YouTube is the social media king of housing video content. If your nonprofit creates video media, YouTube is an excellent resource for sharing your content while simultaneously promoting your brand.

Customizing your YouTube channel is important so that viewers can immediately recognize your channel as belonging specifically to your organization. By using your brand colors, typography and familiar imagery, you can claim your space on the web, and enhance your nonprofit’s online marketing.

Walk Free is a great example of an organization that has leveraged their YouTube channel to enhance the rest of their organization’s campaign to end modern slavery.

Walk Free YouTube

You can use YouTube like this, too.

Customize Your Profile Picture

For your YouTube channel’s profile picture, a good rule of thumb is to use your nonprofit’s logo. This will make your organization’s channel immediately recognizable to visitors, and match the rest of your on and offline presence.

Profile Picture and Channel Art

To customize your profile picture:

  1. Click “My Channel” in the left-hand navigation.
  2. If you already have a picture assigned to your Google+ account, this will probably appear upon logging in.
  3. If you do not have a photo assigned, or would like to change the profile picture, click the Edit button (that looks like a pencil), which appears in the top right corner of the profile picture box as you hover over it.
  4. Upload an image that is at least 250 x 250 pixels, since it will be used across all Google Apps.

Customize Your Channel Art

“Channel art” is the horizontal background at the top of your profile that runs behind your profile picture. This is a great place to show imagery and solidify your brand on your YouTube Channel.

Girl Effect YouTube Channel

Girl Effect uses channel art to showcase their Girl Declaration in colorful, handwritten typography.

To customize your channel art:

  1. Click “My Channel” in the left-hand navigation.
  2. Click “Add channel art” near the top of the page (Note: If your channel already has channel art you can edit it by clicking the Edit icon in the top right corner.)
  3. Upload an image.
  4. Once you’ve selected an image, you can preview how it will look across devices. To adjust, click “Adjust the Crop.”

For the best results on all devices upload a 2560 X 1440 pixel image. This size will also accommodate retina displays.

If you’re interested, you can download a Photoshop template.

Customize Your “About” Tab

Under the About tab, you can add various information about your organization and your organization’s channel for users to check out.

YouTube About TabChannel description: In the text box immediately below your channel navigation, you can write a description for your channel. The maximum description length is 1000 characters.

You should include information about your mission statement, and what you aim to achieve with your YouTube channel. Some of your goals may be to achieve awareness, to gather registrations for an event, or persuade people to sign a petition.

Links: Links are located at the top of your description, in the form of social media icons.  Up to four icons can be layered on top of your channel art. Custom links appear below your social media icons, and can be used to link to anywhere on the web.

You can also choose whether or not to display the number of views your channel has had and the date you joined YouTube, under “Statistics.”

To edit any of these sections, hover over the content then click the edit icon (that looks like a pencil).

Customize Your “Channels” Tab

In the Channels Tab, you have the opportunity to display channels that you subscribe to, and/or featured channels. What is the difference between subscriptions v. featured channels, you ask?

Both appear very similarly in your Channels tab, and are curated by the channel administrator(s).

YouTube Channels Tab

Subscriptions create a feed of any videos posted by the channels you are subscribed to. You can only view this feed by clicking on your subscriptions in the left-hand navigation. Otherwise, they just appear as a list to viewers visiting your Channel tab.

YouTube Nonprofit Subscribed Feed

Customize Your Subscriptions

In the left-hand, vertical navigation you’ll find your “Manage subscriptions” tab. Here you have the option to subscribe to other channels, and even organize them into groups. If you choose to make your subscriptions private, this section will not appear on your profile.

YouTube Manage Subscriptions

Featured channels, on the other hand, are curated channels that you can group into lists and reference at your (or your viewers’) leisure. These appear as a boxed widget to the right of the main content throughout your channel, and do not create a live feed of any sort.

American Cancer Society YouTube Channel

American Cancer Society uses featured channels to highlight other more specific YouTube channels under their larger organization.

Customize Your Featured Channels

Here you can highlight other channels that relate to your organization. Title your featured channels (if you wish) something that describes the section in more detail. For example, you might use “Related Campaigns” or “More Disaster Relief,” depending on what your organization is all about.

YouTube Manage Featured Channels

To edit your featured channels, click the edit icon in the featured channels module in the right-hand sidebar. Choose “Edit module.” You can then individually add the URLs of specific YouTube channels to appear in the section. This is a great way to promote other channels with content similar to your own. These featured channels will appear on the right side of the page.

YouTube Manage Featured Channels Nonprofit

Create a Channel Trailer

A channel trailer is a video that appears prominently on your channel homepage to visitors that have not yet subscribed to your channel. This video generally summarizes your organization’s mission, or a current campaign.

Unity Charity YouTube Channel

Unity Charity uses a Channel Trailer to describe their mission, and share testimonials from people that have been helped by their organization. Beside the trailer, they include a description of the video, and links to their website and social media accounts, making it easy to look into the organization in more depth.

To set your Channel Trailer:

  1. Enable the Browse view on your channel if it is not already.

To enable the browse view:

Enable Browse View Nonprofit YouTube

    • Hover over the horizontal navigation section underneath your channel art.
    • Click the edit icon (it looks like a pencil on the far right of the screen).
    • Select “Edit channel navigation.”
    • Select “Enable” under the Browse section.
    • Click the blue “Save” button in the lower right corner of the pop-up.

Edit Nonprofit Channel Trailer

  1. Upload a video in the “Add channel trailer” callout that appears after enabling the Browse view.

Create Channel Sections

Channel sections are an awesome way to organize and promote content you publish, or related content created by others that you want to highlight on your channel’s homepage. You can create up to 10 channel sections with various videos organized into groups. For example you may want to organize your videos into sections like Recent Activity, Event Promos, Raise Awareness, or Testimonials.

WWF Channel Sections Example

World Wildlife Fund does an awesome job of using Channel Sections to direct viewers to various content. Some of their channel sections are titled “Recent Activity,” “Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series” and “PSAs.”

Add Channel Section YouTube

To create a channel section:

  1. Make sure the “Browse” view is enabled. (See above for more on this.)
  2. Click the “Add a section” button located towards the bottom of your channel home tab.
  3. In the “Content” drop down you can select from a list of content types you want to appear in your section.
    • You can choose, for instance, “Recent Uploads,” which will automatically pull in your most recent video uploads.
    • Or you can choose to add all or one single “Playlist,” which is a curated group of your uploaded videos. (See below for more on this)
  4. In the “Layout” drop down you can choose to have the section displayed as a horizontal row or a vertical list.

Create a Playlist

A playlist is a group of videos that you put into groups and publish onto the Playlists tab on your channel. You can even choose to publish all or individual playlists in sections on your home page, as we talked about above. These are usually organized into categories with titles like Testimonials, PSAs, or Volunteer Efforts, for example.

Add Playlist Image

To create a playlist:

  1. Click “My Channel” in the left-hand navigation.
  2. Click the “Playlists” tab in the top navigation.
  3. At the top of the content box on the Playlists page, click on the “Add new playlist” button.
  4. Add a title to your playlist, and continue through the wizard to add videos.

Well-Designed Nonprofit YouTube Channel Examples

Great Lakes Commission

Great Lakes Commission YouTube Channel


Kiva YouTube Channel

Shining Hope

Shining Hope YouTube Channel

Designing Your Own YouTube Channel

When designing your own YouTube Channel, it’s helpful to apply existing visual assets that you use on your website, or other social media marketing. You can also use your brand’s color scheme and typography in your channel art and profile picture to help make your channel immediately recognizable as belonging to your organization.

Do you know of other compelling nonprofit YouTube channels? Let us know by commenting.

Photo courtesy of Johan Larsson


  1. This is a great checklist for setting up your YouTube channel. I see so many BIG and small channels never take the time to set up their playlist and sections. I always wonder if people ever look at their channel as a viewer. I recently saw someone set up an entire channel without ever making a video. The playlist and sections can make a channel look real real. lol