Using Video to Promote Your Nonprofit Organization

Philanthropic donors today are inundated with choices.  Video is a powerful way to bring their attention to your cause, and do it quickly.  In just a few moments you can capture their attention, communicate your message, and make a call to action.  But there are a few things to consider before embarking on the video journey.

Since 1942, Madison Community Foundation has served as a trust fund for charitable activities to create a bright future for Madison, Wisconsin. This video describes A Fund for Women, an MCF initiative focusing on economic empowerment of women in Madison. The goal of A Fund for Women is to transform the community so that women and girls thrive. This video was shown at an MCF event. (c) 2016 Focal Flame Photography

First, consider what you want to do with your video. Clearly you want to educate and engage potential volunteers and donors, but it should not just be a rehash of your website or brochure when a video can do so much more.  For example, a video is an excellent way to put a face on an abstract cause by telling a personal story, giving a glimpse behind the scenes, issuing a call to action, or sending out a thank you. Let's dig deeper: 

  • Illustrate your cause with a personal story. By sharing words and experiences from the people your organization has helped, you can open a window on the impact of your work—and how your donors can make a difference by supporting your organization. This type of story has a natural emotional appeal that draws viewers in. Personal stories of volunteers sharing their perspectives can also appeal to potential donors and volunteers.
  • Give your viewers a peek behind the scenes. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing how good work actually gets done, right? Help people see what it takes to change the world, and you give them an opportunity to understand both the opportunities and challenges that your nonprofit is tackling. Showing how your organization works can promote a desire among interested viewers to get involved in your mission.
  • Present a call to action. Empower your audience by providing a clear action that viewers can take to support your cause: Articulate exactly what you want your viewers to do with the information you give them. For instance, do you want them to seek out information and learn more about your cause so they can act as ambassadors of the message? Or perhaps, you want them to donate today, or sign up to volunteer now. Whatever action you want, be sure to say so specifically.  And give them an easy way to follow through by providing links appearing alongside or even at the end of your online video.
  • Give thanks. Video can be a dynamic way to express appreciation for your donors and volunteers. One way to do this is to turn the camera on the individuals who your organization has affected, and give them the opportunity to thank those who made it possible. Let them tell in their own words what your organization has meant to them. This can be more powerful than any thank-you note!

Whatever form your video takes, there are a few things to remember. Choose the best person, or people, to narrate your video. Many non-profits use their CEO by default, and it is certainly not wrong to do so. However, other perspectives can also be engaging, especially if there are gifted speakers and storytellers within your nonprofit. You could even plan out a series of videos with different spokespersons giving various points of view. This can be a great way to demonstrate the team effort involved in your cause.

Also, consider creating different short videos that align to different points in the cycle of philanthropy.  For example, create one video to raise awareness of your cause that you can use to help identify supports, another to cultivate interest, a third with a direct appeal for gifts or volunteers, and another for use in stewardship and donor appreciation. 

Make sure you are targeting your intended audience—even if that means using a style, tone, or format that resonates more with them than with your board of directors. What makes a video engaging to one audience (due to age group, geographic location, or interests) may not be the right fit for another—and that's ok. Our marketing specialists can help you tailor your video project specifically to those who you are trying to attract to your cause. 

Keep it short and sweet. Online attention spans online typically drop off significantly after 1-2 minutes (though a deeply engaging story may command attention for a longer period). Videos for "committed" audiences such as gala attendees may be effective in longer format, such as 5 minutes or more.  Keeping the story tight will encourage engagement throughout the entire video. For longer works, consider having different phases for a clear beginning-middle-end format.

Finally, be sure to have an end goal in mind. Articulate what you want from your video project and how it fits into your strategic plan.  A well thought-out and well-produced video is a wonderful tool to reach your organization’s goals—a resource that you will turn to time and again.

Focal Flame Photography provides video production for businesses and nonprofits. We work with people who are striving to make an impact in their industries, for their clients and customers, and in their communities. Contact us today.