Nonprofit Technology

Why Compelling Video Storytelling Should Be a Priority at Your Nonprofit


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iStock-629200894-487758-edited.jpgDuring every fundraising event I helped to organize for 826 Boston, a literacy nonprofit based in Roxbury, MA, the lights dimmed and we hit play on our latest video.

We shared stories about the immigrant families who depended on after-school tutoring to transform their children’s grades in school, behind-the-scenes looks at our imaginative tutoring center, and the journey of a talented high school slam poet.

These weren’t just videos about our organization – but about the individual students and families who needed our programs to succeed in school. Donors connected with these stories and felt compelled to support our mission because they knew they could make a difference – an effect described again and again in research about donor motives.

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Video storytelling can also communicate a complex story or nonprofit mission in a meaningful, moving way to a nonprofit’s foundation funders. This type of qualitative, contextual information is an invaluable feedback loop about the impact of your program. It also happens to be one of the most effective ways to convince a potential donor to give to your cause. Here’s what you need to know to make a great video in support of your next fundraising campaign and ongoing relationship with your foundation funders:

1. Compel Your Audience to Act

Short, story-driven videos that clock in at two minutes or less capture the attention of your audience, engage their imagination, and inspire empathy.

But don’t make the mistake of simply trying to tell the story of your mission or your organization — you’ll lose the force of an emotional impact. Instead, use an individual story to stand in for the organization’s mission as a whole. Not only will this make your video cohesive, but it will help make your mission more digestible, which increases your chance of getting a donation.

Too often nonprofits can by shy about making a direct ask – even during fundraising appeals! Use your video as an opportunity to make a specific “call to action,” so donors are compelled to do something with the emotions you’ve stirred.

Worried about your marketing budget? Leverage partnerships with local videographers and editors to cut down on costs. Nonprofits can also reach out to student and volunteer networks to uncover supporters with video storytelling and editing skills.

Check out our last post on multimedia storytelling for nonprofits to generate more ideas for storytelling on a budget.

2. Strategize Your Rollout

Even if an individual video is effective at raising money, forgetting to design a proper marketing strategy for sharing and using your video can limit the returns.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 92 percent of nonprofits use content marketing strategies like video, but only 26 percent think content strategy is effective. This indicates some cognitive dissonance between using a content strategy like video in a fundraising context – and how to make that content do major heavy lifting after a single event is over.

Design and schedule consistent social media and email marketing campaigns around your fundraising video, in addition to leveraging board, foundation, and media connections. Showcase the video online and at future events, too.

Remember: if you post your video online once, everyone will forget about it as soon as the next post bumps it down in their timeline or feed. It’s your job to provide unique, memorable opportunities for donors to connect with your content—and that means posting multiple times per day or week.

Quick case study: The minds behind nonprofit charity:water are experts at using social media platforms to spread their story, generate user content, and get out the message. In one campaign alone, supporters created “2,000 user-generated videos and 28,000 player posts … and the brand received 3.4 million YouTube views,” report the marketing experts at Kissmetrics.

3. Use (and Re-Use) Your Asset

High-quality video storytelling is certainly an investment, but remember: you’re developing a powerful asset that you can re-use to tell your organization’s story, inspire giving, and keep an open dialogue going with your institutional funders.

According to research conducted by Google, “76 percent of donors [say] that they go online to research a non-profit organization after recalling seeing an online ad.” Not surprisingly, the timing of this action is relatively quick: “39 percent of donors reported that they look up an organization within 24 hours of seeing a video ad.

A few take-aways here. First, your past fundraising videos can be a great way for individual donors and foundation leadership alike to learn more about you as they research your organization and make a final decision about their gift. Post videos prominently on your “About” or “Community” pages on your website, or on pages about individual programs, to show them who you are.

And finally, when individual donors decide to commit to your organization, they often do so in a compressed amount of time. Make it easy for them to navigate from your online video to the donation page to capture their generosity.

Quick case study: In 2013, city.ballet created a fundraising campaign of 12 linked videos. They were each short productions, powered by interviews and interesting footage of dancers. Although the videos build over time – making them less ideal for a single fundraising event, for example – they remain powerful assets the organization can use to highlight individual stories and organizational accomplishments. In other words, this campaign is perfect for satisfying curious donors and supporters online – even four years later.

Visual storytelling is simply compelling and is proven to facilitate action. It’s time your nonprofit pick up a camera and press record. You’ll be sure to see results.

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