10 Ways Nonprofits Can Raise More Money with Video

Video of dog and man at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has an entire page of videos at its website. They include cute animals, volunteers devoting their birthdays to the animals, and more. Screenshot by JFritz

Nonprofits have compelling stories to tell, and a video is a perfect medium to tell those stories. Donors crave imagery, sound, and action, especially when those videos show the people or animals that they can help. 

When charities use video, they can increase their fundraising exponentially. 

Google has found that online video is the best online method for driving donations, with more than half of donors making a gift after watching an online video about a favorite cause.

Google also discovered that 80 percent of donors use online videos to learn more about charities.

Fundraisers have seen the power of video to increase engagement and spur action from their supporters.

Do you want to create and promote great videos to raise more money? Here are 11 steps to do just that.

1) Focus like a laser on one goal: raising money with video.

The goal for your video fundraising campaign should be to bring in more donations. Period.

Sure, “raising awareness” and “building your email list” are worthy objectives too, but all of that will happen while you focus on driving donations. That goal should inform all of the other steps in your strategy, and has the advantage of being easy to evaluate. 

2) Identify your audience and what it loves.

What types of stories compel them to act? What is most important to them? Answering these two questions will help you figure out what story to tell with your video, who to use in your video, and what outcomes you want.

Where are your supporters spending their time online? What channels are they using? Answering these two questions will help you determine where to post and promote your video.  

Remember, you want people to a) watch your video (or at least part of it) and b) complete the donation form after watching the video.

That’s it.

NOTE: Creating a video that people love to share on Facebook or one that will “go viral” is not the goal. After all, 10,000 people could watch your video and enjoy it, but if it is not directly driving donations, then it has not accomplished its purpose.

3) Grab attention in that first frame.

Getting attention online is harder than ever before. Internet users turn to ad blockers to avoid online advertisements. Everyone you know seems to be posting on Facebook.  And brands with multi-million dollar budgets dominate social media.   

When you create a video, you need to consider everything that will be competing for your donor’s attention at that moment.

The competition online is brutal. It’s no wonder that 20% of video viewers click away from a video within 10 seconds – or fewer!!

Even if you plan on posting this video on your website, blog, and donation page (as you should), most people have multiple tabs open on their desktop, multiple apps open on their phones, and many more distractions competing for their attention. 

When creating your fundraising video, think about how you can grab attention in the first frame of video.

One of my favorite social cause videos of all time is Eunice's Dream: A Poem from Kibera School for Girls.

From the first second, Eunice grabs your attention and doesn’t let go with her infectious energy and passion. It inspired me to give to the Kibera School for Girls – a cause I still support today.

4) Make your video a sharing rockstar.

While getting people to share your video is not your #1 goal – driving donations is – keep in mind the reasons why people share content online.

People share online:

  • To provide interesting, valuable, funny, unique, thought-provoking information and ideas.
  • To let others know what they believe in and who they are.
  • To recommend a product or service – like your nonprofit.
  • To show others that they are in the know about topics, events, and news.
  • To add their two cents to the conversation.

If your video has these elements, viewers may share it, exposing your nonprofit to new supporters.


5) Use storytelling to get the donation.

Storytelling connects with your donors. A great story compels people to help create a happy ending for the protagonist, or people like the protagonist.

An excellent example of a storytelling video comes from the San Francisco Chronicle's Season of Sharing Fund. It's called Meet Bobbie and Ia.

The story of Bobbie, a homeless woman helped by the Season of Sharing Fund, inspired viewers and made them hopeful. Viewers also meet Ia, a regular person who does not have a lot of money, but still gives. And she tells you why. I get chills watching this simple video.

Make your call to donate clear, explicit, and able to stand alone. Do not confuse donors by stuffing in every possible ask at the end of your video, such as “Like us on Facebook!” and “Join our Mailing List!”   

6) Recycle existing video content.

If you have already spent time and money to create a fabulous video for your nonprofit, think about how you could repurpose parts of it later. This trick comes in handy when you approach your end-of-year fundraising.

Short videos, one minute or less, work best on social media.  So if you have a 5-minute video from your last gala, chop it up and edit out all extraneous material to make one direct and forceful appeal.

Rachel Jellinek of Reflection Films describes the ways you can re-use existing video content and extend the life of your video material.   

7) Add annotations to your YouTube videos.

There is no doubt that YouTube is a powerhouse when it comes to driving awareness about causes and topics. It is the second largest search engine in the world, after Google.

Be sure to register you nonprofit with the free service Google for Nonprofits to take advantage of many useful YouTube features, such as inserting video annotations.  Viewers can click on a hyperlink and be whisked off to your donation page.

YouTube discovered that the action people are most likely to take after watching a video is watching another video. You need to break that pattern by inserting annotations into your fundraising video directing people to your online donation page.

The Case Foundation has a helpful video about adding annotations and hyperlinks to your nonprofit video. Make sure the annotation says “Click here to donate now” rather than an indirect call to action like “Click here to learn more.”

8) Embed video into a blog post.

Is your blog lacking new content? Has it not been updated in months? Creating fresh blog posts does not mean spending hours researching, writing, and editing. Use your year-end fundraising video!

Embed the video into a new blog post, adding a 300-400-word description with more information or a synopsis of the video. Add extra interest by describing how you made the video and give a glimpse into your behind-the-scenes activities.   

9) Embed video on your donation page.

Make sure you embed a video on your website's donation page. A personal, heartfelt, and timely appeal works best, with one person describing the need and why the donor should make her donation right now.

Short and sweet work best. Focus on getting the donor to give. Test the video with current and potential donors to see if it would help them cross that last hurdle and enter their credit card information.  

10) Upload video directly to Facebook.

Native videos (videos that are uploaded directly on Facebook) are the strongest performers in the News Feed. They get more likes, comments, shares, and clicks. 

Fifty percent of Americans who use Facebook on a daily basis watch at least one video every day.

Videos on Facebook play automatically in the News Feed, but they play silently. Think about how you can encourage people to click on the sound button and watch the video. 

Need some inspiration? Check out Facebook’s Video Upload Guide as well as Can’t Miss Videos” on Facebook each month.

Are you a Buffer fan? Read about how to share video via that app.

Sometimes the best way to get inspired about what you can do with video is to watch what other nonprofits have done. Check out the DoGooder annual video contest for some great examples. 

Flash! Try out Facebook's live video with this guide.