October 22, 2019
Nonprofits Should Add Web Video to Their Toolbox

By Roberto Mighty

Roberto Mighty
Web video campaigns have become a powerful, indispensable tool for fundraising, public information, retention, and community building, but whether it's because of unfamiliarity with the medium, concerns about budgeting, or other issues, nonprofits don't use this secret weapon nearly enough.

In my experience, nonprofit executives usually have an excellent grasp of their organization's raison d'etre and mission statement, but they often need help translating their stories into a series of brief, powerful video messages.

Film and video work best when they appeal to emotions, so your best bet is to spend your video production resources on human-interest stories and emotionally resonant motion pictures, music, and graphics.

Developing Your Narrative

Your narrative should not be confused with your mission statement. Your mission statement appeals to the head. Your narrative must appeal to the heart. Your mission statement is probably earnest and informative, but it most likely does not tell a story, create an emotional response, or otherwise appeal to the non-logical part of a potential donor's or foundation officer's brain. Therefore, your successful web video campaign will make an emotional appeal based on your organization's narrative.

How do we apply this approach to nonprofits? Good video producers approach your story from an emotional and visual standpoint. We are looking to translate your narrative elements into cinematic elements to grab hold of your viewing audience.

Are there any end-users who can tell authentic stories on camera illustrating your nonprofit’s life-changing effect on them? Is some part of your service performed in a place (or by people) that would be compelling on camera? Is there a cinematic aspect to your founder’s inspiration to develop your organization? Does one of your clients have a visually compelling back story that will resonate with your mission and grab people on an emotional level?

You can use the process of creating your nonprofit videos to build community within your organization, donor base, funders, and board members. Invite them to participate in your video. They can give testimonials, help identify end-users for you to interview, or otherwise get excited all over again about their contributions to your organization.

Each of your Web videos should utilize your best cinematic narrative elements, telling your organization's story, ideally, in two to five minutes. Your productions might feature user testimonials for an "end- user" play, your chief financial officer for a "responsibility" play, your executive director for an "authority" play, or user-generated videos for an "authenticity" play. Each video should end with branding, your contact information, and some specific call to action: "click here for more info," "contact Jane Smith to discuss our mission," "forward to a friend," "donate here," and so on.

Nonprofits are often interested in incorporating their existing still photos or PowerPoints into the video. Photos taken in public spaces can generally be used in video montages, but others should not be used without written permission of the people pictured in the photo. While there are many technical options for transferring PowerPoint to video, remember that video works best on an emotional level. Bullet points and slide builds do not make a compelling movie.

Production and Distribution

Professional video production companies typically break down your project into three parts: Pre-Production, Production, and Post- Production. The average short video production takes four to twelve weeks to complete.

Pre-Production is the planning phase, during which your producer will meet with you to learn about your mission; start developing the artistic approach; plan the project; specify formats, technicians, and shooting locations, and so on. Pre-Production can take up to one third of your project time and costs consist primarily of the producer’s time and travel.

Production, the filming phase, takes up to several days. The producer hires and supervises the freelance personnel (camera operators, sound person). Expenses include transportation, meals, and lodging if travel is involved.

Post-Production, the editing phase, is when your video comes together into a finished piece. The producer supervises the efforts of a team of specially trained personnel like a video editor, graphic artist, and narrator. Your producer will send you versions of the work in progress (rough cut, fine cut, and final cut) for your comment and approval. Post-Production generally takes from one half to two thirds of your project time.

Even during initial planning, your video producer will have in mind the distribution options to consider, each appealing to different audiences and each with specific technical tools for targeting audiences and controlling access.
  • Display on organization website
  • Upload to public video distribution services, like YouTube, Facebook, and Yahoo!
  • Mail DVDs to individuals outside the organization
  • Give excerpts to local, regional, or national television/cable broadcasters
Furthermore, your video's intended playback platform—handheld, DVD, or desktop—affects production decisions.

A one-off video production budget typically ranges from $1000 to $8000 per finished minute. The wide range has to do with expertise, track record, production values, and other factors. You can achieve significant economies of scale by contracting with a video production company to produce a series of videos.

You'll have many options, including free or cheap alternatives, for generating metrics, analyzing the data, and following up once your Web videos are out there. It's important to know as much as you can about the audience watching your programs, the frequency that they’re sharing your videos with others, the comments people are making, and the popularity of your videos. Collecting and monitoring this data is important for managing your campaign.

Roberto Mighty is founder and producer of Celestial Media and adjunct professor at Emerson College. Contact him at robertomighty@gmail.com .

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