Nonprofit Videos: A Guide to Inspiring Your Supporters

Nonprofit videos have the unique ability to capture the hearts and minds of your supporters. Through the combination of images, dialogue, and on-screen text, you can bring your mission to life and encourage people to act. It’s no surprise, then, that 57% of people who watch nonprofit videos go on to make a donation.

If nonprofit videos aren’t already part of your organization’s outreach strategy, then you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to further your mission and communicate your nonprofit’s brand promise. Follow these five best practices to create compelling video content that engages supporters and inspires meaningful results.

1. Use video to achieve your larger goals

The first step of creating a nonprofit video is to plan how it will align with your organization’s larger goals, such as raising awareness for your nonprofit’s mission, promoting an upcoming charity auction, or explaining a pressing issue. Narrow down the focus of each video so that viewers understand its purpose and feel drawn to take the appropriate next steps to support your cause.

Reach your goals with these fundamental nonprofit videos:

  • Organizational videos: An organizational video provides an overview of your nonprofit’s mission and helps to raise brand awareness.

  • Fundraising videos: Fundraising videos encourage current and prospective donors to give to a specific campaign. When done correctly, they build your case for support and allow you to drive donations.

  • Testimonial videos: Testimonial videos give supporters or constituents an opportunity to affirm your nonprofit’s impact in their own words. These films evoke an emotional response in viewers and deepen their connection to your cause.

  • Explainer videos: Explainer videos take viewers on a deep dive into the specifics of your work and shine a light on complex issues, helping to position your nonprofit as an expert in the field.

Keep in mind that your nonprofit isn’t tied to just one type of nonprofit video. Rather, you should produce a diverse range of content to keep viewers engaged and reach your goals at a given time. For instance, you could create an organizational video to introduce new donors to your cause. Then, roll out a series of fundraising videos throughout the year to solicit their support.

2. Film for a target audience

For the most effective nonprofit videos, identify your intended audience and tailor your content to appeal to them. Ensure your videos are relevant by collecting donor data like:

  • Donor demographics: Demographic information such as the general age range of your audience can help you make informed decisions about their preferred video content. For instance, if you have a large number of Millennial donors, you can make a case for creating explainer videos, as 70% of these supporters watch video content to learn how to do something new or explore a topic they’re interested in.

  • Engagement history: Consider how supporters have interacted with your nonprofit in the past. How recent, frequent, and large were their gifts? If you just received a significant number of major gifts, send those donors a testimonial video that demonstrates the impact of their generosity.

In addition to sifting through your donor database, you might send out a survey to better understand the preferences and interests of your supporters. Ask questions like, “What kind of video content would you want to see from our organization?” Then, script and film your videos according to their feedback. This shows supporters that you value their input, helping you earn their support.

3. Keep the basics of storytelling in mind

Turning your nonprofit video into a compelling story can leave a lasting impact on viewers and encourage them to get more involved. As you prepare to film, keep the following storytelling principles in mind:

  • Find a compelling main character. Nonprofit videos need a compelling character to inspire viewers and motivate them to act on behalf of your cause. Your main character could be an active donor, board member, or constituent who benefits from your services. For example, if you’re filming an explainer video to raise awareness about childhood cancer, you could interview a patient who benefitted from the lifesaving treatments that you helped discover.

  • Set the scene. Decide where your video will take place. For the greatest impact, add movement and visual interest by taking viewers behind-the-scenes of your operations or walking them through the communities that you serve.

  • Problem solve. Introduce a challenge that your character faces, such as having unequal access to healthcare. Then, show how your organization is working to solve that problem with the help of its supporters. For example, you could say, “With support from generous viewers like you, children like Ben can receive the treatment they deserve.”

To help your story remain focused and clear, compile your ideas into a detailed script and refer back to it throughout the filming process.

  1. Prioritize visuals over on-screen text
    Rather than overwhelming your audience with on-screen text, use compelling visuals
    and narration to draw viewers into your video. To start, pay attention to lighting. The position, brightness, and color of lights dictate the mood of the scene. If you’re filming your own nonprofit video, consider purchasing a basic light kit to ensure you get the right lighting.

Then, pay attention to angles, framing, and camera movement. Abide by the rule of thirds to center the focus on your subject and add depth wherever possible. Having a background, middle ground, and foreground in each scene helps to create an awe-inspiring experience for your audience.

Finally, as your nonprofit video draws to a close, include a call-to-action button, link, or voiceover that encourages viewers to support your cause. For instance, you could add a donate button to your final scene and have the narrator give a straightforward direction like “donate to help end food insecurity today.” According to fundraising statistics from 360 MatchPro, simply calling attention to a donate button in this way can result in a 190% increase in donations.

5. Market your video across channels

According to Tectonic Video’s guide to video marketing, adopting a multichannel approach to promoting your nonprofit video allows you to reach more people and make more of an impact. Multichannel video marketing leverages several communication channels, including:

  • Youtube: YouTube is the most popular platform for nonprofit video promotion and consumption. Post content to the site and share the link across your other marketing channels.

  • Social media: Use social media to share your nonprofit videos with large audiences. Just remember to tailor your content to each social media channel. For instance, videos going on Instagram should be sliced to 1 minute or less, as short-form content performs better on that platform.

  • Email: Email is an inexpensive and easy way to engage supporters with your video content. Encourage people to open the email and click through to your video with an eye-catching subject line like “Watch this special video message from our team.”

  • Website: People spend about 1.4 times more time on web pages with video content, so embed videos across your nonprofit website to get users invested in your cause.

With multiple touchpoints, you can reach your target audience on their preferred platforms and grab the attention of as many supporters as possible. In turn, you’ll see higher traffic and an even higher ROI.

Nowadays anyone can take out their phone and press record. However, if you want your nonprofit video content to provide a positive return on investment, consider partnering with an experienced nonprofit video production company. Their team of expert video storytellers will handle everything from filming to distribution to ensure that your content inspires meaningful action.

Special thanks to Doug Scott, Founder & CEO of Tectonic Video for the expert advice. Doug has more than 20 years of nonprofit communications experience as a filmmaker, communications director, chief marketing officer and leader of two creative agencies for nonprofits. Doug is a global citizen having traveled to more than 50 countries. He earned his B.A. in Strategic Communications from DePaul University, and he's a frequent guest lecturer at Stanford University on topics related to nonprofit storytelling and storytelling ethics.