They should be.
As of February 2018, there are over 1.5 billion YouTube users watching over 5 billion videos each day on the platform. These numbers are staggering. And if your nonprofit hasn’t gotten the hint yet, video isn’t going away. In fact, video the prefered content consumption medium by the majority of the population. But, you shouldn’t consider video appeals just because the medium is popular. Consider this statistic: Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text (insivia). If you want donors to remember who you are and what you do, video is the way to go.
So, what are video appeals? Video appeals are, quite simply, an ask in video form. To be effective, video appeals must do all the same things that any other successful fundraising ask does:
- Introduce the audience to your nonprofit organization.
- Include a story designed to build an emotional connection between potential donors and your nonprofit
- Present relevant facts to support your continued work in the community.
- Make it super easy to donate.
A successful video appeal can be done on any social media platform – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You can even embed your video in a targeted email campaign. Research by Martech Advisor shows emails that contain video have a 40-50% increase in click-through rates compared to plain text emails. People are far more likely to watch a short video than they are to read an email. This is especially true for younger donors or for donors who are not currently deeply connected and involved with your nonprofit organization.
Here are a few simple tips to start you on the path to success when planning your nonprofit organization’s next video appeal.
I know what you are thinking, “My nonprofit can’t afford to do video appeals. We just don’t have the budget, right now.” Forget what you think you know about video. A successful video appeal does not have to be professionally produced. We are in an era of amazing technology. Most of us carry this technology with us every day. With a decent smartphone you can shoot, edit, and post a high quality video.
Don’t just take your phone out, prop it on your desk, and talk. Successful video appeals are not just talking heads. Talking heads are BORING and not compelling. Successful appeals always tell a story. Use your video to take your potential donors on a trip to visit the people and locations your organization serves. Film the people, places, or animals in need. If you are an animal shelter, show some of the animals arriving at the shelter. Follow their journey from the intake process to medical care to being adopted by a loving forever family. Make sure to tell the full story, don’t stop halfway through. Your donors want to see how their funds will be put to use; they want to see the happy ending.
All fundraising appeals are more successful when they are targeted towards a specific audience. Different audiences have different expectations. If your donor base is older, embedding the video appeal in an email is a great way to get it out there. If your intended audience is younger, millennials and next gen donors, you’ll want to consider using your video as part of a larger social media campaign. Consider cutting any longer video appeals you have down and repurposing them for social media.
Check out my appearance on Nonprofits are Messy with Joan Garry for more tips.
Nonprofit fundraising relies on establishing an emotional connection between your organization and potential donors. Your video appeal can’t be successful if you just take your iPhone out into the field and start recording willy-nilly. To create successful video appeals and also to save time, resources, and headaches: Plan first, plan second, and shoot third. What do I mean by this? Before you start filming, create a storyboard of what your video will be. Let’s continue to use the animal shelter example. If you want to tell the story of one dog from intake at the shelter to placement with a family, you’ll need to know when dogs are coming to the shelter and you’ll need to plan to shoot every few days until they get adopted. You can’t just walk into the shelter today and hope that a dog will be coming in. Instead, create a list of shots that you will need to complete the “story” for your video. Do you need B-roll footage? Are you doing any interviews? Do you need any close-ups or wide angle panorama shots? Making a list will keep you organized. You could delegate the actual shooting to someone else. Remember, your video needs to tell a complete story from beginning to end. Make sure to end on a happy note, highlighting the good work your nonprofit is able to do because of your donors.
Social media is ever-present in many people’s lives. If your organization is hoping to use a video appeal to connect to younger donors, it is imperative that you make your video appeals part of your social media presence. Young people live on the internet, they are constantly connected to different social and professional networking applications and sites. Use this to your advantage. Don’t just email your video to your donor list. Post your video to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Better yet, create a stable of videos - some informational and some including an ask. Get new videos out there regularly to keep your donor base engaged. Encourage your donors to share the video with their social media followers to increase your reach even farther.
Your potential donors are already online watching your video on a social media platform or in their email, why not take advantage of this and include a link straight to your organization’s donation page. This takes advantage of the emotional connection your video has just worked to create. Make sure to include smaller donation amounts for those donors who are donating impulsively after clicking on the video. If your nonprofit’s website isn’t set up for online giving, why the heck not? If you are going to invest in video appeals, make sure your website is optimized for both online giving and mobile viewing. Remove as many barriers to donating as you can.
If you are planning to create a year’s worth of videos, consider mixing up the style and tone to keep things fresh. Here is a list of some simple, easy tips to increase the production value of your videos for free.
- Voice-over. Record a voice-over on your phone or directly onto your computer. Layer the voice-over over your video footage for a simple and easy video.
- Text overlay. All editing software, including the free ones, offer the ability to overlay text onto your video. Just record the video and add text.
- Source copyright-free music. Use the right music to create emotion in your audience. Use copyright free music in order to keep your video online and keep your nonprofit from a costly copyright infringement situation.
- Source copyright-free stock video footage. Looking to add footage to your video or create a video without recording any footage? There are tons of great stock, copyright free video footage sites. Just remember to give them credit if you use their materials.
- Free tutorials. YouTube is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to free and awesome tutorials. Want to learn how to use iMovie in twenty minutes? Need to learn how to use the fancy lens on your camera? Can’t embed the video in an email? Check out Youtube for free and easy to follow tutorials on anything and everything.
Video appeals are an integral part of my clientele's nonprofit fundraising strategy. The pervasive nature of social media and the internet means that more people are tuned-in to technology than ever before. Deciding not to take advantage of this when launching a fundraising campaign has the potential to leave a lot of money on the table.
Here are some of my favorite video appeals:
Abra is a member of the National Auctioneers Association and is one of 28 people in California to have their Benefit Auction Specialist designation. A gifted public speaker, she regularly conducts workshops on fundraising auctions, and is a sought-after speaker at fundraising events both locally and nationally as well as an active participant in the Association of Fundraising Professionals.