I collected notes written by judges when CASE had their reviews online. Every year they judge videos produced for college fundraising and recruitment. There’s much to learn from their critiques.

Contest winners had much in common:

• Good stories, simply told. The most powerful thing you can do. Humanize with engaging stories. Connect with a narrative thread.

• People talking on camera were natural, warm, open and showed passion. They were engaging and full of energy.

• Focused on people who benefited from donations.

• Sparse narration. People told their stories. (And the fewer people and more in-depth you go in their lives, the better.)

• High production values: Well-lit, beautiful shots of campus, good sound quality, good use of nat sound.

• Music was appropriate and unobtrusive. Music enhanced rather than compete with visuals.

Common problems in videos that did not win: 

• Self-important. “We are a great place.” (The best videos let students, faculty and others say this.)

• Distracting special effects.

• Reliance on scripted narration to tell the story.

• Too much information. Too little communication of feelings.

• Multiple uses, multiple audiences, for a video. You end up compromising your message and miss your primary target.


Mary is a freelance video producer in Seattle. She creates videos for you that help your business or nonprofit grow. Visit her LinkedIn page, and see her videos on Vimeo. You can reach her at Mary@MaryJPeterson.com.