If you’re like most nonprofits, your organization probably already produces a year-round campaign-driven email program to inspire your supporters and motivate them to take action, donate, or both. You choose a theme, build a related narrative that engages people over the course of an email series, and support that message on social media and other channels. Then, you harness the constituent engagement you’ve generated to drive your supporters to take action.

And if you’re like many nonprofits, you’ve seen the success that other organizations have had by integrating a video component into their drumbeat of digital messaging. But you may be holding back from adding video to your own program, for fear of the potential cost or complexity.

You shouldn’t wait. 

Video is an impactful storytelling tool to inspire long-term loyalty with existing and new supporters. It can be easy and cost-effective, too.

In this article, we’ll explain why you need video, how to get started, what the benefits will be ― and how Blue State can help. 

Organizations put off video again and again ― but they don’t have to

Nearly everyone has a device that’s capable of delivering video content on demand. Most people nibble on bite-sized video “snacks” all day long, while they’re waiting in line at the drugstore, sitting in front of their computers waiting for their next Zoom meeting to begin, or standing in the kitchen watching the microwave countdown.

Despite the explosion of video content of all kinds in all domains, many nonprofits that are budget- and staff-constrained continue to postpone adding video to their digital programs out of fear that they’ll make an expensive mistake. And indeed some organizations do overinvest in video, with overproduced showpieces with no clear connection to the rest of their content marketing and messaging, or with tiny viewership that doesn’t justify the production cost.

Along with the improvements in distribution, video content has become simpler to produce. And video producers during the pandemic have taken the constraints and run with them – embracing low-fi interviews conducted over Zoom, user-generated b-roll footage, and creative graphics and animations to enhance the production value.

All of this taken together means there’s no reason to wait: you can get started easily (we’ll talk about how below) and begin reaping the benefits of video as a supplement to the program you’re already running.

Why add video to your program?

There are lots of potential upsides to working video into your digital messaging program. Here are three of the most important:

1. Video reaches different people than other content types do, and can activate different subsets of your constituency. There’s now a whole generation of young adults who never knew a world without streaming video, and video content appeals particularly to them; but the desire for narrative is universal, and people of all ages can find themselves lost down a YouTube video rabbit hole.

2. Video humanizes your mission and your work. Video allows you to show instead of tell. A story that incorporates people’s own words and faces and feelings almost always outperforms a story that makes an intellectual case. Video is an excellent medium for building a story in a relatable way.

3. Video supports and supplements your core message. Getting people to give money (or take other mission-supportive actions such as advocacy) requires repetition after repetition after repetition of your mission and messaging. Short video is another way to bring your story to life.

Planning effectively for video

To help ensure your initial investments in video are effective, keep these considerations in mind as you do your planning:

1. Start with a goal. Don’t develop a video plan based on what archival footage you happen to have lying around; develop a plan based on what you want to achieve. Understand who your video content will be for, what message you want it to deliver, and what you want your audience to do after they see it. We can help you articulate effective goals.

2. Think about your video in context. Don’t “make a video” and then “push it out”; think in advance about how you intend to integrate your video content with your existing messaging. Will you distribute it in email? (If so, how will you contextualize it?) Are there specific sub-audiences you are trying to reach with it? (If so, how will you ensure that those people see it?) Are you planning to use it as part of a list growth or acquisition strategy? (If so, what kind of paid media campaign will you feature it in, to get it in front of the people you think will be responsive to it?)

3. Keep it simple. This is both a literal directive (most videos are too long, and the worst ones feel like talking points on a powerpoint) and a metaphorical reminder that if you can explain in a few sentences who the video is for and what it’s intended to achieve, you’re more likely to have a winner on your hands.

Here are a couple of examples that illustrate how you might begin to think about planning your first short videos to supplement your existing digital messaging.

Appeals and stewardship video

  • You are: A nonprofit supporting clean water projects around the world. 
  • You want to use video to: Drive incremental donations as part of your appeals campaign tied to World Water Day.
  • You want to reach: Your own existing donors in the United States.
  • You want them to: Make an extra gift of $50 to this campaign to support rebuilding clean water infrastructure in Louisiana in response to the 2021 hurricane season. 
  • You could make: Three 30-second videos with a direct ask from three different members of a Louisiana community who are trying to get through a difficult autumn after hurricane damage hit across their parish. You could A/B test the three versions, or use them separately as a series.
  • You could distribute it via: A digital paid media campaign, an email to your U.S. donors as part of your appeals campaign, and placement on your website.
  • User journey for people who view your video: Being pushed to a donation page asking for a restricted gift to support your Louisiana clean water initiatives.

Acquisition video

  • You are: An international environmental welfare organization focused on ecosystem protection and reparations.
  • You want to use video to: Acquire new prospects (email addresses) whom you can later convert to donors.
  • You want to reach: People in New York who are concerned about how the hydropower industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, which supplies power to New York City, threatens the traditional lifeways of indigenous communities.
  • You want them to: Support your advocacy to press hydropower companies to invest in social welfare programs for people displaced by hydropower projects. 
  • You could make: A 2-minute video that briefly tells the story of how Innu communities have had to abandon lands they have lived on for centuries, since the Churchill Dam project eliminated traditional hunting and fishing lands. Use the words, voice, and video footage of Mary, an Innu woman in her 60s who lived through the transformation of the land where her grandparents lived. Edit shorter versions (:30s and :15s) for a paid media campaign.
  • You could distribute it via: A social media campaign, including a paid component that targetsNew Yorkers with environmental and human rights interests.
  • User journey for people who view your video: Being pushed to a landing page where they can sign up to learn more about your work.

Hero video

  • You are: A privately-funded park.
  • You want to use video to: Thank funders and encourage continued support.
  • You want to reach: Existing supporters.
  • You want them to: Feel proud of the work they’ve supported in the past and encourage deep loyalty into the future.
  • You could make: A 2-minute video that interviews people at the park to show the impact of the park in people’s lives, and shows the beauty of the investment that’s been made in the community.
  • You could distribute it via: Screen it at an in-person event or during a livestream event.
  • People who viewed your video could be activated by: Being pushed to a landing page where they can sign up to learn more about your work.

Getting started together

Blue State works in holistic partnership with organizations like yours. Our strategy is full service – from writing a creative brief to executing a distribution strategy. We’ll help you concept, write, shoot, edit, and distribute video alongside your existing digital messaging program. 

Video support from Blue State is cost-effective. We can get started right away and we’ll make sure your video program fits alongside your existing marketing and communications goals. Because video is not a side project – it’s another tool to further your mission.


Want to chat about this piece, or your larger fundraising or advocacy program? Get in touch.