Film Strip

It seems lately there’s been something of an online arms race to get videos up.  More than ever before people are flocking to the power of video, repurposing content that once was conveyed in text or picture and packaging it into short videos.  There’s no doubt video can be a powerful medium for telling your nonprofit’s story and connecting with a wide variety of people.  But there are some drawbacks to using video as well.

Before jumping into the world of online video, here are a few things to bear in mind.

Some Benefits of Video

There are many benefits of using video, with many of them coming down to the fact that you can tell a compelling story in a concise and personal way.

Compelling, Concise Story Telling

One of the reasons so many people are flocking to online video is because it’s effective.  Video allows you to tell your story in a compelling way that photos and words on a page just can’t capture.

True, great writers can weave a beautiful scene with only their words.  But for such writing to be effective, it takes an active, engaged reader, which generally doesn’t describe 99.9% of visitors to your website.  Attention spans are short amongst web surfers.  You need to capture their attention.

Video allows you to share stories in a compelling way while requiring minimal mental effort from your visitor.  You can share what your nonprofit is doing anywhere in the world, allowing those interested in your organization a glimpse into the kind of impact you’re having in the communities you serve.

Unique, Minimally-Filtered Perspectives

Video is a great opportunity to show website visitors a perspective outside of your own.  While not totally unfiltered (since you’re still responsible for shooting and editing), using video to allow members of your community to speak directly to website visitors can be quite moving.

Sure, you can thank your volunteers with a heartfelt email or blog post.  But you could also have those directly impacted by the work your volunteers are doing thank them personally by way of video.  If done well, chances are that video will resonate a bit more with your supporters.

Can Be Very Personal

Video allows you to show all of the nuances in everyday conversation that are often lost in the written word.  For instance, a video that genuinely conveys how much you appreciate your donors very well may resonate with them more than a “Thank You” page on your website.  There’s nothing wrong with expressing your appreciation in writing, but video puts you in the room, which can be quite powerful.

Some Drawbacks of Video

While there are certainly many benefits of using video, it’s worth seriously considering some of the drawbacks prior to diving in.

Video is Time Consuming (Which Can Be Expensive)

The biggest drawback to using video is the amount of time it takes to do it well.  You can’t take shortcuts when it comes to video production if you want the product to turn out well.  It also requires at least basic equipment and editing software.

Developing a compelling video will take either a good deal of time on the part of your staff or a fair amount of money to hire a professional.

Poorly Done Video Can Make You Seem Amateur

Video that’s poorly done (either improperly lit, hard to hear or just generally a low quality production) may actually hurt the way a visitor views your nonprofit.  If you’re going to prominently feature video on your website, make sure you show it to a variety of people that will be honest enough to tell you if it stinks.  And if it stinks, don’t go ahead and use it anyway.  It can seriously undermine the amazing things your nonprofit is doing.

Examples of Strong Nonprofit Videos

The 6th Annual DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards are up on YouTube and definitely worth checking out.  These videos can serve as a model for high quality nonprofit video production.  All of the entries are well shot and tell a captivating story in a way that’s easily digestible.

Here are a few of the videos I couldn’t stop watching:

Adding Tomorrows – Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

“Yes, That’s My Father” – World Memory Project

Protect Our Defenders

Upside Down – FosterParentsRock.org

Robert – InvisiblePeople.tv

Solid Women – Fonkoze

Define American: Jose’s Story – Define American

Have you used video effectively in the past?  Which DoGooder video was your favorite?  We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Related Reads

Using Emotion to Connect with Website Visitors

With Website Content, Professional Doesn’t Mean Impersonal

The Impact of Small Moment Storytelling on Website Content

4 Ways to Write Better Fundraising Appeals

Image courtesy of Movieing MemoriesFlickr

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David Hartstein
David Hartstein is the storyteller and measurement guy at Wired Impact where he routinely reads and writes about nonprofits and web geekery. He used to teach elementary school and often walks around barefoot. You can catch up with David on Twitter at @davharts.

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