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By Tracy Vanderneck

 

When we think of how nonprofits can use video in fundraising efforts, our first thought may be to create a video that tells the story of what our nonprofit does. That is a great start. Then we worry about whether the video should be shot and edited by professionals. We might debate in a development committee meeting about whether the video should be longer than one minute or shorter, whether it should focus on one program or the organization as a whole, or any number of other details. We may even talk ourselves into a sort of analysis paralysis, where we’re so worried about getting it all perfect that we end up not creating anything at all.

My main message here today is to say, “Stop that!” Yes, if your organization is a university or hospital foundation with millions in the bank, then hiring a company to do all video-related communications for you might make sense. For everyone else, the important thing is to share your organization’s mission story in a compelling way – and "compelling" doesn’t necessarily mean professionally produced. Use your iPhone or Zoom or whatever tool you are comfortable with to do the recording.

Depending on what source you read, common practice shows that videos between 45 seconds and one minute in length are a safe bet. If you are really getting into a mission story, you can probably go for two or three minutes. But generally, short is key.

Here are just a few ways you should consider using video in support of your organization’s fundraising efforts.

1. Storytelling

Writing about the good that the organization does can be very compelling when the language you use focuses on the mission, on how lives are changed. Video can make that mission connection even deeper. Whether you interview scholarship recipients, do a walk-through of an art gallery, or film some of the action in a murderball match played by your organization’s clients — inspiring visuals can draw people in.

You can send short video vignettes by email, via text, or use them on social media. You can even store your video for further viewing on your nonprofit’s YouTube channel.

2. Cases for Support

A case for support is a document that every nonprofit organization should have. It combines statistics and facts with emotional appeals. It explains the problem, issue, or situation that exists and needs to be addressed. Then it describes how the nonprofit fixes the problem or meets the need, and why it is valid to do so (e.g., it has highly qualified staff in the appropriate jobs, it has a track record of success in the area of delivery). A case also describes what resources and funding the nonprofit needs in order to deliver on the mission successfully. And of course, it ends with an appeal for support.

This document is extensively used in major gift fundraising, often during one-to-one discussions with donors or potential donors. Now, a video can be an added value that makes the case for support accessible to more people. It would still most likely be used with mid-level donors and major donors in partnership with a written case. First, gain initial interest by sending the video, then use the written case as a leave-behind at in-person meetings.

A video case for support will likely need some editing, dropping in relevant statistics as overlays. But there are now many products on the market that can be used by laypeople with good results.

3. Donor Profiles

In certain circumstances, a short video of a donor discussing why they invest in a particular nonprofit organization can motivate other people to give as well. Whether it is a celebrity video that inspires thousands of people to give on TikTok, or a local nonprofit’s most engaged donor sharing about what compels him or her to donate, videos of current supporters can yield good results.

 

4. Introducing Staff, Board Members and Other Volunteers

People like to know with whom they are working. Knowing who is responsible for running an organization can give donors and prospective donors a sense of security that the nonprofit is well-run. It can also inspire others to volunteer and give. Forty-five-second introduction videos shared on social media can be a great way to achieve this. As an added bonus, the staff, board and volunteers may be more likely to share a social media post if they are in it – which expands the reach of your post!

 

5. Showing Impact

We all know how incredibly important it is to show donors what good comes from their investment. How was the community — or the lives of people in it — made better because of the gift? People who are shown the good that came from their donations are more likely to feel positive about their gift and are more likely to give again.

Impact videos can be shared by email, text or on social media. Just be careful when creating impact videos not to create a “savior and the needy” story scenario. There is a significant movement in the philanthropic community to change the traditional haves/have nots narrative around giving; more donors are starting to look to partner with nonprofits and their clients to find solutions. You may want to take this into consideration when creating videos for your organization.

6. Saying Thank You

This is one of my favorite types of nonprofit video. Some donor management systems (DMS) allow you to film a video right from the donor’s record in the system and choose to send it via email or text just to that one person. If you don’t want to use it or don’t have access to that function in your DMS, you can just use your phone and send it from there.

Thirty-second videos from staff, the executive director, board members, volunteers or clients (just one to three people per recording), saying the donor’s name and thanking them for their gift can have a huge impact. To date, I’ve only received one such thank you from a nonprofit. I’ll admit that even as a fundraising coach who knows full well the part the video plays in the donor stewardship process, I still loved it!

These videos likely take less than five minutes to create and send, but because they are specifically personalized to a single donor there is a big payoff in terms of donor stewardship. The key here is that the thank you must be genuine. Make sure that the person filming it is personable and is not reading a script. Just have them shoot a casual thank you and that will be enough.

There are plenty of ways you can creatively use video in fundraising, sharing mission stories, describing impact, and showing appreciation. The key is just to get started doing it. Don’t let nerves stop you, nor fear of the video “not being good enough.” The message can literally be as simple as, “Hi, Tracy, it’s Donna, Libby and Chelsey here from Comfort House Child Advocacy Center. We received your gift this week and want to tell you how much we appreciate you and your gift. Your donation helps make it possible for Comfort House to serve children in the aftermath of abuse with the compassion each child deserves.”

 

Author’s Note: I have my 3-D viewer ready to go and would love to see samples from nonprofits that have used 3-D filming to do virtual tours of their organizations. If you have one, shoot it my way: tvanderneck@phil-com.com.