Planning your fundraising video? Look at your donor cultivation cycle. Where could you use a boost? Here are 10 ideas to get you rolling.

1. The Big Picture Video: Your “must have” fundraising video

Prospective donors will check out your website. And you know what they say about first impressions. A high quality video on your home page can be your most valuable donor cultivation tool — grabbing attention, engaging viewers and evoking emotions.

This is your “why” video: why your cause is important to people’s lives, why your organization is on track to a great solution, and why you, as a donor, should join this movement. Donor relations guru Lynne Wester works in fundraising for higher education. But she points out, what if instead she says she’s devoted her career to “helping people pursue their dreams.” Feel the difference? That’s getting down to the why.

So stay at the 30,000-foot-view … pure inspiration, emotion and storytelling. And be aspirational. Help potential donors visualize what will happen when they give. Put a lot of thought into this video, and have it done professionally. First impressions count.

A word of caution for nonprofits that budget for just one video. It may sound like a wise use of money to throw in everything you ever wanted to say to anybody. But that’s a false economy. You’ll be disappointed with the results. You need a specific message for a specific audience. After all, your welcome package is different from your fundraising appeals. Make this video for prospective donors.


2. Gala fundraising video: Prep for the Big Ask

You can make the case that for all the expense and staff time, events are not worth it. Yet an event where donors emotionally connect to your nonprofit, in the long run, is priceless. And video is the best way to build those emotional connections.

For existing donors, your galas, luncheons and auctions are the chance to connect deeply with your nonprofit. And for the friends they invite, the event is a first impression of your work. The stakes are high. This is another fundraising video that needs to be professional.

And although it may look like you have a captive audience in the room, you don’t. Your audience has probably gone to many fundraising events before. And most gala videos are so cliché. We know what’s coming. Can you get creative, and really grab attention? Surprise them. Make it memorable. Give them something to talk about.


3. Donor Retention Videos: Thank you

Losing donors is expensive. One big reason you never hear from them again is because they have not been thanked enough. When you lack the staff to personally thank mid-range and small donors, video can do the job. Use video to let donors hear thanks directly from people helped.

Have at least one thank you video on hand. You can edit different versions for different audiences. You can add a link to the video in your email gift acknowledgment. It’s also great to send thank you videos to volunteers and board members, as well as corporations that support you.


4. Donor Retention Videos: Reporting back

To have donors stay on, you must report back. And video is the best way to show results. You see the action for yourself, meet the people, hear the sounds. Video has an immediacy. You feel you are there.

  • Create impact videos — lots of short one-person story videos sent out over the year.
  • Think of making an annual report video, but instead of focusing on your success, thank your donors as the reason for the success. Your donors are the real heroes.

Collect this footage all year long. Teach staff to shoot video with their phones. Keep reminding all staff that funding for programs depends on showing donors results and giving them loads of thanks.


5. Social media videos

In the donor cultivation cycle, social media is great for growing your list of prospective donors, and keeping in touch with current donors. And how fantastic to have a donor shares your video with a friend. That’s the greatest endorsement of all.

The best type of video for social media is an impact story. Research the formats and audiences that work best for specific social media platforms. A video made for Facebook might not work for Instagram.

The trend for mobile social media is 1:1 square videos as they use more real estate on the screen. And since social media videos are often watched at work with the sound off, add on-screen text to get your message across.

Keep these videos short. Attention drops quickly in social media feeds. You must hook them with your first frames. Facebooks works best with one minute videos, Twitter likes 45 seconds, and for Instagram 30 seconds is ideal. On YouTube stick around two minutes, but if you attract the right audience you can also create longer more in-depth content. 


6. External event videos: Look at your calendar

As you plan your marketing and donor communications for the year, which events could use a boost from video? Holidays like Christmas. National and international awareness days. Year-end giving. Annual report time. Giving Tuesday, held right after Thanksgiving.


7. Campaign fundraising videos

Kick off your capital campaign with a strong fundraising video. Use video again at the mid-point to report results and keep the momentum going. And when you finish, have a heartfelt thank you video ready that points to the new future.


8. Special Event videos

Send a video online to attract people to events. Add powerful music and edit in a style that builds energy. Interview people who are going to the event, or went last year. Ideally you have footage from last year’s event to use as highlight footage. Add a clear call to action. Shoot video again at the event so that afterwards you can make another fundraising video to share highlights, thank people and keep the excitement and momentum going beyond the event.

Great idea to try: To gather more footage, ask participants to send you footage they shoot video on their phones.


9. Email campaign videos and eNews

Video brings appeals and web pages to life. Just adding the word “video” in the subject line increases open rates.

Look up stats for video marketing. Over half of marketing professionals worldwide say video has the best ROI. You often read:

  • Video can increase open rates by 19 percent
  • Video can boost click-through rates by 200 to 300 percent
  • Video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80 percent

At this moment, there are technical problems with playing video inside your inbox. Gmail and Outlook can’t do it, and they make up over 60 percent of email users. Yet you can add a thumbnail screenshot with a play button overlay that when clicked takes you to a dedicated landing page for your video with text for your eNews or appeal.


10. Just Images and Voices: Build loyalty and lifelong donors

You need to keep building the relationship in the stewardship phase, and here is a video idea I especially like for that. These are simple, short videos without narration. Viewers are not directly told what to think. This lets people attach their own feelings and memories to the piece … creating a deeply personal experience.

Try some with voices too.

  • We relate to people who are like us, so show other donors telling us why they give.
  • Share helpful information from your experts and thought leaders.
  • Attract viewers with FAQ videos about issues, trends and advancements. Simple to make. Use a screen with a question followed by a person on camera giving the answer.

Try an essay. Find your most passionate staff person who works directly with the people you serve. It’s best to interview and edit the footage instead of having them memorize lines. Add Broll of stills and video, and simple music. Keep it short. This is one way to present your strongest case statement directly to viewers on your website.



Three fundraising videos that don’t raise money


1. Me, Me, Me and More of Me videos

Stay away from brag videos that list your great programs and ignore the donor’s role. These “what we do” videos, unless done really well, are boring. Focus on the donor, not you. It can be hard for those inside an organization to think from the donor’s perspective, so ask, “Is this important to our staff, but not our donors?”


2. “Talking suit” fundraising videos

Few people are natural on camera. Don’t automatically include your senior executives.

Donors today have radars for what’s authentic and what is not. Instead of “the suits,” find people who are personally affected by the work. Their passion will come through.


3. Viral videos that don’t mesh with your branding

Even if you capture a “wow” moment, think twice before posting. You still need to ask whether it fits your branding and messaging.

And watch the quality of DYI videos: poor lighting, bad audio, and our of focus shots irritate viewers. Too many of these low-quality videos and you hurt your brand.



Best wishes as you brainstorm your own fundraising video ideas … 


If you can’t personally be with all your donors, the next best way to connect is through video. Video creates an engaging customer experience. Use it to your full advantage.

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