5 Tips for Effective Fundraising Videos

Learn how nonprofits can use video storytelling to create more compelling donation campaigns

An effective fundraising video has the power to inspire emotion and move people to action, whether to directly support a cause or to get involved with its mission in another way. 

For nonprofits, video provides viewers the unique opportunity to see the faces and hear the voices of those people its mission benefits. And seeing that impact in action helps individuals relate to those impacted by an organization’s cause. It’s no surprise that 57% of people who watch an organization’s fundraising videos will end up making a donation. Video, as a medium, allows people to quickly empathize and understand the “why” of an organization. And it works—viewers retain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video compared to just 10 percent when reading it in text. We asked Megan McDonough, Yakkety Yak’s director of video production, to share her expert insight on how incorporating video storytelling into campaigns and fundraising videos can help nonprofits inspire donors. Here’s what she had to say. 

Why are videos effective fundraising tools?

Humans are wired to connect what we see and hear to what we do. The emotion in a mother’s voice as she shares how an organization helped her child, the passion of a volunteer explaining just how meaningful the work is to them, a swell of music as an organization’s director gives a call to action—all of this engages our senses in multiple ways. Video provides a holistic overview of a campaign and has the power to stir up great emotion. 

As Megan puts it, “When we see ourselves in the people on screen, the heart of a mission, the ‘why,’ it inspires people to take action.” 

How can nonprofits utilize video for campaigns? 

Nonprofit fundraising videos typically fall into the following categories:

  • Mission moment/impact videos
    These videos tell a story and tug on viewers’ heartstrings to push a specific call to action. During the American Brain Foundation’s Commitment to Cures virtual gala, we created an emotional video that showcased four stories of people impacted by brain disease. Not only was this an essential part of the gala but we also pulled shorter snippets of the video to share on social media later, extending the use of the footage. 
  • Social media or email marketing campaigns
    Videos for social media or email campaigns should be tailored to the necessary format in both length and style. For example, a video under 60 seconds can be shared to your Instagram feed, but it should be the right size—a square, or 1080×1080, rather than the rectangular 1280×720 size used on Facebook or LinkedIn. Optimizing video content per platform helps increase engagement and reach. 
  • Motion graphic metrics videos
    Motion graphic metrics videos offer a more interesting way to present data, such as numbers from an annual report, to show potential donors high-level facts and stats that demonstrate an organization’s impact. 
  • Initiative announcements
    Use these videos to announce a new initiative or focus attention on one particular program or area in need of funding. 
  • Donor “Thank You” videos
    Videos thanking donors are direct, personal ways to connect with donors and show appreciation for their support. They’re a great way to keep donors continuously engaged with your mission. 

Nonprofit video doesn’t always have to explain—it can simply inspire. Showing is often better than telling: Many successful video campaigns take a nontraditional approach by having very little speaking or text and using music and visuals to conjure emotion and drive action. 

5 Tips for Nonprofit Video Storytelling

Not sure where to start when it comes to putting together a video fundraising campaign? Here are five tips on how a nonprofit can approach video storytelling to drive audience engagement and donations:

1. Use a video in more than one way on more than one platform.

“I often see nonprofit organizations put a huge amount of resources into one major mission moment video for an annual gala or fundraiser,” Megan says. “And while that video is a crucial piece to move potential donors to action in the room, the work that goes into its production could yield so much more.” Megan recommends repurposing a video that plays at an event not only by embedding it onto a website but also by using it across channels long after the event is over. 

So much work goes into the physical shoot, from getting people together to camera lighting and setup to covering crew costs and more, that creating just one video doesn’t take advantage of all the time and resources spent. The captured footage can be used in so many ways and for so many different purposes, including social media posts or email campaigns. It’s important to think about any video campaign holistically and figure out how to share across multiple channels for greater reach.

Check out the American Brain Foundation’s mission moment video or our video for Glenwood Academy for an example. Filmed for a single event, we pulled dozens of smaller snippets from the Glenwood Academy video for them to use on social media throughout the entire year. 

Don’t feel limited to just one video per campaign either. Multiple short videos can be used in the same campaign to increase engagement as well. Determining you want to do this ahead of time, as you come up with your video content strategy, will be a huge time saver during production. 

“We’re all so bombarded with content these days that giving your base several emotional touchpoints throughout a campaign is a good idea,” Megan says. 

2. Spread your reach with paid social media. 

With all the avenues for people to consume content these days, how do you make sure your organization’s videos shine through? Whether it’s running a YouTube pre-roll ad campaign for Giving Tuesday or boosting a video on Facebook, paid social media helps push through all the noise and make the most of the videos you’ve already spent time, energy and money bringing to life. 

3. Ask yourself: Who can best express my organization’s “why?” 

When thinking about who to feature in videos for personal stories and testimonials, consider things like presence and willingness to be vulnerable on camera. You want someone who will connect with the audience and isn’t afraid to show emotion. Then, check if they have existing assets for you to use in the video, such as photos from the time in their life that they were impacted by the mission of your organization. 

Our video production team approaches getting good subjects for nonprofit fundraising videos by first reaching out to a wide pool of people and then using interviews to narrow down who we think will be good on camera. Don’t be afraid to interview a lot of people to get the story or stories you want. In fact, you should ideally work throughout the year to note potential stories from the people your services benefit. Cast your net long before video needs arise to avoid scrambling for options at production time. It’s better to have too much content than too little, and the interviews that don’t end up featuring in the video can be used for other purposes, such as social media posts, email campaigns or blogs. During the interview process, make sure to ask subjects if they’re OK with having their story shared another way!

4. Put storytelling first. 

Remember that one video can’t and shouldn’t include everything. It’s tempting to include all possible stories, or every statistic or voice. But there’s only so much time to work with and choosing to fully develop one or two powerful stories will better engage viewers. This is where having a solid video content strategy works wonders. Ask yourself who your audience is and what you want them to take away from your video. The answer will lead you down the path to build a storyline that will resonate with viewers. Learn more about putting together a video content strategy here.

5. Tap into experts. 

Finally, consider working with a full-service marketing agency for all your fundraising initiatives. When one company, like Yakkety Yak, is managing communications and content across the board, it makes for a cohesive campaign from messaging to styling and everything in-between. Plus, it takes the pressure off your team so you can stay focused on doing what you do best: driving forward with a purpose. Get in touch to talk through your next nonprofit fundraising video campaign. 

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