A podcast bites the dust … and what you can learn from the sad tale

On May 21, 2008, a podcast was born. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Fundraising Is Beautiful.

I’m sad to report that Fundraising Is Beautiful is no more.

After 112 episodes, Steven Screen and I have killed it.

Okay, it would be more accurate to say that after a long delay, we finally came to terms with the fact that the podcast was already dead, and we finally gave in to reality. Our real decision was whether or not to start over again with a “new” podcast.

And we decided not to.

Here’s how Fundraising Is Beautiful met its end:

  • First, we lost our superfast, superexcellent producer who turned our rambling recorded conversations into something listenable and useful. We struggled to find a replacement.
  • Then our URL was stolen by a robot. (For a while as a teen, I wanted to be a sci-fi writer; in that life I also might have written the previous sentence.) Watch your domain renewals carefully — more carefully than we did. There are bots that jump in and register URLs as they expire, hoping to sell them back to their previous owners at an inflated price. The ransom for getting the old URL back was higher than we were ready to pay.
  • And at some point in there, our subscriber database crashed. It reset with zero subscribers. We still don’t know how that happened.

So with no producer, no URL, and no subscribers, we effectively had no podcast.

But we loved doing Fundraising Is Beautiful! It was fun and energizing. We learned so much from doing it. (And honestly, it was pretty cool to include “podcaster” in our bios!)

There we stood with no podcast, but with 112 episodes in the can. That’s a lot of content, not something you should leave lying there like a lost mitten.

Not only that, but we also had bunch of really excellent interviews with fundraising thought leaders. Recorded, but not produced. Interviews with superstars including:

Really. A lot of great stuff! Embarrassing to just leave all that brilliance on the digital shelf.

It was clear to us though, that if we were to keep the podcast magic going, it meant starting a new podcast (different URL not owned by a robot). And finding a producer. And rebuilding an audience from square one.

As much as we loved it, we couldn’t make all that effort and expense pencil out in our lives.

There’s one thing our sad tale can teach, and that’s how to think about sunk cost.

Sunk cost is a fact of life. It’s a cost that is already incurred and can’t be recovered. And it’s very hard to handle the right way, because the rational thing can feel wrong.

Sunk cost, for us, was hundreds of hours spent planning, recording, producing, and promoting Fundraising Is Beautiful. That’s a lot of time, commitment, and emotional energy. Which creates a strange illusion: because it cost us so much, we owe it some kind of loyalty. It’s as if the whole project was not something whose time came and went, but something like a human relationship.

This illusion made us ask ourselves the wrong question: How can we honor the time and energy we have already put into this project?

The question we should have asked was What is the smart thing to do now? Forget what we put into it in the past. That time, money, and commitment are gone. Sunk beneath the waves.

Everyone at some time faces the sunk cost dilemma. You get an idea. You hatch a plan. You launch something cool. It works. Or it doesn’t. Or it works for a time and then stops.

If your thing is not working, stop doing it. What it cost you in the past is not part of the equation — except in your emotions.

It’s not easy to treat your sunk costs as sunk. I know this very well. But it’s what you need to do. It’s almost always the best path forward.


Comments

2 responses to “A podcast bites the dust … and what you can learn from the sad tale”

  1. Marjorie Fine Avatar
    Marjorie Fine

    Hi Jeff and Steven,
    We had to do the same thing with a written fundraising journal-from GIFT-the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training. GIFT died but the journal had great, still relevant content. So we gave it to the Non-Profit Quarterly. Ruth McCambridge is great to deal with. Maybe you could talk them and give them the interviews and podcasts.
    Thank you for all the great podcasts. I learned a lot! I am much better at my work because of you both.
    And Steven-your Friday afternoon “what’s wrong with this letter” sessions are terrific. I live in Brooklyn and I love your no BS style and very useful suggestions.
    Many thanks to you both. True mensches!
    Margie

  2. Marjorie Fine Avatar
    Marjorie Fine

    Hi Jeff and Steven,
    We had to do the same thing with a written fundraising journal-from GIFT-the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training. GIFT died but the journal had great, still relevant content. So we gave it to the Non-Profit Quarterly. Ruth McCambridge is great to deal with. Maybe you could talk them and give them the interviews and podcasts.
    Thank you for all the great podcasts. I learned a lot! I am much better at my work because of you both.
    And Steven-your Friday afternoon “what’s wrong with this letter” sessions are terrific. I live in Brooklyn and I love your no BS style and very useful suggestions.
    Many thanks to you both. True mensches!
    Margie

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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