100: Seth Godin on Nonprofit Strategy

Acclaimed author, marketer, and teacher, Seth Godin, whose mentorship inspired the birth of Whole Whale, joins us for our 100th podcast episode.

While there is more knowledge accessible today than any other time in human history, Godin contends, we’re spending our time watching cat videos instead. (Hey, some of those cat videos are trying to cure lung cancer.) The biggest enemy, beyond competition of failure, is fear, which leads to this inertia that keeps people and organizations stuck in a status quo and afraid to move forward.

Seth talks with us about how to break through the cycle of fear paralysis to move forward, especially as a nonprofit organization in 2018, touching on some of the highlights of his own career including 1998’s breakthrough work Permission Marketing, which was one of the first publications to assert that anticipated, personal, and relevant messages will yield stronger results than form letters or spam. What’s more, the fundamental precept of “permission” — being allowed by a user to engage with them via email — is that it isn’t something that belongs to organizations. It’s loaned to organizations.

We also talk about the placebo effect with Seth as it relates to nonprofits (pop-quiz: When someone donates $10,000 to your organization, what do they get in return? If you said “chicken dinner,” you are NOT the winner — they do it for the feels) and why it’s time for nonprofits to question tradition and narratives that have worked in the past but may not be working in the present.

All of which is to say your next step as an organization is to get over your fear of fear. Fear is fine, but fearing that fear is a waste. And you have way more valuable things to do with your time.


Some of our favorite books by Seth: