Home People Why Two Retired Home Depot Executives Became Podcasters To Share Stories of Underdog Non-Profits

Why Two Retired Home Depot Executives Became Podcasters To Share Stories of Underdog Non-Profits

by Holly Beilin

“We tell inspiring stories about people who do amazing things for others.” That statement, repeated at the front end of every roughly 20-minute podcast of Crazy Good Turns, is the true heart of the show. What follows on any of the now two dozen episodes is a narrative told in first-person from the owners, founders, or individuals involved in non-profits or social enterprises from around the country.

Guided by podcast host Brad Shaw with insightful explanatory narrative, Crazy Good Turns stories tend to focus on smaller organizations, many of them startups or small businesses — everything from a tech-enabled social enterprise platform to a coffee shop that employs dozens of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A new episode has been released roughly every other Tuesday since August 2016. The website is thoughtfully designed, illustrations of the subjects accompanying each episode.

It’s obvious that the whole show is a labor of love by its founding team.

For over ten years, Shaw served as vice president of communications and external affairs at Home Depot — many of those years reporting to then-CEO of the retail giant, Frank Blake. In addition to marketing, PR and traditional communications, Shaw oversaw Home Depot’s robust corporate giving program, which includes non-profit grants and
The Homer Fund, a dedicated fund specifically for the 350,000+ Home Depot employees that deploys $1.25 million monthly. The company helps out employees with everything from disaster relief (right now they’re busy helping the thousands of employees impacted by recent natural disasters) to burying a family member.

Shaw says Blake was highly-involved in those corporate philanthropy endeavors while serving as CEO. He made the decision in 2011 to shift philanthropic efforts to focus on veterans’ causes — since then, the company has granted almost $200 million to those charities.

“Our collective experience working with dozens of non-profits showed us we could play an important role in telling their stories in ways others weren’t,” says Shaw.

“One of the profound learnings for me at Home Depot was that you get what you celebrate,” said Blake in a video shoot. “Whatever you celebrate sets the pattern of what people will try to give you because people want to be celebrated. People want to be recognized.”

So when Shaw retired shortly after Blake in 2015, the two men had a strong background — and affinity — for identifying problems that needed solving and developing the resources to take them on.

“Over coffee one day Frank made the observation that we should take the storytelling skills we honed at Home Depot and use them for the greater good,” says Shaw. “It was his idea to create a podcast that tells the inspiring narrative of people who do amazing things for others.”

Funded by Blake’s family foundation, the podcast is produced in Atlanta. Their subjects are from across the country, but many are from the founders’ hometown.

Episode 6 of Season 2, for example, narrates the foundation and idea behind Purposity (“purpose” + “generosity”),  an Atlanta-based startup that sends users a weekly text message about a verified need of a local non-profit.

While Shaw serves as the “voice” of the podcast, both founders are actively involved in the entire creative process — from choosing the organizations to branding to music selection. They aim to tell the whole story of these organizations, from idea to their current projects to future plans.

Shaw explains that when non-profits get press, it tends to be episodic — a hurricane disaster relief foundation appearing on the nightly news following a large storm, for example. Crazy Good Turns sets itself apart by delving further.

“The people we feature don’t walk by problems they see in their community or the world,” says Shaw. “They stop in their tracks and do what they can to fix that problem, often upending their own lives.”

What Shaw describes as their biggest challenge is also what some might consider a strength — the growing popularity of the podcast market. The number of Americans that have ever listened to a podcast went up 11 percent from 2016 to this year, and the number that listen monthly increased 14 percent in the same period.

But with more listeners (and potential for monetization through advertising), comes market saturation. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts on iTunes in every niche imaginable.

“Breaking through the noise and clutter of the podcast universe remains our biggest challenge,” says Shaw. He says they focused on building a strong brand and voice, remaining true to their mission, and simply finding and telling the best stories.

“We’re starting to make good progress, growing our downloads at a decent clip now month-to-month,” says Shaw. Crazy Good Turns (which is produced by a parent non-profit; neither founder is paid for their time) has not yet been monetized, but the team says the goal is to have a sponsorship where the production would pay for itself.

“The way we think about Crazy Good Turns is it would be great if this were both a self-supporting universe and a universe that is constantly feeding on itself, growing as we get more and more access to more and more people who are doing crazy good turns,” said Blake. “That would get more people excited about showing examples of crazy good turns and get more people excited about doing crazy good turns.”

“So we see this as, in the ideal world, as an incredibly self-reinforcing voice for the folks who are doing great things for others.”

Listen to the Crazy Good Turns podcast here.

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