The #1 Video Mistake Nonprofits Make

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It’s great to see nonprofits embracing digital content, especially video. In fact, our own survey shows that about 50% of nonprofits are producing videos in conjunction with their fundraising efforts.

However, there is a ubiquitous kind of nonprofit video that really irks me.

Nonprofits who do a lot of events tend to tie their video production efforts to those events. Which would be okay if it was used as a promotional vehicle (i.e. watch this video to learn more about our upcoming walk or gala).

However, what I see too often is nonprofits who invest in a video that covers an event, using the finished product to tell people that an event happened. In other words, an added expense to an already expensive event is hiring a camera crew to cover it, as if it was a wedding or birthday party.

There are a few problems with this kind of video:

The audience is unclear

Who is the intended audience? Current donors? Non-donors who know you? Non-donors who don’t know you? If you can’t answer this clearly or have more than one audience in mind, the video probably won’t be very effective.

The purpose is unclear

What are you trying to communicate about your organization?

A common defense of this type of video is that it can be used to promote the next year’s version of the same event. But, why do so 11 months ahead of time? If you want people to know what the event looks and sounds like (as if that would somehow increase interest), rather than the purpose of the event, the video probably won’t be very effective.

It’s super expensive

With these videos, you can only have one: cheap or high-quality.

However, there is a type of video that can be cheap, low-quality and extremely effective.

Make videos that express gratitude

Some of my favorite examples of nonprofit videos are those that show gratitude, rather than promote the organization directly. The great thing about using video to say “thank you” to a donor, a volunteer or another supporter is that they are super easy and cheap to make.

Here is a simple video from a theatre group that advocates for those suffering from AIDS. They are thanking an individual donor by singing him an “original serenade:”

This video is incredibly simplistic in its production. They are likely shooting on an iPhone being held selfie-style by one of the singers. Despite it’s low-budget nature, it is likely 100x more impactful than an expensive, highly-produced video that is shown at or after an (expensive) event. Check out this simple Vine video from staff members at Diabetes UK who are thanking a P2P fundraiser:

(If you were wondering how your nonprofit could utilize Instagram and/or Vine, this is it.)

Again, this video is almost effortless in its creation. There is a ton of affordable video equipment out there if you wanted it to look a little nicer.

I strongly believe that a majority of a nonprofit’s video budget and efforts should be focused on showing gratitude.

How to get video at an event

If you absolutely must get video at event as its happening (which certainly has its merits), try crowdsourcing. Everyone who attends your walk, golf outing or gala has a fantastic video camera in their pockets (their smartphone). Encourage attendees to take video at the event, and give them a platform to share it (a hashtag or your Facebook page).

You could even have a few dedicated iPods or old iPhones scattered around the event that are donate or belong to the organization, similar to a wedding that puts disposable cameras on each table. This way, you can collect the devices at the end of the night and pool all the footage together.

Videos for an event

Charities seem to think that showing a video at event is absolutely critical.

With the proliferation of email, social media and other digital distribution channels, videos no longer need in-person events to be seen. Why spend thousands of dollars on a video that will only be shown to 250 people at an event? Sure, you can repurpose that video on the web later, but your target audience becomes muddled in the process.

While a polished video can be very effective in facilitating an ask at a gala, it often ends up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Live events are an awesome opportunity to have your supporters share personal stories from the podium. In fact, it may be the only gathering all year that you have such an opportunity.

I can remember attending a fundraising gala where an impassioned supporter of the organization made a moving ask. There was not a dry eye in the room. Just as the attendees were reaching for their checkbooks, the lights dimmed and a 3-minute video played. Because the video was so polished, promotional and differing in tone, it completely took away from the authenticity of what came before it.

The expense in producing it was completely unnecessary, and may have had a real negative impact on the evening’s donation intake.

So save those dollars for more numerous, personal videos throughout the year.

How does your organization utilize video? Let me know in the comments below!

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Steven Shattuck

Steven Shattuck

Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang
Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang and Executive Director of Launch Cause. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition" and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and is an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member.
Steven Shattuck
By | 2017-06-10T19:15:21+00:00 November 6th, 2014|Nonprofit Marketing|

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  1. […] at first if you don’t have a marketing team in place to facilitate, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider these tips, bust out your iPhone, acquire a tripod if possible, and use your laptop’s basic editing […]

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