Podcasting? Grant writing? Here are guides to both.

A proper guide to starting a podcast—friendly, but stern  

By Cindy Wagman (September 26, 2019)

So You Want to Start a Podcast: Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Story, and Building a Community That Will Listen by Kristen Meinzer, William Morrow, August 6, 2019, 224 pp, $22.69

Podcasting seems to be on the tip of everyone’s lips these days. With good reason—podcasting is a great way to connect with and engage audiences. There’s a level of authenticity that comes across with podcasting (and audio in general) that isn’t found in the written word as much. 

But starting a podcast can feel daunting and technically complicated. Perhaps worse than that, there are so many podcasts that lack direction, purpose, and clarity. And podcasting is not a magic bullet solution, like everyone thought crowdfunding would be just a few years ago. It’s not a “if you build it, they will come” scenario. It’s tough to get your existing audience to engage, let alone find new audiences and you have to be consistently marketing your podcast to get consistent listeners.

When podcasting works though, it can be great! As the host of Canada’s #1 podcast for charities, I can say that it’s built a reputation for me and my company that is unprecedented compared to other marketing we’ve done.

So, if podcasting is on your to-do list, you need a guide—someone to show you around and help you do it properly.

Reading So You Want to Start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer is like sitting down with a trusted mentor over a perfect cup of coffee and getting the real lowdown on how to be successful podcasting. She’s both friendly and frank. She tells you what to do, and very clearly, what not to do.

This book covers everything you need to know about podcasting, except the very technical parts, which as she argues, can’t be taught through a book and must be taught through video or in person. The good news is that the technical part isn’t the hard part. The strategy is. And Meinzer lays out the strategy for you step-by-step.

The book starts with what we all know (thanks to Simon Sinek) is the most important question: Why? While making a podcast is fun, that’s not a good enough reason to do it. It seems trendy also falls short. As Meinzer reminds us, “if everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” 

Meinzer does offer some better answers: “to build community around an issue or identity” (check out Diabetes Canada’s podcast  as a great example); to teach a specific skill (Vantage Point, a capacity building organization, has a podcast does this); to give people additional ways to access content (I like or Habitat For Humanity’s) and more.

Once you’ve answered your big “why”—you can deep dive into the audience, topic, show structure, scripting and more. Meinzer is a pro at mapping out exactly what you need to think about it and her tone is conversational, drawing from her own extensive and successful experience. 

As an example, one of my favorite topics she dives into is how to book guests. She talked about the strategy behind guests, but also gives you step-by-step guidance on how to book them, including sample emails and how to look up contact information. This is a true insider’s perspective and is both wise and practical.

Kristen Meinzer
Photo: Lauren Eliot Photography

The book covers everything down to using music (you need to understand the legal considerations and where to find free music), why you should record in your closet (it’s true – the acoustics are better – I used to record in my kids’ fort), to making show art and naming episodes. 

I’ll finish by adding my two-cents. It’s important to align our expectations. In Canada, 500 listeners are considered a lot. Yes, most podcasts don’t have more than 500 listeners to any given episode (ours hovers at around 1,000). While some people discover your podcast through apps like Apple or Stitcher, most listen because you send them there. 

If you’ve been wondering about podcasting, this book breaks it all down, quickly and succinctly, but with a friendly, but stern, approach to keep you on track.

(The founder and CEO of The Good Partnership, Cindy Wagman is currently the host of the #1 podcast for non-profits in Canada: the small nonprofit podcast.)

For people whose childhood aspirations may not have included grant writing

By Joanne Linka (September 26, 2019)

Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing, and Writing Successful Proposals by Tori O’Neal-McElrath, Lynn Kanter, Lynn English, Jossey-Bass; 5th edition, July 30, 2019, 144 pp, $37.12

Some say grant writing is a skill, others say it is an art… but most people think it is just a pain in the ass. 

Many people dread the thought of writing a grant and feel unqualified to do so. Others are unsure of the process or don’t leave themselves enough time to do it well. For many of us, it is just one more thing that needs to get done as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next task. 

I have yet to meet anyone who LOVES to write grants or whose childhood aspiration was to be a grant writer. Some of the best advice I received about writing grants was to do it with a glass of wine (or two?) … sadly my boss is reluctant to provide me with a wine fridge so coffee and chocolate have had to suffice.

But never fear – for all those intrepid or new grant writers, there is help and hope! 

Winning Grants Step by Step is a must read for anyone starting out as a grant writer and for anyone who feels daunted and overwhelmed by the task of writing a grant. 

The authors of this workbook have taken great pains to break down the process of grant writing into manageable chunks, offering helpful hints and reality checks along the way. 

The worksheets in each chapter are useful for gathering the information needed for the reader, just as the examples are useful to see how the information is put together. Each step is clearly laid out, developed, examples given and Dos and Don’ts shared. Some of my favourite parts of the book are:

  1. Chapter 4 lays out the differences between goals, objectives, outcomes, strategies, activities etc. This alone is enough to make a new grant writer (or a seasoned one) weep with joy.
  2. The new SMART system for creating goals: it is now SMARTIE to include INCLUSIVE and EQUITABLE.
  3. Wide margins to allow for note taking, questions and doodles.
  4. A single example that is carried out throughout the whole process with the complete proposal at the end.
  5. Resources and website at the back of the book for further info and research.

There are only two things that I thought were lacking. First of all, it is an American book so some of the info is not relevant or needs to be reframed for a Canadian grant writer. Not a huge issue, but noticeable. Secondly, at the beginning they mention being careful about word count. 

Please learn from my mistake: word count is a very different thing than character count. Make sure you are using the right one… tears have been shed, bad words have been uttered and I blame several grey hairs on having made this mistake. Painful, but true.

With this step by step guide, grant writing will suddenly become a delightful diversion, a walk in the park and something to look forward to. Well… maybe not. But intrepid grant writers might start to enjoy the challenge of writing a grant… or at least not dread it quite as much! So grab a glass of wine and give it a try!

(Joanne Linka is Manager of Communication and Fund Development at The Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria BC – the oldest running charity in Western Canada.)

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