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Nonprofit Videos (on a Budget) that Engage and Retain Donors

Resource Center - Foundation

With the evolution of smartphone technology the ability to create high quality video is pretty much in the hands of everyone.  For example, Tangerine, a movie shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, played the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2015. 

AFP had a chance to chat with Steven Shattuck, vice president of marketing at Bloomerang, about the use of video in fundraising, the topic of his upcoming webinar on July 11

 Do you think people are more likely to watch a video than open an email or direct mail piece? 

The key to any successful piece of donor communications is the same, whether it's a video, a letter, an email or a social media post: personalize it for the recipient, communicate impact and get them into the fight. If the video is made specifically for that one person, it's going to be almost impossible for it not to stand out. It's the difference between "Dear Steven, please watch this video from one of our students who just wanted to say thanks for your recent donation" vs. "Dear donor, we thought you might be interested in our 2016 annual report video."

What kind of time and resource commitment goes into creating a video?

While strategy and planning will always be important, the best videos I have seen are serendipitous. One of my favorites is a video from Greenpeace USA where a wild marmot interrupts a timelapse shot by licking the camera lens. Greenpeace ditched the time lapse and instead published the marmot, which ended up generating over two million views. Their communication staff didn't sit in a room and contrive the piece; instead, they were opportunistic and had a sense of awareness that served them well. Sometimes you have to think like a journalist and simply keep your eyes open for moments that will resonate with your audience, rather than try to manufacture those moments.

With the technology becoming more and more affordable, pretty much everyone can now make a decent quality video with their phone.  How does one make sure their video stands out?

It's all about storytelling. The medium is nothing without a good story. Are you telling the donor something they've never heard before? Are you making a clear case for support? Are you thanking the donor for something only he or she did? If you can, get the people, animals, forests—or whatever you work on—that your donors support in front of the camera. Encourage your donors and volunteers to create video!

I recently watched Clouds Over Sidra, the UNICEF-created virtual reality fundraising piece.  Do you think virtual reality is the next wave of video fundraising? 

A few months ago I shared an article about the role virtual reality might play in fundraising someday soon. Her response was "I have to say this article smacks of an April Fools’ joke. But if it is for real, I better write a grant to get one." I think whenever there is an emerging technology used by a large nonprofit, everyday fundraisers feel as though it's out of reach and get discouraged. We felt the same way about website video five years ago, and now it's accessible to even the smallest shops. Technology becomes cheap and ubiquitous very quickly these days, and early adopters are typically rewarded. At the same time, it's easy to succumb to shiny object syndrome. No technology innovation can ever replace good storytelling.

What is your dream video project?

I absolutely adore these recent campaigns from Purdue University and Whitworth University. They each had online days of giving, and every time someone gave, they would send an original video made specifically for that one donor through Twitter. It would be so fun to be a part of that all day and see so much donor love flow from an organization. These are perhaps the cheapest, easiest and fastest videos to product, and also the most impactful.

To find out more about how your organization can best leverage the use of video for fundraising, join us for Steven’s webinar on July 11, 2016 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Nonprofit Videos (on a Budget) that Engage and Retain Donors.

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