Finding the Right Video Strategy for your Social Impact Organization

Ready to dive into video? Whether you're planning to hire a production company or do it all yourself, start by nailing down the details with our video treatment template.

May 20th Articles 4 min read
Cosmic

By Eric Ressler

Nonprofit organizations are increasingly aware of the role of marketing and communications as an impact multiplier. Social impact organizations are beefing up their brands by paying special attention to their websites and social channels. And they're learning that high-quality, thoughtful content is the fuel that keeps the twin engines of awareness and engagement running. Yet many nonprofits that are regularly producing blog articles and social media posts have yet to embrace video content. And that makes sense. After all, video represents a larger investment of time, money, and equipment. And for organizations without existing video production expertise, the thought of producing video in-house may seem daunting. Hiring a production company, meanwhile, may seem extravagant or out of reach.

It’s true that video requires a larger front-end commitment than most other types of content. But the rewards you stand to reap by prioritizing video in your communications strategy are well worth it. The good news? Your own team’s capacity to dig into video production is closer at hand than you might think.

Free Template

Video Should be a Key Part of Your Nonprofit’s Communications Program

There are several reasons why video is considered such high-value content. In general, video:

  1. Engages audiences more fully as compared with content that only contains text and/or still images. For example, the average Facebook post has an engagement score of 0.31% (this simple score is calculated by dividing the number of engaged users by a page’s total fans). Of all the different types of Facebook posts, video posts rank the highest with an engagement score of 0.33%.
  2. Is extremely capable of telling compelling stories and creating an emotional response. Rather than simply reading about a problem or a victory, viewers can see it for themselves, effectively putting faces to names.
  3. Can quickly communicate complicated information in a short span of time to make it easy for viewers to digest. In addition, visual learners may prefer video content to written information.
  4. Inspires viewers to take action.

Data from the nonprofit sector indicates that these same benefits translate readily to the world of social impact organizations.Consider this: A 2017 study found that 57% of people who watched nonprofit videos went on to make a donation. Meanwhile, 68% of viewers went on to view similar video content over the next 30 days. In addition, nonprofits that include video in their email campaigns have historically boosted open rates by 19%, ramped up click-through rates by a whopping 65%, and reduced unsubscribes by 26%. Clearly, this is powerful stuff. And video may be most impressive of all when it comes to engaging Millennials. This cohort is most likely to watch online videos before making a gift.

Quite simply, your nonprofit must invest in video. Doing so is all but guaranteed to increase your audiences’ engagement and enable you to achieve higher impact.

Find the right video strategy for your social impact organization

The first step of incorporating video into your nonprofit organization’s marketing and communications program is to develop a strategy. Determine how you will use video.

In general, you should plan to invest more resources on evergreen video content that supports your organization’s longer-term, high-level needs. For example, you might create a video explaining your organization’s mission or theory of change. Or, you could use video to tell the story of a long-running program.

Bigger funding asks and major announcements are also good candidates for top-tier video treatment. Make sure to give high-priority videos the most professional treatment possible. Now is the time to call in a production company if your budget allows it. If a particular video is likely to remain on your website for several months or more, that’s a pretty good indicator that it’s worth pulling out the big production guns.

Next, think about how you could use video in a more timely way, such as rallying volunteers for an event, raising awareness about a fundraiser, or showing recent proof of impact. Videos such as these can be produced more quickly with slightly lower production values. And they can also boast a more modest budget.

Video Production Best Practices: How to Create Engaging Video Content for Your Nonprofit

Thanks to the advent of newer, cheaper technologies, it’s now possible for your nonprofit to create quality video content with or without the help of a production company. Whether you plan to invest in outside help or go it alone, keep the following in mind when planning your video content:

  • Start with a plan. Each video you produce needs to tell a story. This means you must plan an intentional narrative arc that includes a beginning, middle, and end — as well as a clear call to action at the end of the piece. In order to do this well, you must make sure you have a clear goal in mind regarding engagement. What do you want viewers to know after watching your video? Just as importantly, what action do you want them to take?
  • Keep it short and to the point. Each video should be focused around a single concept. Don't clutter it with too many separate ideas or narratives. The more focused your video’s message, the better. In addition, video content should be short and sweet — no more than four minutes and ideally closer to 90 seconds to two minutes. As you are spinning up a video content strategy, consider producing a combination of longer narrative pieces and shorter, more focused videos.
  • Write a video brief or treatment. This planning document ensures that you think through all the details of your video before jumping into production. Make sure your brief includes your goals for the video, as well as a target length, format, narrative, and call to action. This can be used for internal planning or shopped around to video production firms for an accurate price quote.
  • Prepare a script. Before you start shooting, plan to write a script for your video. Alternately, you could use audio from an interview and edit it to be used as a voiceover in place of a traditional script. If you do write a voiceover script, make sure your voiceover does more than simply narrate what's happening on-screen. Remember: show, don't tell.
  • Good lighting and sound go a long way. It’s possible to shoot decent video on your smartphone. Just make sure you have good lighting — enough to avoid a pixelated, low-resolution end-product. And don’t neglect audio, either. Plan to pay to have your audio mixed separately for the final video.
  • Consider alternatives to live shooting. It’s not always logistically feasible to capture live footage for every video. The good news is that there are plenty of alternative options. For example, you could use motion graphics, animation, AP footage, and existing B-roll from your own previous video shoots. Just make sure you secure the rights to any “found” footage you hope to include. If your organization’s work spans the globe, consider hiring a local videographer to shoot some video for you without traveling there yourself. Bonus: This approach features a smaller carbon footprint as well as reduced costs. For a great example of how existing footage can be woven in with a “talking head”-style interview, check out the video Greta Thunberg recently created with George Monbiot and Tom Mustill.
  • Pay attention to the visual details. Even if you are just taping a single individual in an interview, pay attention to all the visual details that appear in the frame. Remove as much background clutter as possible. And be sure not to include branded elements from other brands (such as a bottle of water or can of soda) in the video.
  • Consider accessibility. Remember that not everyone who encounters your video will be able to watch it or view it with the sound on. Plan to supplement your video with a written summary or even a transcript for those who prefer to read. In addition, make sure to caption all videos that will be published to your social channels, as many people scroll through their feeds with their sound off.
  • Draft a release and promotion plan. Make sure you have a plan to promote your video once you release it beyond just publishing it on a video platform and your website. Leverage your owned and paid media channels to spread the word about your video in a way that drives traffic to your website.
  • Choose a video platform and stick with it. YouTube and Vimeo are the two most popular choices. Stick with one for the sake of consistency. Then, take the time to learn how to optimize it as you would any other social media channel.
  • Seek inspiration from other nonprofits. Organizations like charity: water and Save Our Shores are leading the way in terms of showing how video can be used in the nonprofit space.

By embracing video for your nonprofit’s communication strategy, you can amp up your audiences’ engagement around key efforts — and ultimately make a larger impact in the areas that matter most.

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