Nonprofit Video 101: 3 tips to keep your videos on point

Video

Lights, camera, questions: three things every video producer needs
(photo courtesy Isaac via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

It was my first week as the brand-new, in-house video producer at Idealist and I was super excited about all the possibilities ahead. So when our executive director Ami mentioned that a woman he just met had a fabulous Idealist story, my video mind starting working on overdrive.

Apparently, Kate Horner had not only found her current job on Idealist, she had also found her grad program at an Idealist Grad Fair, and she had a long track record of finding internships and volunteer opportunities through the site.

I was so excited, I jumped straight into preparations for making a video.

With my co-producer Sean, we scheduled a day-long shoot with Kate that involved an almost 90-minute interview. When we returned to the office afterward, we realized the daunting task that lay ahead: how would we craft a three-to-five minute video with great details that stayed compelling AND ended with a clear call to action?

I sorted through the interview footage and assembled my first cut. It was over ten minutes long, and was confusing and unfocused. While I had gotten in every last detail of Kate’s journey—from volunteering to working for veterans like her brother—it wasn’t a video I would want to watch. And it didn’t leave the viewer with a clear message about why they should look for jobs on Idealist like Kate did.

We tossed that version out and narrowed our focus. We honed in on the moments where Kate spoke honestly about her fear, excitement, worry, and hope—themes we hear all the time from the Idealist community. We also keyed in on the little things Kate had learned when she used Idealist in her job hunt that could be useful tips to share.

With these things in mind, we were able to craft a very personal and relatable story, while weaving in an Idealist pitch.



 

Lessons learned

In the increasingly crowded online video playing field, content needs to be focused, compelling, and clear. (Short doesn’t hurt either.)

In this case, I let my excitement get the better of me, and lost sight of those tenets. The result was that I ended up having to do probably four times the amount of work to get to the end product.

But not for naught—I’ve taken this experience with me as we plan out our next videos. Now, before we do anything, we make sure to use the following advice as a guide:

1. Answer these four questions.

When you’re thinking about making a video, planning is half the process. It’s imperative to answer these questions before you even think of touching a camera:

  1. WHY are you making the video? Fundraising? Awareness? To increase your membership?
  2. WHAT are you trying to say? What is the message or information you want the viewer to come away with? The more focused the better. Try to keep it to one message per video.
  3. WHO is your intended audience? Donors? People who already know something about your cause? People who don’t know anything about it? Event attendees?
  4. WHAT IMPACT do you want to have on your audience? What do you want them to think? Feel? Do?

2. Keep it personal.

Once you’ve thought about the end goals of your video, use that to inform the storytelling. Try to frame your video around someone’s personal story—that always helps the viewer form an emotional connection with your message.

For example, the Girl Effect: the Clock is Ticking is a great video that shows how framing a larger issue around an individual story can lead to a very compelling call to action.

3. Make a specific ask.

So now, let’s say you’ve done your homework and invested a lot of time, money, and brainpower in creating a personal, compelling video that the viewer watches all the way to the end—congratulations! But if you don’t make it easy for that viewer to take the next step, they probably won’t.

So make it clear what you want them to do. Maybe that’s sign your petition, visit your website, join your organization, or donate to your cause. In any case, don’t beat around the bush: ask them directly.

As a general rule, I suggest ending videos with your website URL so everyone knows where to go for more information. (YouTube’s Nonprofit Program allows you to add annotations around the URL that can turn it into a clickable link.) For example, in Kate’s video, we added a screen at the end that summed up our message and made a direct ask: “Find your dream job on Idealist today. Search now.”

***

While the process of making this video was filled with ups and downs, the experience did make me a better producer. And now I get to put what I learned to the test: we’re looking to find our next “Idealist Story” to film. Maybe you can help!

How have you used Idealist to imagine, connect, and act? Share your stories in the comments below (or email me at liz@idealist.org) and if you’re in NYC or Portland, Oregon, you could be the subject of our next video. How cool is that?

For more information and resources related to nonprofit video, check out Vimeo and Stillmotion’s video storytelling series and See 3 Communications and YouTube’s study about video in the nonprofit sector, complete with tutorials and tips and tricks.

For more Idealist Videos, check out our Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/idealist.

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Comments (1)


  1. Veronica Ciambra a.k.a. BoomerTuber writes:
    March 16, 2014 at 6:28 am

    I started a YouTube channel for baby boomers and older people,
    https://www.youtube.com/user/BoomersReachingOut

    I enjoyed your article and advice. I want to channel to be a connection vehicle for older people. Searching for the audience has been a challenge. Any suggestions and/or advice are welcome


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