Illustration of writing an article on a laptop

ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Online Video For Nonprofits

A recent post by Isaac Kiehl highlighted social media, and in particular the use of online photos, as a means by which nonprofits can improve interaction with the community. Online video takes this interaction one step further.

A report by tech giant Cisco found that 51% of all consumer internet traffic in 2011 was video traffic. The figure is expected to rise to 54% by 2016, at which time video-on-demand traffic will have tripled.

A particular benefit of videos for nonprofits is that, unlike the written word, or even still photographs, video uses moving imagery and sound to convey a message that in text often appears dry and disassociated from the viewer. The visceral experience allows the viewer to be effectively immersed in what it is you are trying to convey. Content is king, and according to content marketer Joe Pulizzi, nonprofits are the easiest of all to develop a content marketing strategy for, because they can tell the best stories: “All they have to do is go to their customers and do a short video or tell a story in words or pictures about how that person’s life was affected, as well as a short bit about how the not-for-profit played a role. That’s it.”

Content marketing is what most nonprofits do naturally, and this article lists some excellent suggestions. Video is a very powerful arrow in the content marketer’s quiver. As a PR consultant who has worked with a number of nonprofits, I am increasingly seeing the value in online video content. The actual video content can vary widely depending on the aims of your organization and the resources that you have available. For smaller organizations, I’ve found that simple videos can often be produced in-house and look (at least) sufficiently professional to be of good use. Be cautious however, about putting poorly produced videos on your site, as they can make your organization appear amateurish and have a demonstrably negative effect. 

Having said that, I often advise groups that very simple videos containing a little more than talking heads and graphics can be very powerful. You don’t have to spend a lot to achieve these types of videos if they are well thought out and have a clear goal in mind so the message is succinct and direct.

Do not overlook the potential abilities of your members and supporters. High quality video is now well within the grasp of many consumer photographers due to the advances in DSLR camera technology and video production (under your guidance) can be a very fulfilling—and helpful—contribution members can make even if they can’t donate financially.

AFS-USA arranges student exchanges around the world. Their homepage includes a 2.5 minute ‘video highlight’ which is a very simple but effective collection of comments from a dozen exchange students, some graphics and is backed with an inspiring soundtrack. They’ve hosted the video on YouTube so it’s cost them nothing to maintain and has the added benefit that it will return on searches in YouTube (the second largest search engine after Google). Another example of a simple video is on the homepage of the American Indian College Fund, who use a short video to evocatively convey their mission of providing scholarships and financial support for Native students.

The more resources you have at your disposal, the more sophisticated your video content and storytelling can become. These videos almost come across as a trailer for the organizations. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation maintains a channel on YouTube which includes this moving piece set to higher production values.

Some nonprofits use online video extensively, effectively creating their own TV channel via video-on-demand. The World Transformation Movement’s site contains a series of lectures presenting a biological explanation of human nature. TED is a well known site that leverages live presentations by recording them and uploading the video.

If your nonprofit has appeared in news reports or documentaries you should consider leveraging that content by embedding it directly onto your site, like Doctors Without Boarders have done on their homepage with a recent PBS report. Further inspiration for what is possible can be seen on the doGooder Nonprofit Video Awards.

Video is a rapidly growing medium that nonprofits can affordably embrace to help spread their message and widen their online presence, as the above examples illustrate. I highly recommend your organization adds some to your website.

Patrice Sheldon is a PR consultant who has worked with several nonprofit organizations. She believes many nonprofits underutilize their online presence, especially from a marketing perspective.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog