As a nonprofit or social impact organization, you aim to use every kind of medium available to tell your story and spread awareness about your cause. In today’s world of social shares and short attention spans, video has become an increasingly crucial mode of nonprofit storytelling. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or defeated by the prospect of trying to create a well-produced and effective video for your cause, fear not—we’ve compiled the following nonprofit video best practices and inspiring storytelling examples to help you maximize video platforms for impact.
Video production tips and tricks
The basics of a good video shoot are not as complicated as they might seem. Even if you have a limited budget or lack a multimedia star on staff, there are a number of best practices you can incorporate into your production workflow to ensure that you are producing the highest-quality videos to further your mission.
Set the stage
Natural lighting is free, and it can make all the difference. Film your video content in spaces with strong natural light and as little extraneous sound as possible. Don’t use your camera mic—sound can also make or break a video. Using an external mic will significantly raise the quality of your video sound. Most external mics plug in easily to your camera or phone.
Choose the right tech
When it comes to video production, it doesn’t take much to look professional. If there is a SLR camera available for you to use, great! But if not, filming on your iPhone can work as well—if you do use your phone, try an app like FiLMic to help enhance your phone’s capabilities. At the editing stage, Final Cut, Avid, and Adobe Premiere are common as industry standards. However, you can also get pretty far with iMovie and other free web-based design tools.
Follow the rules
This should be intuitive, but it’s worth the reminder—make sure to follow copyright laws for any music and images used in your nonprofit videos. There is nothing more frustrating (or more unprofessional) than having your video muted or removed from a video platform due to copyright infringements after you have already invested your team’s time and effort into its creation.
Try YouTube for Nonprofits
If you don’t already know, Google offers a number of special programs within its suite of platforms and services that are specifically designed for nonprofit use. YouTube is included—if you’re investing time into video production, you should also be considering where to display and share your videos beyond your website. If you qualify for YouTube for Nonprofits, you will have access to features such as donation cards within your videos, the ability to link directly from your site to videos using call-to-action overlays, and access to production resources at YouTube-owned spaces.
9 nonprofit video storytelling examples + what to learn from them
1. The Adventure Project
Since their organizational inception, our client The Adventure Project has been using video content to draw support for their mission of alleviating global poverty by creating jobs around the world. “Chipaza’s Story,” a video about Chipaza, a rural farmer in Malawi, gives the mic to the subject, allowing him to tell his story and describe how The Adventure Project’s programs have impacted his life. While it clearly demonstrates impact, this storytelling tactic also ensures that dignity and control over self-expression remain with the organization’s beneficiaries—a key element of The Adventure Project’s goals to encourage sustainable, self-driven entrepreneurial solutions to poverty among those they serve.
2. charity: water
At this point, charity: water is well known as a standout for it’s impactful storytelling techniques. “I Am Water,” a video from 2015, is one of the organization’s most-watched, and makes use of a powerful storytelling device, personification, to drive home the life-giving necessity of water and the fundamental importance of the charity: water mission. Don’t forget that even if video as a medium is unfamiliar to you, it can still be adapted to incorporate the creative techniques that best communicate your organization’s story and highlight the urgency of your cause.
3. Donate Life America
We love the way that Donate Life America, one of our longest-running clients, spreads its message about the importance of organ donation by empowering its supporters to help them educate others through video ads like the one above. You can maximize the impact of your nonprofit video strategy by intentionally creating video ads that can be easily shared. Encouraging a social share is a simple ask, and a way to help others help you by giving them tools to advocate on your behalf.
4. Concern USA
In the age of influencers, it never hurts to take advantage of both the latest trends and your connections to high-profile people to help elevate the visibility of your cause. Take an amazing new video from Whole Whale client Concern USA as an example—in this nonprofit video, sneaker reviewer and vlogger Seth Fowler helps draw attention to this organization’s impact by bringing the conversation about humanitarian aid and Concern’s vital work into his larger sphere of influence.
5. Greater Than Aids
This video from another Whole Whale client, Greater Than Aids, reminds us that keeping nonprofit videos short and focused on one emotional appeal will never cease to succeed at capturing viewers’ attention. In a little over one minute, Greater Than Aids has introduced a relatable subject, explained both her story and her relationship to GTA’s mission of educating people about and responding to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, and provided a clear call to action—take notes!
6. Cancer Research Institute
For organizations like our client Cancer Research Institute that seek to educate and inform their supporters about research findings or other more complex subjects, animation can be immensely helpful to any video strategy. In this example, animation is used to visually explain the difference between chemotherapy and immunotherapy—a treatment championed by CRI that empowers the immune system to fight cancer. Consider using animated explainer videos to help communicate key processes or concepts that are foundational to your organization’s mission, especially when content about these topics includes a lot of industry jargon.
7. Save the Children
This video from the nonprofit organization Save the Children is a devastatingly powerful example of the ability of visual content to conjure emotion and move viewers to action. In this second-a-day video, there is no text and hardly any speaking—instead, sound and image build to send a resounding message about the effect of war on children and create a clear call-to-action to support Save the Children’s work with Syrian children.
8. Lung Cancer Foundation of America
Lung Cancer Foundation of America is a Whole Whale client that seeks to improve lung cancer survivorship by funding crucial research in this field. LCFA has developed a following on video platforms by curating video series that answer important questions about lung cancer, like “how should I respond to a lung cancer diagnosis?,”and share expert advice. Don’t let your nonprofit video strategy become a one-off endeavor—enforcing user expectations by uploading new videos regularly will help this medium build site traffic and awareness for your cause.
9. One Love Foundation
Of course, it’s part of every savvy nonprofit’s content strategy to take advantage of key holidays and giving days. This emotional video from our client One Love Foundation demonstrates how such cultural awareness can be communicated with particular impact via video. One Love’s video documentation of their Valentine’s Day campaign helped them to leverage the topical power of this holiday towards educating people about the signs of unhealthy relationships and fighting relationship violence.
If you have your own nonprofit video best practices to share, tweets us @WholeWhale to tell us more about them! And don’t forget to check out our Whole Whale TV channel, which contains more nonprofit videos and nonprofit video advice, such as how to nail your fundraising video.