I interviewed Michael Hoffman, President of the video agency See3 communications, specializing in video strategies and campaigns for non-profits and cause marketing. Back in 2006, See3 created the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards, which they run with YouTube, to honor the best uses of video by nonprofits annually. They also started The Daily DoGooder to showcase even more nonprofit video examples, which can search by issue area or type of video.
You can check out all of last year’s DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards winners, and below is one of this year’s submissions.
Why Video is Now Essential (and a Challenge) for Nonprofits
Hoffman says that video is something that’s still new to many nonprofits, even describing it as being in the same place that the Web was 15 years ago. “Until very recently (and keep in mind that YouTube is still just 6 years old!), video meant television and television is expensive. Only a small group of elite nonprofit organizations had use for video back then.” What this means is that often the biggest challenge for nonprofits with incorporating video is really modernizing their understanding of video as well as their own culture.
“Many nonprofit organizations are still going through that difficult internal change to be able to respond to the emerging need by their consumers for video,” says Hoffman; and some need educating that they already have the resources at their disposal to do it, and do it well. “The difference now is that the move toward video is happening even faster. If you don’t have a plan for how you will enter this new world, you need one.”
3 Big Mistakes with Nonprofits Doing Video (And How to Avoid Making Them)
Big Mistake #1 – Making it about you instead of who you serve.
Hoffman says the most common mistake organizations make is thinking that their video should be about the organization rather than a story about one of their constituents, donors or the people they serve. He also says one of the reasons for this mistake is simply this: these same organizations don’t make enough videos. “If you have one video per year, then everyone wants to make sure everything is in that video. This is a recipe for boring.” he says.
Big Mistake #2 – Focusing on “Viral” And Views
Hoffman shared the story of one client who had a video that has been viewed nearly 1 million times, but wasn’t at all a success because those views did not translate into website conversions – such as donations, subscriptions, volunteering, and simply following them online. “A video for a nonprofit is successful only if it gets your target audience to know, think, feel and act the way you want them.” says Hoffman.
(Do you have “Viral Video Mentality?” Click here and learn the cure.)
Big Mistake #3 – Forgetting the call-to-action
“Sometimes nonprofits don’t have a clear call-to-action in our around the video when it’s time to soliciting for funds, or the video actually gets in the way of making a donation.” Says Hoffman.
10 Tips on How to Build a Successful Video Strategy for Nonprofits (and most any Organization)
Hoffman shared that many nonprofits will say that they agree they need more video, but they won’t know how to get there. “The key to avoiding mistakes is asking hard questions and planning.” he says. “It is also to make video an integrated part of your advocacy and fundraising and not its own bucket. Video is a tactic, and to be successful with any tactic you have to have a strategy behind it. At See3 we spend a lot of time helping organizations that want to do more video figure out how to map out that strategy. This includes the internal cultural changes, the resources issues and finding the leverage points where video will have the greatest impact.”
Hoffman shared with me these tips for how to avoid making those common mistakes mentioned earlier, and to be effective with your own nonprofit or social cause video strategy:
- Build different videos for different parts of the customer cycle.The first step is to start thinking about the different approaches and how you can combine these approaches to get the video you need. “Fundraising is a cycle – from awareness to solicitation to thank you to stewardship to upgrade to renewal. Video can work in every one of those parts of the cycle and in fact might work much better in the parts that aren’t solicitation.”Charity:Water (regarded as a constant innovator in nonprofit video) used their own staff and volunteers to create a series of truly personalized videos to acknowledge and thank actual individual donors as part of their annual campaign. Each “acknowledgement video” is fun, thoughtful; and they’re produced quickly and on-the-fly. Think of how powerful this is in making the donors feel appreciated and personally close to the nonprofit’s team, work and mission.
- "Be the moon, not the sun." “What I tell organizations is that they should ‘be the moon’ and get the reflected light from the sun, which is the people they serve and their donors.”
- Share the stories of who you help. “Nothing is more powerful than stories of change in action, and video is the most emotional and immersive way to tell those stories.”Here’s a UNICEF video which has a very clear message about who needs the help (the children); and how the viewer can do something.
- Have a clear call-to-action. “What do you want them to do once they watch? And, ask yourself this question – from the place they are watching the video, can they easily do the thing we want them to do? If you can’t draw a clear line from the video view to the action, then your video won’t work.”
- Have the video compliment the goal, not be the goal itself. “When someone is ready to make a donation, don’t let anything – even a video – get in his or her way from completing the transaction.”
- For the important jobs, hire a professional. “There is no substitute for professionally produced video. You need at least that one video that was made by trained pros. Your viewers will feel the difference. In many cases, this can be the centerpiece video that leads viewers into your other content that might be produced in-house.” (Also, remember, when you have professionals produce video for you, you should own all the original footage to be used later.)
- You can make it yourself. “Not all of your videos need to have super-high production values. You can use anything from a flip cam to an iPhone to make a video that let people in to the day-to-day work of your organization, make you real to them and create a feeling in the viewer that they want to be a part of your mission.”
- Reuse and repurpose. “You might have video that was shot for that gala event last year. And certainly you have pictures. In order to save costs and create more content you need to be thinking about how you can reuse and repurpose assets to make more videos. Maybe, with existing footage, all you need is a new voice over to create a whole new video – at a fraction of the cost. At See3, we have a lot of clients with good content and the internal capabilities to put footage together that partner with us in the role of an executive producer. In these cases, we act as a consultant, guiding the creative concept and helping to weave together content where needed. We’ve seen clients save a lot of budget using this approach over the years.”
- Make your followers the stars. “Sometimes the best video makers for your organization are your donors and advocates. Use contests and other incentives to get constituents to tell you, in their own words and with their own creativity, why what you do is important. These videos are often the most authentic and in the age of social media sharing this content can (and does) have real impact.”
- Become a CURATOR. “There are probably videos about the kind of work you do that were made by other organizations. While these videos might have other organizational branding in them, they nevertheless help educate your audience about the situation or the work. When this video is viewed on your web page, with your calls-to-action next to them, this video is working for you, even if it wasn’t made by you. Think of it this way: If you are the expert in your subject area, then your constituents expect you to point them to the best information in your subject area, even if it was made by another organization.”
More Resources on Nonprofit Video Strategies
1) Watch See3’s YouTube For Nonprofits Webinar (audio included)
2) Read my ReelSEO article: “Social Video and Cause Marketing: How Nonprofits are Doing Viral Video.”
3) Finally, check out my article at Social Media Club, “7 Cause Marketing Tips with Social Media and Social People.” (While that one isn’t video-specific, it has a lot of good tips that can also apply to a video strategy.)
About Michael Hoffman
Michael is a leading authority in online video for nonprofits and a long-time consultant to nonprofit leaders on online fundraising, advocacy and community engagement strategies. He started his career as a political consultant and Washington-based nonprofit fundraiser before joining a venture investment firm to develop Internet start-ups. Hoffman founded See3 to bring together his belief in the power of the web and his passion and experience with nonprofit fundraising, advocacy, and education. He is a frequent blogger and tweeter on nonprofit marketing and is a nationally sought-after speaker on topics such as online cause marketing, web video, and social media for social change.
Follow Michael Hoffman on Twitter for the latest in nonprofit trends and technology.