The Smart Communications Podcast

The Smart Communications Podcast
The Smart Communications Podcast is a useful resource for all nonprofit leaders looking to boost their communications chops on the go.

54: How do you ask for a really, really, really big donation?
Aug 5 • 15 min
Sarah Durham and Eric Javier discuss the 80/20 rule, the ladder of engagement, and how to articulate your vision to donors. Listen in to learn how your nonprofit can get their next really big donation to transform the organization.
68: Why is a clear voice important for nonprofits?
Jul 22 • 15 min
Sarah Durham, CEO of Big Duck and Advomatic, goes deep into the topic of organizational voice—what it is, how to create it, maintain it, and more. Building on the insights in her book, The Nonprofit Communications Engine, she connects the work of…
56: How can you make your website friendlier and more accessible?
Jul 8 • 11 min
Advomatic’s Sarah Durham and Amanda Luker discuss how to constantly improve your website, create different ways to experience content, and run accessibility audits of your nonprofit’s website. Learn how you can make your website friendlier to all users,…
66: How can you communicate better via Zoom?
Jun 24 • 7 min
Big Duck CEO Sarah Durham explores ways in which COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions have made us all increasingly dependent on video conferencing tools like Zoom. She shares a couple of tips and tricks to get more out of each digital interaction and…
62: How can you disrupt power dynamics and bring a DEI lens to your major donor relationships?
Jun 10 • 12 min
Sarah Durham and strategist Hannah Thomas discuss how DEI plays an important role in your capital campaigns and other major donor communications. Centering your communications on participants and being aware of how you may be “privileging” your donors is…
65: What happens when people think they know your organization but they don’t?
May 27 • 20 min
What happens when people hang on to an old idea of your organization? Learn how Teresa Younger, CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, shaped and advanced a well-known brand.
61: What are the six elements your communications need to thrive?
May 13 • 6 min
Big Duck’s latest book, The Nonprofit Communications Engine, outlines a simple model for nonprofit communicators and leaders that makes it easier for them to leverage communications in order to advance their mission. Nonprofit CEOs and staff who manage…
60: Why should your Executive Director prioritize communications?
Apr 29 • 17 min
Communications can have a big impact on many aspects of your nonprofit's mission, from mobilizing activists to attracting donors and other supporters who are critical to your work. Farra Trompeter and Sarah Durham talk about the importance of…
59: Should your logo stand out or fit in?
Apr 15 • 12 min
Big Duck’s CEO Sarah Durham and Design Director Sandy Zimmerman discuss logos. If you are contemplating a new logo, should you go with expected imagery or go with the unfamiliar? This blog examines the merits on both sides and shows how a little bit of…
63: How should your organization navigate communications during COVID-19?
Apr 1 • 4 min
Sarah Durham shares some quick tips and resources to help nonprofits communicate and fundraise during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
58: Interviews, focus groups, or surveys: which should you use?
Mar 18 • 24 min
How does your brand resonate with your participants? Sarah Durham and Big Duck’s Senior Strategist Laura Fisher discuss the ins and outs of interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Learn how you can conduct your own research, make your focus groups more…
57: What should your nonprofit’s communications really achieve?
Jan 22 • 6 min
Big Duck’s latest book, The Nonprofit Communications Engine, outlines a simple model for nonprofit communicators and leaders that makes it easier for them to leverage communications in order to advance their mission. Nonprofit CEOs and staff who manage…
55: Can you continuously improve your website?
Dec 6, 2019 • 18 min
From broken links to automated testing, learn how to continuously improve your website’s “hygiene” with Sarah Durham and Rory Tucker.
53: Is it really feasible for your nonprofit to raise millions?
Dec 5, 2019 • 19 min
CCS Fundraising’s Managing Director Eric Javier discusses the feasibility of your organization receiving large donations. This podcast explores feasibility studies, organization context, and audience research and redefines the 80/20 rule.
52: How do you make sure your events and recordings sound good?
Dec 4, 2019 • 12 min
Marcus dePaula, audio expert and producer of Big Duck’s podcast, gives insight into the right audio professional for your team, the best mics to use, how to present your sound, and how to make people listen in to your content. Hear how you can up your…
51: Who is your Director of Second Impressions?
Nov 20, 2019 • 13 min
Making sure your clients and other key stakeholders are happy can be difficult. What do they really need and want from you? Tune in to understand how to be more mindful about engaging donors and clients every step of the way with Sarah Durham and Farra…
50: What skills are most important on your in-house creative team
Nov 8, 2019 • 16 min
What are the most important skills to have on your in-house creative team? Learn how consistency, production, breadth, and the right experience can make your creative team flourish by tuning in.
49: How can your communications team apply inclusive branding?
Nov 7, 2019 • 17 min
Big Duck’s Farra Trompeter and communications professional Chris Tuttle discuss the importance of captions and alt titles, how to use color palettes, creating an inclusive team, and specializing your communications. Listen in to learn how your…
48: How can you design when you’re not a designer?
Nov 6, 2019 • 15 min
Big Duck pros Sarah Durham and Claire Taylor Hansen discuss the do’s and don’ts of design—how and when to use white space, how less is more, typographic hierarchy, and staying on-brand with little frill to get in the way. Listen in to learn more about how…
47: Should your nonprofit be worried about GDPR and online privacy?
Oct 23, 2019 • 15 min
Ochen Kaylan, Senior Developer at Advomatic and attorney, is passionate about online privacy. He discusses how to store and manage your donors’ and clients’ information, when enough information is enough, and how your own information is being used. Tune…
46: How do you involve your community when rebranding?
Oct 9, 2019 • 23 min
“You’re never going to get 100% buy-in…” is one of many lessons Elisabeth King, Director of Communications for Lycée Français de New York, learned during her organization’s rebrand. Over two-plus years, she oversaw a process that thoughtfully involved…
45: How can your staff co-create your brand?
Sep 25, 2019 • 12 min
Ambar Mentor-Truppa, VP of Communications at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, chats with Big Duck’s Gil Mejia and Sarita Joseph about the rebranding process. Formerly a communications consultant to nonprofits, Ambar shares her collaborative approach,…
44: How should you work with freelancers?
Sep 11, 2019 • 15 min
Sandy Zimmerman, Big Duck’s Art Director, shares her experiences freelancing for nonprofits and managing new freelancers at Big Duck. She offers tips for organizations looking for freelance designers and writers, including where to find them, how to vet…
43: How do you let your community speak for you?
Aug 28, 2019 • 14 min
Michael Hoffman, CEO and founder of Gather Voices, shares his perspective on how nonprofits can harness community-made video to create more engaging, honest, and diverse content. His new tool allows nonprofit communications teams, large or small, to…
42: How do you use the media for advocacy?
Aug 14, 2019 • 12 min
Vince Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a frequent guest on MSNBC, Democracy Now, CNN, and other news channels. He joins us to talk about communications as a tool to advocate more effectively. He shares an…
41: How can interviews help you get better insights?
Jul 31, 2019 • 21 min
Laura Fisher, Big Duck’s Senior Strategist, chats with Sarah Durham about how interviews can help you understand audience behavior and motivation.
40: How can you be a better writer?
Jul 17, 2019 • 21 min
Dan Gunderman was Big Duck’s Creative Director and Senior Copywriter for over 12 years. Before moving to Scotland, he sat down with us for a conversation about writing for nonprofits. He shares two simple rules for nonprofit writing, key differences…
39: How can you get your team to stop fighting like cats and dogs?
Jul 3, 2019 • 20 min
Farra Trompeter, Big Duck’s Vice President, and Chris Tuttle, digital engagement strategist, bring their respective love for cats and dogs to the analogy of fighting communications and development teams. Hear how they create cross-departmental alignment…
38: Can chatbots improve donor experiences?
Jun 19, 2019 • 19 min
Alice Hendricks is the CEO of Jackson River, a firm that helps nonprofits harness the power of technologies to achieve their goals. In this mind-blowing conversation, she shares how the consumer marketing space is using technology (chatbots, artificial…
37: Are your internal communications values-driven?
Jun 5, 2019 • 18 min
Elizabeth Toledo, President of Camino Group and former Vice President of Communications at Planned Parenthood, is a crisis communications expert. She discusses the biggest internal communications challenges she’s seen and how strong values alignment can…
36: Do you need a capital campaign consultant?
May 22, 2019 • 12 min
We sat down with Andrea Kihlstedt and Amy Eisenstein, capital campaign experts with over 50 years of collective experience in the fundraising space, to talk about their new project: the Capital Campaign Toolkit. They discuss how the model of capital…
35: Does your nonprofit need a new logo?
May 8, 2019 • 14 min
Claire Taylor Hansen, Big Duck’s Creative Director, helps nonprofits answer the age-old question: Do we need a new logo? She discusses signs that a logo might need to change, the power of using visual elements—typography, colors, patterns, and…
34: How can you make a lean team more effective?
Apr 24, 2019 • 15 min
Christine Hughes, Vice President of Institutional Advancement for Burke Neurological Institute, is a world-class fundraiser and scientist with extensive experience in the biomedical field. Christine is in the process of building the Burke development and…
33: Should your organization produce a PSA?
Apr 10, 2019 • 18 min
Stephanie Paul, Vice President of Marketing and Development at the American Parkinson Disease Association, sits down with Sarah Durham to discuss her experiences creating PSAs and shares lessons learned along the way. Tune in to learn how APDA uses their…
32: What data really matters?
Mar 27, 2019 • 14 min
George Weiner, Founder and Chief Whaler of Whole Whale, a social impact tech company, sits down with us to discuss all things data—why it matters for nonprofits, what data to pay attention to, how to visualize and share it, and how to get started with…
31: Should you rename your nonprofit?
Mar 12, 2019 • 25 min
Farra Trompeter, Big Duck’s Vice President, and Dan Gunderman, Big Duck’s Creative Director, have successfully facilitated many nonprofit name changes throughout the years. In this episode, they discuss reasons why more nonprofits are changing their…
30: How do you structure a growing communications team?
Feb 26, 2019 • 17 min
Suzanne Shaw is Director of Communications at the Union of Concerned Scientists and has over three decades of expertise in nonprofit and private sector marketing and communications. She restructured her communications department with the intention to…
29: Can you legally use that photo or song?
Feb 13, 2019 • 12 min
Marcus dePaula, co-founder of Mixtus Media and producer of this podcast, is an expert in online content creation. In this episode he breaks down creative commons licensing, explains the ethical (and credibility) issues in grabbing images from Google for…
28: How can you facilitate better internal communications?
Jan 30, 2019 • 18 min
Nonprofit leaders must make their vision clear and get everyone—staff, board, and other stakeholders—aligned and motivated to work toward it together. For Wayne Ho, President and CEO of CPC (Chinese American Planning Council), this means communicating…
27: How can an executive director realize their vision?
Jan 16, 2019 • 13 min
Vince Warren reflects on his twelve years (and counting!) as Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Over the course of his tenure, Vince has built the organization around its potential—and his vision of what it could become. Tune in…
26: What is “strategy?”
Jan 2, 2019 • 12 min
In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, two members of Big Duck’s strategy team, Laura Fisher and Gil Mejia, define strategy, unpack the differences between strategic goals, objectives, and tactics, and offer tips for nonprofit communicators…
25: Should your nonprofit podcast?
Dec 19, 2018 • 19 min
Chandra Hayslett, Communications Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, sits down to share her experiences launching the podcast, The Activist Files, for her organization. She discusses why she started the podcast, results she’s seen so far,…
24: How can you communicate better with the board?
Dec 5, 2018 • 21 min
Craig Shelley, Managing Director of Orr Group, shares how nonprofit leadership and staff can foster stronger, more productive relationships with board members. He unpacks different board types and offers simple suggestions for executive directors looking…
23: How can nonprofit communications leaders collaborate more effectively?
Nov 28, 2018 • 17 min
Elise Dowell is Vice Chancellor for Communications and External Affairs at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Since joining JTS in 2002, Elise has lead transformational communications efforts, upgraded their recruitment marketing program, and won two Emmy…
22: What are the ingredients of great storytelling?
Nov 14, 2018 • 17 min
Jenny Dyson, Ruler and Creative Director of Pencil, a creative agency specializing in brand storytelling in the UK, shares her experiences turning content from one conference into a rich, multi-channel story for her client, One Small Thing. She also…
21: How can communications help development?
Oct 31, 2018 • 19 min
Sarah Durham and Farra Trompeter head to Fundraising Day to ask development professionals one question: “What can communications do to support development?” You’ll hear answers at the beginning of this episode from Samantha Coolidge, New York Area…
20: How do you get affiliates to speak with one voice?
Oct 17, 2018 • 14 min
Stephanie Paul, Vice President of Marketing and Development at the American Parkinson Disease Association shares how the rebranding process helped APDA unite its 19 local chapters and ensure all had the tools to communicate with one clear voice.
19: How can you get your new brand to stick?
Oct 10, 2018 • 16 min
In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, Ally Dommu, Big Duck’s Director of Strategy, shares the four core elements a nonprofit organization needs in place internally—culture, team, assets, and reflection—to ensure the hard work of a rebrand…
18: Should you fire that lousy board member?
Sep 19, 2018 • 11 min
Simone Joyaux, author of “Firing Lousy Board Members,” and organizational management, development, and fundraising expert tackles what makes a great nonprofit board. She maps out the process of getting smarter about governance and shares the steps…
17: How can you facilitate great internal communications?
Sep 5, 2018 • 15 min
Liz Ricca, Big Duck’s Managing Director, shares tools and practices that can help facilitate great internal communications. She gives tips on how to use organizational values actively as an HR tool and provides a structured feedback exercise you can put…
16: Should nonprofits rebrand when overhauling their websites?
Aug 22, 2018 • 7 min
Should nonprofits squeeze in a full rebrand when their website needs an update? In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, Sarah Durham, CEO of Big Duck, outlines the basic order of operations for a successful rebrand process—from the strategic…
15: How do you articulate your community’s values?
Aug 8, 2018 • 15 min
Cecilia Clarke, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, shares her experiences listening to over 1,000 community members about their vision for Brooklyn, and how those insights helped redefine their work and organizational values. She also…
14: Can we engage audiences with YouTube Live?
Aug 1, 2018 • 10 min
Elianne Ramos, Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and prior Latino Digital Coalitions Desk for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, shares her experiences launching and maintaining…
13: Should we digitize our brand guide?
Jul 24, 2018 • 7 min
In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast Claire Taylor Hansen, one of Big Duck’s Art Directors, shares digital brand guide trends and best practices in the nonprofit and for-profit worlds and offers suggestions for keeping your brand guide…
12: What makes a great nonprofit tagline?
Jul 11, 2018 • 14 min
Dan Gunderman, Big Duck’s Creative Director, tells all about taglines. Dan defines what taglines are, the function they serve in a nonprofit’s brand, and shares tips for crafting a tagline that is simple, meaningful, and truly unique to your organization.
11: How can nonprofit leaders take successful sabbaticals?
Jul 3, 2018 • 18 min
Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director of National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, shares her experiences planning for her sabbatical and the unexpected benefits it brought to her organization. She also shares tips for how nonprofit leaders…
10: What words should you avoid?
Jun 27, 2018 • 10 min
Word choices are important! Tune in to learn what words and phrases nonprofit communicators should avoid, gleaned from our popular “Words to Avoid” annual blog, plus tips for making more thoughtful language choices.
9: Why is it so hard to raise awareness?
Jun 13, 2018 • 8 min
To successfully increase their organization’s visibility through campaigns, nonprofit leaders need to ensure they’re grounded in strategy—with concrete goals, audiences, and actions in mind.
8: How are organizational values and personality different?
May 30, 2018 • 12 min
Organizational values and brand personality are related but very different, and often get confused. We’ll define and differentiate them in this podcast.
7: Are events and galas still effective?
May 16, 2018 • 12 min
Special events and annual galas may no longer be a nonprofit’s best bet for fundraising. Why? The world is changing rapidly—and so are audiences’ expectations. Tune in to learn more.
6: How do you get feedback from a working group?
May 1, 2018 • 8 min
When materials need to be reviewed by working groups, committees, and senior level staff, project managers must master the art of getting consolidated feedback and, in some cases, herding cats. In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, Maya…
5: How can nonprofits get great photography?
Apr 25, 2018 • 8 min
Photography is an excellent way for organizations to show rather than tell. Tune in for tips and insights on how to invest in great photography on a budget.
4: How do we communicate without communications staff?
Apr 11, 2018 • 12 min
Having a dedicated communications team is out of reach for many nonprofits, but the need to communicate effectively to external audiences is still there. This episode of the Smart Communications Podcast features a conversation with Wayne Ho, President and…
3: What’s the board’s role in branding?
Apr 2, 2018 • 11 min
Figuring out the right people to have in the rebranding process at the right time is a real struggle. In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, Big Duck’s VP, Farra Trompeter, and Big Duck’s CEO, Sarah Durham, share their experiences leading…
2: When is it okay to use jargon?
Apr 2, 2018 • 6 min
Generally, we recommend avoiding jargon. But in this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, Dan Gunderman, Big Duck’s Creative Director, sits down with Sarah Durham, Big Duck’s CEO, to discuss when nonprofits communicators should embrace…
1: Welcome to the Smart Communications Podcast!
Apr 2, 2018 • 1 min
The Smart Communications Podcast helps busy nonprofit leaders build their communications skills and develop their organization’s voice. Every episode shares insights and practical tips to help you leverage strategic communications to advance your…