditional donor acquisition channels, but still require more new donors to meet organizational goals, so are willing to expand outside of the “tried and true.”

I’m sure there are more exceptions.

If you’re considering getting in the podcast game, those two exceptions are probably good “starting filters” to see if it makes sense for your organization.

Be “Platform Agnostic”

The three hard-won lessons I’m trying to share really have nothing to do with podcasts:

  1. There are lots of ways to acquire new donors
  2. Each one has a different audience and a different return on investment
  3. When our resources are limited, it’s our job to figure out how to get the best return

Be “platform agnostic.” It doesn’t matter which platform or media channel you or your friends prefer, or what would be “cool” to do. What matters is looking at all the available choices and making the best choice for your organization.

Sometimes that means making unsexy choices. Sometimes that means alienating younger members of the fundraising team. Sometimes it means pissing off the spouse of the board member who has strong feelings.

It means looking at all the options. Estimating the ROI of your possible choices. And then achieving as much of your mission and vision as you can.

A Powerful Fundraising Sentence


Today I’d like to share one of the most powerful fundraising sentences I’ve ever heard. 

I’ll show you why it’s so powerful, and how to apply its lessons to supercharge your organization’s direct response fundraising.

Here we go…

It’s one of the most successful fundraising sentences I’ve ever heard:

“You can cure a major disease like Leprosy for just $250 dollars.”

This sentence has three main elements:

  • The “before” is that a person has leprosy
  • The “after” is that a person will be cured of their leprosy
  • The cost is $250

(If you need a refresher on how we use “before” and “after,” read this post or this post.)

Here’s how those elements work together…

  1. There’s a large contrast between “having leprosy” and “being cured of a dreadful disease.”  That’s a big change in a person’s life! 
  2. The cost to cause that big a change seems pretty minimal.   

Any time you can show a donor that they can make a big change with a gift, and the cost to “cause the change” seems like a good deal, you’re about to raise a lot of money.    

In Your Fundraising

In your fundraising right now, when you tell donors what will happen when they give a gift, does it feel like the donor will cause a big change?

The secret is finding a “before and after” with quite a bit of “distance” between them.

And the good news is that if you describe things well, almost all your “befores and afters” can seem powerful.  Here’s a list of examples off the top of my head:

  • “You can save an heirloom quilt from mold, moths and being forgotten for just $150.”
  • “You can provide a struggling village with a cistern that improves farming results, improves hygiene, lowers sickness and helps a village break the cycle of poverty for just $10,000.”
  • “You can help a child with disabilities go from unable to exercise to skiing with a qualified instructor and adaptive equipment for just $50.” 

Each of these is a fundraising “offer” (and here’s our free eBook on how to make great offers for your organization).

Your donors care about your beneficiaries and/or your cause.  If you can focus their attention on a portion of your work – a “before” and an “after” – that show a big change, and the cost of that change seems like a good deal, you’re on your way to even more fundraising success.