Jonathan Weedman has a new appreciation for podcasters.
That’s because, after a lifetime of working in the nonprofit industry, the Altadena resident and former Wells Fargo Foundation vice president is launching his own online talk show exploring the complexities of charitable organizations, the lives of those dedicated to their success and the people they serve.
“It’s an enormous amount of work, actually, but I’m thrilled to be able to connect with so many incredible people and friends — and connect them to one another — all of whom work tirelessly to make an impact through the nonprofit industry,” Weedman said. “I’m hoping we can all learn new ideas and gain insight on community charities and fundraising from nonprofit leaders, development directors, board members and donors.”
The new weekly podcast, “Community Conversations,” is scheduled to launch in mid-September and will showcase an impressive lineup of industry insiders. They include actor-writer-philanthropist William Shatner, Weingart Foundation CEO Miguel Santana, Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles founder and conductor Charles Dickerson, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Pasadena City College Foundation Executive Director Bobbi Abrams, to name a few. Many more will follow, and Weedman expects to record at least 52 interviews within a year of launching.
“Nobody has said ‘No’ to coming on, which is amazing — I think people are intrigued and have never heard of anything like this before,” said Weedman, who, when considering the idea, was unable to find any other podcast dedicated to the charitable sector, a surprise considering there are about 62,000 nonprofit organizations registered throughout L.A. County.
“I’m hoping these conversations carry wonderful nuggets of information, best practices and helpful strategies for leaders and donors across the sector and provide unique insight, up close and personal, from remarkable individuals,” he added. “It is hoped the podcast will serve as a valuable resource and wealth of information.”
Although Weedman couldn’t find an industry example to emulate, perhaps no one is as judiciously positioned to kick off such an endeavor: For more than 20 years, he led the Wells Fargo Foundation in Los Angeles and Arizona, with an annual contribution budget of more than $25 million, making it the largest corporate foundation in the region. During his career, he has worked with thousands of nonprofit organizations and approved grants to over 1,200 nonprofits annually. He estimates that throughout his career, he has reviewed over 50,000 requests for support.
A classically trained pianist and proud UCLA graduate, Weedman has also personally served on numerous charities’ boards of directors, including those of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Inner-City Youth Orchestra; he recently was elected to the board of Muse/ique. He has also served as cultural affairs commissioner for the city of Los Angeles, appointed by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Having earned a history degree, he also has a penchant for seeking out stories and archiving moments and artifacts, something he wishes he’d started when he was younger, perhaps to better document the life of his grandfather, former California Gov. Goodwin Knight. He does recall recording his great-aunt when he was a boy, as she recounted her memories of living through the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906.
“I am eager to listen on this podcast — I want my guests to do all the talking, with the goal of creating an archive of conversations with people in the community to listen to and learn from,” he said. “Everybody has a story to tell, even if they don’t think they do.”
Weedman has fashioned the podcast with help from his husband, Raymundo Baltazar, who helped him understand the more technological aspects of creating an online show (“I’m a 62-year-old white man who would prefer a typewriter,” he laughed). After some stumbling on Weedman’s part, Baltazar helped him realize he would need an editor and a webcast and social media expert. “Raymundo is my executive producer — he’s really my partner in this enterprise.”
Though Weedman has been recording “Community Conversations” via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic, he looks forward to meeting his interviewees in person and perhaps even using a camera to film them.
One of the topics he is eager to bring to the table is the subject of better diversifying nonprofit leadership and boards of directors. Like large corporations across the country, the charity sector has also been shown to lack minority leadership.
“We have to demand it — it’s just not enough to recognize it, we’ve got to create avenues that will change this,” he said.
Weedman will also dive into donor stewardship and what the future will hold in the post-COVID era.
“The pandemic has been a nightmare for nonprofits, honestly,” he said. “At a time when demand for these services was never greater, funding to support them was greatly harmed. There was some government help, but it wasn’t nearly enough. The entire industry was jolted, from the galas and donor events to all the businesses that support it, like catering companies and hotels.”
“Community Conversations” will welcome listeners’ thoughts and suggestions for future guests and topics. Weedman is hosting the podcast in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Management, Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, Outlook News Group, PAWS/LA (Pets Are Wonderful Support/Los Angeles) and Via Care Community Health Centers.