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How to Grow Your Fundraising With Video Marketing In Five Simple Steps

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Rich Tolsma Productions was founded in 1996. Rich has over thirty years of experience in video communications, multi-media production and training. He is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he serves on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter and on the Industry Partners Council. He holds a master’s degree in Educational Communications from Temple University. A dedicated musician, Rich sings with the Philadelphia Singers Chorale and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. 

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last five years or so, you'll have undoubtedly noticed the infectious growth in online video. The reasons behind this explosion in online video are numerous, but it basically boils down to two big things: video drives 1. traffic and 2. conversions.

Video content is almost 17 times more likely to find itself on the first page of search results compared to a page without video. And once a visitor has arrived at your website they’re much more likely to stick around and take in your message in the form of video than with any other type of content.

Simply put, if your organization isn’t utilizing video in its marketing, then you’re leaving a significant number of fundraising dollars on the table. There is no single content strategy that is faster or more effective at driving both online traffic and conversions than video marketing.

Clearly the power of video is undeniable, but it is not a silver bullet in and of itself—video is simply a tool within your marketing arsenal, albeit a very effective one. It’s important to note that it can cut both ways: it will yield incredible results when properly implemented, but can also prove extremely expensive and counter productive if done poorly.

Here then are five points for video marketing success that your organization can implement regardless of budget or level of technical proficiency:

1.) Tell a Powerful and Compelling Story – Your supporters are bombarded with thousands of messages every day. It’s imperative that yours’ get through. Simply taking a weak message and delivering it in video format won’t amplify the effectiveness of the message.

You need to earn your visitors’ time and attention, so make sure that every second of your video draws the viewer further into your story. You can’t have any “dead time” or slow spots. Your audience —no matter how well trained—will not lead themselves to your desired outcome, so give them clear direction (a “call to action”) if that is the goal of the video. You want your viewer to stick with you for the entire story, so make sure it’s gripping and holds their attention all the way through.

When we filmed the John King story for the American Breast Cancer Foundation, we knew that we didn’t need a call to action because the story was so powerful that it needed no assistance in driving home the message. This is the kind of intense connection you want to create with your viewers.

2.) Welcoming and Professional – You want your message to resonate with your visitors at a very human level. You’re trying to connect your message to their hearts, minds and aspirations. You can’t accomplish this by being so stiff that they don’t feel they can connect with your group. Conversely, the last thing you want your viewers to think is that you’re anything less than professional.

Finding this delicate balance is equal parts science and art, and sometimes it takes an hour's worth of footage to find that perfect 30-second clip. The best way to build this comfortable yet “on point” shooting atmosphere is to have a firm grasp of your purpose and objectives well before you break out the cameras. A word-for-word script rarely works to humanize your message, but a completely impromptu rant rarely ticks all the right boxes either.

Take time to plan your production and craft the roadmap you’ll follow from start to finish. Be prepared for the unexpected: surprises will happen and sometimes a gem comes out of nowhere.

3.) There Is No “Right” Length or Number – It’s important that each video have a defined purpose, and it’s usually best for that purpose to be narrow and specific. You won’t be able to encapsulate your organization's five mission objectives in one video, so don’t even try. Better to make five separate videos than one long rambling tome that loses your audiences’ attention before you can even get them to your call to action. There is no perfect length for your videos—your story takes as long as it takes. In general you want your online videos–at least your “front line” video content –to be short and concise.

Start small, start focused, and ramp up to your longer and more involved content pieces as the user demonstrates continued interest. You can scare off viable prospects early in the process if you’re immediately trying to tell everyone everything about your group.

In our work for Public Justice, we ended up doing five different videos for their Trial Lawyer of The Year Award, giving each finalist the recognition they deserved instead of cramming everything together in one video.

4.) To Youtube Or Not To Youtube – Should your video content be shared on Youtube or should it remain “guarded” on your own internal webpages? The short answer is: you want your teaser clips spread as wide as possible, and you want your best content saved exclusively for your website.

When we create comprehensive video story lines for our clients we take their main piece—perhaps a 15-minute video annual report to be shared with high level sponsors—and we break some of the sub-stories out into their own shorts. This kind of video should be shared on Youtube, but it should also be shared on Twitter, Facebook, and about 50 other “Youtube like” video sites out there, such as Vimeo and DailyMotion.

The process of getting these teaser videos blasted out to all these properties is called video syndication, and it is an absolute must if you’re looking to maximize exposure. It’s also critical that you hold something back—you want to retain control of your best material and host that exclusively on your website. Create a nice mix of both teaser and exclusive content, syndicate where applicable, and keep your best stuff “eyes only” on your website. 

5.) Supporting “Infrastructure” – Think hard about titles, headlines, descriptions, thumbnail images, email subject lines and all the supporting copy that surrounds your video. Each different platform (website, blog, social media channels, Youtube, newsletters) allows you a certain amount of framing and additional detail that you can add to your video.

The video can’t do the entire job by itself, so give it all the help you can. This additional written content will not only help to attract the search engines' attention but it will also entice people to click and watch. Never assume that viewers will watch your content simply because you’ve put it out there—they need a reason to click Play.

When we posted our client’s video for the 2013 Philadelphia Award to social media channels with the headline "A Cure for Cancer?" we watched viewership skyrocket in a very short time. It’s a very powerful video, and we gave it an equally powerful headline. Without it, the video would not have garnered the same attention so quickly.


Here’s a quick recap of your main goals for each video marketing project: 1.) Keep your messages compelling; 2.) Be both friendly and professional throughout your content; 3.) Tell your whole story, using multiple videos as needed; 4.) Blast out your teaser clips to drive viewers back to your exclusive content; 5.) Give each video all the supporting content it deserves.

You simply can’t find a higher ROI strategy than video for your online marketing efforts because it drives both traffic and conversion. What’s more, you can usually accomplish both of these tasks within a single recording session because each component part of your total video message can be used for more than one single purpose.

A surprising low percentage of organizations and groups have implemented video within their marketing strategies and an even smaller number have done so successfully. By starting with a solid foundation for your video content, you’ll be much more likely to find yourself on the winning side of this equation.


One of the most important things that you need to accomplish before you ever start filming is figuring out exactly what your message is, and what shots you need to actually get “in the can” before you’re done. This builds the framework to tackle all five points above. To help you do this we’re making our “10 Questions” whitepaper available by email auto-responder. We promise no SPAM, obligation or pitch fest. Simply send an email to and we’ll bounce it back to you immediately, no strings attached. 

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