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How Virginia Hospital Center Foundation launched a podcast to empower community health

    In this Q&A, Tony Burchard, President of Virginia Hospital Center Foundation, discusses the launch of the foundation’s new podcast, Huddle UP! For Your Health. The podcast has raised $130,000 so far from three major sponsors, Kaiser Permanente, Woodbine Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, and Quest Diagnostics.

    Q: During the pandemic, your foundation hosted a popular webinar series, and it generated a net return of $1.25 million. Now, you’re kicking off a new podcast, Huddle UP! For Your Health. Is there a connection between the webinar series and the podcast?

    Burchard: The idea actually came directly from our webinar attendees. They asked us, “have you ever thought about making this into a podcast?” So, we conducted some market research and found compelling evidence for starting a podcast: Podcasts are the fastest growing media content and nearly 1/3 of all Americans listen to podcasts once a month. We also discovered that the demographics of podcast consumers align with our foundation’s core base when it comes to their age, household income, and education.

    Q: What is your main goal in starting a podcast for the foundation?

    Burchard: Our goal is to reach our community. We want to provide hyper local health information and foster community engagement in a sustainable way. We want to translate the acronym [or jargon]-heavy world of health care to consumers. As health care becomes more “consumerized”, the podcast will be a great platform to expose current and future consumers to Virginia Hospital Center.

    Q: What type of topics will the podcast focus on?

    Burchard: If you look at a community, what’s important to someone is their health, their family’s health, and their neighbors’ health. So, the podcast is going to provide a 360-continuum perspective on local health. We’re going to be talking about prevention, access to health care, innovation, senior health, the role of philanthropy, and more. Ultimately, we want to empower people to take control of their health.

    Q: Since you’re building the podcast from the foundation side of Virginia Hospital Center, is there a philanthropy component associated with the podcast?

    Burchard: Each podcast includes a sponsorship component. Depending on sponsorship level, sponsors will receive varying lengths of on-air interviews and sponsorship reads. So far, our typical black-tie event sponsors are really interested in episode sponsorship. Since the podcast is going to be a full season, sponsorship isn’t just a one-time Friday night event—sponsors recognize that this is something that can be listened to in perpetuity.

    We also plan to invite grateful patient families on the podcast to discuss why they support Virginia Hospital Center and why they are philanthropists.

    Q: That’s a creative way of recouping in-person event revenue from past sponsors. What will the funds raised go towards?

    Burchard: The initial sponsorship funds will offset production costs—like how event sponsors typically support the cost of a gala dinner or supplies.  But the majority of funds will go towards our health equity fund, For Our Neighbors. This funding helps offset the costs of our VHC Pediatric Clinic and outpatient clinic. The fund aims to close any access gaps and provide the same quality of care to the whole community—no matter the type of care you need. 

    Q: How are you going track and measure the podcast’s success?

    Burchard: We are going to measure all the traditional podcast metrics (i.e. total downloads, unique downloads, ratings, etc.), sponsorship revenue, and finally, our conversion rate from listeners to donors. All of these metrics will help us understand if we should go ahead with a second season of the podcast.

    Q: I think there’s a lot of organizations out there considering new paths of donor engagement after the pandemic. What advice would you give to leaders considering a podcast?

    Burchard: First, don’t start with a podcast. Start with the no-cost platforms that you’ve been perfecting over the last year and a half. If you’re a Microsoft Teams organization, use Teams because you’ll be able to seamlessly engage your stakeholders.  Second, find your voice.  Find the themes that resonate with your audience. And then third, if your platform gains a following, conduct a market analysis of your market’s podcast consumption.

    When all else fails, just google it. There’s a ton of research out there on the dos and don’ts. It’s definitely something hospital foundations should consider because it’s the right demographic—it’s the people you’re trying to reach anyway—so why not throw your hat in the ring and see if they’ll download yours.

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