09.27.2013

Five Reasons Nonprofits Should Consider Video

In my previous life, I built and ran sites that heavily relied on multimedia to communicate fairly complicated messages. We chose video as a core medium because many of our users were low-income, low-literacy people and straight text just didn’t resonate.

We produced everything from how-to videos to feature-length films. We intended each piece of media to either inform – by teaching and showing – or inspire. It’s the inspiration part that’s the hardest and, to me, the most interesting, as it applies to nonprofits and progressive organizations.

If you head over to YouTube and look up just about anything that interests you, you’ll see dozens of how-to videos, most amatuer, some pro. The point is, just about everyone’s doing how-to videos these days. There’s not much to it, assuming you know the subject matter well enough.

But to create truly inspiring video, you really need to thoroughly understand your audience. And more importantly, you have to understand the message you are trying to get across. What is it, exactly, are you trying to inspire people to do? What is the one message you want the viewer to take home?

Lately I’m seeing some great videos with clear calls to action on KickStarter. In fact I made one for a musician friend a few months ago. I won’t share that as the campaign is over and it’s not my best work, but suffice it to say, video is really proving effective for KickStarter campaigns.

Why is that interesting and important? Well, if you’re trying to build a grassroots effort, a funding drive or just general awareness among the public about what you do, you should be considering video as part of your online marketing strategy. Why?

1. Video is an emotive medium

You can tell your story on your site in prose. You can add photos of the people you serve to create a deeper connection with the site visitor (and you should). But if you have the budget, time and expertise – or can hire it out – a well-made video will draw a much deeper connection between your organization and your viewer. Video is built to create emotion. You can tell stories more effectively with video than with text, and usually in fewer words.

2. People watch online video

It wasn’t always this way. When I build my first video network, watching online video was still a novelty. That’s because bandwidth was slim, technologies like Flash were heavy, and people with low-end or outdated computers were out of luck. Now, video is integrated much more heavily into the web, as well as mobile. People watch six billion hours of video on YouTube each month. The medium is working and people are coming to expect it on sites.

3. Video is not difficult to make

I’m not suggesting you design your entire online marketing plan around a video shot on an iPhone. What I am suggesting is that there’s a time and a place for amateur video. If your organization does field work, this is a great opportunity to capture video of your impact. These videos can be organized on your company blog, or in a separate section of the site altogether. Don’t be afraid to highlight one or two of these up front. Just don’t base your whole design off of it. Save that for a professionally-done video. Be warned, pro video is expensive, but done right, almost always worth it.

4. Videos have a much better chance of going viral

If you’re trying to spread the word about what you do and build grassroots support, for example, then video is a perfect medium. You might remember the Kony 2012 campaign. The video that kicked it off went absolutely viral online within days. It’s been viewed nearly 100 million times. Videos are easily distributed on networks like YouTube and Vimeo. Placing a video onto a network like YouTube puts it into a heavily-searched environment. Done right, people who would never have seen your website will be introduced to your cause via a YouTube search. Always, always, always give the viewer a way to get back to your site from wherever they may be watching.

5. It’s important to stay modern

I come from the nonprofit world, so I understand the financial constraints most organizations struggle with each day. It’s a balancing act that requires constant fundraising and vigilant budget-minding. But you’re also responsible for maintaining an image. Your image is critical when it comes to marketing. A video or two does not a marketing plan make. It takes much more than that, but every piece is important. Incorporating video into your overall online marketing strategy lends life to your image.

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