Video Fundraising- 9 Tips to Tap Your Audience

video marketing for non profits

1. Know Your Audience

The first key in any marketing or fundraising campaign is to start with the audience first. It’s an outside in approach. You need to know as much as you can about your targeted demographic. Their interests, age, lifestyle, etc. Roll up your sleeves and find out as much as you can. This foundation will guide you through out the process. Get this wrong and you will completely miss your mark. Here are some online resources to help you out:

A great demographics research tool by Forrester and Groundswell.

Pertenant information about demographic viewing habits

2. Do Your Video Research

Look at other successful or non successful video fundraising campaigns. Search on YouTube and other video sharing sites like Vimeo. Take the time to evaluate and discuss with other non profits about what worked and what didn’t. Most organizations are not directly competing with each other in terms of campaigns so you have a great opportunity to glean valuable information from them. There may be other non profits doing similar campaigns. You need to know if there is an issue of copyright infringement. Most non profits treat their campaigns like any other bit of intellectual property. Don’t be timid about asking questions and commenting on their blogs and social sites. This may lead to more connections and partnerships later on.

3. Keep it Focused

Make each video a concentrated power punch. A mistake many fundraising video campaigns fall into is sending out too many messages in a single video and diluting the juice. Establish clear goals for the video. Focus in on a key idea, or message based on your audience research. You may need to break things up into a series of videos that each focus on one topic. You’ve got to hit hard and be direct. You are battling with short attention spans and a host of many distractions. Your video must cut through the noise, captivate and engage immediately.

There are some new studies about the online viewing habits. Depending on your audience’s age and demographics, it will dictate how long the video should play. As a general rule keep it in the 30 sec. to 1.5 minute range. If the viewing experience is pleasant and the viewer sticks it out until the end, you have a better chance of winning. Here are some key findings about effective video lengths. Another good article about online video advertisement lengths.

4. Make it Emotional

You want to stoke the fires of passion in your audience, but in a sincere and honest way. Your viewers should never feel manipulated, but as in any great theatre or cinema, being able to tap into pure emotion can be a benefit. Video, as a medium, allows for a greater visceral experience. Use that to your advantage. If the video moves people to tears of sadness, joy, or laughter chances are it will share well. Your video may cause folks to get angry? That’s good, if the anger evokes a positive action. A direct emotional response will likely lead to a direct action. Understanding your audience is key. What motivates them? Research what types of videos they are sharing and why. What cause is your audience most passionate about?

5. Make it Authentic

Open a window into the soul of your organization. Give people a real glimpse into why you do what you do and show your passion and drive to see that goal fulfilled. Social Media is about authenticity. A video can be an effective way to communicate a direct message without coming right out and saying it. (hitting them over the head) You may want to showcase certain individuals in your organization who have made a big difference in the cause, or individuals you have helped. You could do a short mini documentary about their life? Feature real stories about real people. Keep it genuine and heartfelt. Think of ways of identifying with your audience. Put yourself in their shoes. What are their struggles, what are their weaknesses, how can your organization relate to their needs?

6. Give Tremendous Value

Please take the time to read this fabulous blog post by outspoken media. It talks about the motivation behind why people share content online. In a nutshell, it’s NOT because they want to highlight your brand, but to give to their friends something meaningful and most importantly, to make themselves look good. It’s human nature. With this information in mind, think of how your video content can benefit your audience with a unique and timely message that resonates past your own brand. How will this video make someone’s life better after watching it? Think of your video as an object of value, like gold, silver or diamonds. Will viewers hearts light up when they understand your message and see it’s value in sharing it? We all like to give gifts because it makes us feel good. Make your content worth giving.

7. Share Your Victories

Everyone wants to be on the winning team. Give your audience a reason to believe in your cause by highlighting your strengths through accomplishments. This could be in the form of testimonials or in simply talking about and depicting various campaigns that have worked in the past and why. This will help to establish trust. It’s not about bragging, but letting your audience know you mean what you say and you have proof to back it up.

8. Explain your Challenges.

Be real and cut to the chase. The reason you are asking for money is because you need help. Lay it out in clear terms what is the issue, why this is a concern, and what will be the benefit once this problem is resolved or progress is made in getting to a solution.

9. Call to Action

It’s the classic case of “asking for the sale.” Your video will be pointless if it does not have a direct call to action. There are many types of calls to action. One might be to ask your audience to simply share the video. Give them a goal, like “help us reach 1,000,000 views by 2010, ” or “Share this video with your friends right now.” You may need to ask for specific monetary contributions. “We need to raise (blank) amount. Please send a check for this amount to help us in our cause”, or “Please hit the donation button at the top of this site.” Tell them exactly what they need to do right now.

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  • Tim, we used video as you discuss above last year for our first Rotary Brunch with Santa and will do so shortly for this year’s event. I recorded a short explain-and-ask video and emailed the link with a brief intro to our chamber members. A few days later, I sent out a follow up and then added a thank you video after the event was over.

    In our little town of 4500 people, we *netted* $6500 on a 3 hour event. Video was just one part of the marketing we did but I think it was essential to the mix. The rules you list above were on my mind when the videos were planned and executed.

    • admin

      That is really good news! Thanks for sharing that story.

  • Tim — Excellent advice on video marketing in general…let alone for fundraising. One thing that I think people dont understand a lot of times is the power of video…when done right! This is a great tutorial for doing just that…

    • admin

      With the viral nature of online video, one voice can become a thousand voices strong very quickly. It has to have amazing value in itself to do that. Thanks for the comment Clint!

  • Excellent points. I’ve found in doing fundraising for educational efforts, that in the past you could ask for a generic donation and appeal to a general feeling of goodness. Today, people want more input into their donations and how they are used, and what to feel that they are investing themselves and not just dollars.

    Because of that, video can be used to make a stronger personal connection, demonstrate examples of success, and help donors feel like they are more a part of the process, rather than just a provider to it.


    • admin

      Yes Jamie. Thanks for the input! Non Profits need to see their organizations not just as monolithic places that do good works, but as community hubs and places where multiple levels of participation is nurtured- not just in giving donations, but in sharing in the experience together and making a difference. Being involved in something greater than ourselves is a part of human nature. Video is just one more connecting point of engagement in that process.

  • Tim,

    You did a wonderful job of presenting valuable information for all kinds of organizations on how to best create and utilize video for fund raising purposes. I would also suggest that these tips are invaluable for anyone who needs to utilize video in various mediums, whether it be television or web. You have touched upon all the key points that together create a powerful message which will incite people to take action.

    Nicely done.


    • admin

      Thank you Andre. I appreciate you chiming in.

  • Right on the mark. This is the way to get it done and to get attention.

    • admin

      Thanks Andrew. It’s an art to be able to cut through the noise, sit people up , and motivate them to action.

  • Excellent points, Tim. I encourage anyone considering producing these types of videos to follow this list religiously. Every step is important and, as with many things, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts!

    • admin

      Steve, I may have learned some of this stuff from you? 🙂

  • Excellent advice Tim. Particularly the “know your audience.” Sometimes people get caught up on making a really “cool” video (read, “MTV style”) and they completely miss the mark of the audience they’re trying to reach.

    Great article my friend.

  • admin

    Thanks Ron. Every effect, every transition, fade, cut, needs to communicate the message more effectively. If it’s not needed it’s more of a distraction and takes away from the impact of the story. Look at the greatest stories ever told on film. Simple fades, dissolves, and cuts and that’s it. The rest is invested in the story line That is what speaks to the heart- especially in a fundraising video.

  • Right on the mark. This is the way to get it done and to get attention.

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