First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
Longtime nonprofit-industry insider Jonathan Weedman is launching his weekly podcast today with help from a voice that is so revered, some would expect it to reverberate even in outer space.
Kicking off with none other than actor-writer-singer-philanthropist William Shatner, Weedman’s first online talk show, “Community Conversations,” engages in heartfelt discourse with the Hollywood stalwart. Sharing details that many people who know him mainly from “Star Trek” might not be familiar with, Shatner opens up about personal passions, tragedy and hope, and trades jokes with Weedman, whom he has known for more than 20 years.
The podcast, aimed at exploring the complexities of charitable organizations and the people involved with them, hits its mark, with Shatner also revealing some of the inner workings of his wildly successful Hollywood Charity Horse Show.
Having raised millions over the last 30 years for causes close to his heart, the multitalented actor, 90, has also found a niche in fundraising.
During an interview with the Outlook, Shatner — who released a new album just this year — explained his dedication to charities and giving back, which he also discusses with Weedman.
“I was brought up with the idea that you try to help other people. The easiest way is by donating money, but maybe your contribution could be by volunteering. You’ve got to give a piece of yourself in this world,” he said. “The horse show for me became a meaningful way to use this celebrity that has been thrust upon me. … It’s been a valuable asset that came about entirely — like so many things — by luck.
“But that lucky stroke put me in a position to give money rather than take it. So I hope I can, in some small way, have the fate to help other people.”
Though the Hollywood Charity Horse Show was sidelined for two years by the COVID-19 pandemic, Shatner has worked behind the scenes to secure the same number of gifts for the 16 charities that benefit children, veterans and a women’s addiction center, among other organizations. His success in fundraising has been tied closely to his own experience — weaving his passion for horses into charities that resonate with him.
“I’ve discovered people will work very ardently for causes close to their heart. They will work with great intensity if they feel connected to a cause, so we work to help find that,” he noted, encouraging people to visit his charity’s auction soon and donate at horseshow.org.
As for being the first guest on “Community Conversations,” Shatner said he hopes people enjoy the candid discussion, noting, with a laugh, that he first met Weedman by asking him for money for the horse show. At the time, Weedman was vice president at the Wells Fargo Foundation in Los Angeles and Arizona, the largest corporate foundation in the region.
“Over time, Jonathan has established himself as one of the people to seek out for advice on how to get money or make money; he’s very knowledgeable in this regard, and he’s been a tireless worker in what we call the charitable community,” Shatner said. “And of course, over the years he’s become a good friend.”
Meanwhile, Weedman expressed gratitude that Shatner made the first visit to his podcast, a possible precedent for many more visits to come. There are so many stories about the nonprofit world Weedman wants to hear and tell, he said, adding that the endeavor has been nearly a year in the making for him and his co-creator and husband, Raymundo Baltazar.
The pandemic has ingrained, perhaps more than ever, the fragility of life and the disappearing histories within the charitable sector, he said.
“I’m incredibly excited to create an archive of voices from the nonprofit, philanthropic, business, elected, civic and volunteer leadership of our community,” he said. “It is my hope that these interviews will not only be helpful and of value to people in the sector, but equally provide a historical record that will be preserved and of interest to future generations of nonprofit leaders.
“Think of the men and women of our community who may no longer be with us in 10 or even five years, who have remarkable stories and insights to share. … I want to hear from them. The miracle of technology now makes their legacies easy to preserve, and I’m looking forward to creating something special.”
Weedman and his team will be dropping the podcasts weekly and plan to record 52 interviews this year. Participants include Weingart Foundation CEO Miguel Santana, Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles founder and conductor Charles Dickerson, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Pasadena City College Foundation Executive Director Bobbi Abrams and Pasadena Community Foundation CEO Jennifer DeVoll, to name a few.
“I feel incredibly relieved and excited at the same time. During my decades working in the community, I have had conversations with thousands of remarkable people. And the San Gabriel Valley is among the most philanthropic, engaged and generous communities in the nation, and I can’t wait to begin sharing these conversations with others,” Weedman said, adding that he encourages listeners to send him their thoughts and suggestions about future guests and topics.
“Community Conversations” is now available at weedmanandassociates.com or on Community Conversations YouTube channel.
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.