videoVideo is a powerful way to tell a story.  When your organization has a great storytelling video you have an emotional hook that will move people to respond.  You will need a professional to film and edit – these steps will help you understand and guide the process so you get just what you need.

Here’s a checklist to help you manage a winning video:

      1. Know the purpose.  Video is special because it captures many voices and shows your Mission in action.  A video should not take the place of you or another person speaking; you can do that without the time and expense of creating a movie.  Video is your opportunity to emotionally engage and move the viewer.  You may choose to premiere your video at a fundraising event.
      2. Create a storyline.  You’ll want to have a specific message for your video.  I (the world’s greatest fan of Themes) like to tie it to an annual theme; you can read more about that at 10 Steps to a Winning Theme.  A Theme helps you decide what to include and how to build your story.  You’ll use a storyline rather than a script because your video will be built on the words of the people you interview.
      3. Get the right length.  The general rule is to keep your video at 7 minutes or less.  That’s a good amount of time to keep an audience attention and it gives the videographer enough time to tell the story.  Alternatively, you could do two or more short videos, telling individual stories.  Remember, you do not want to try and tell the whole story of your work, it is more important to convey emotion than to educate. 
      4. Casting the stars.  Look first for those who have received and benefitted from your services, you’ll want to build the video around them.  Then you can fill in with volunteers or staff to round out the story.  You don’t want or need a large cast.  A rule of thumb:  keep it simple enough that everyone “knows,” by name, two people at the end of the video.
      5. Ready…Set.  They say the movie business isn’t as much fun as it looks and this is where you’ll find out that’s true.  Trying to line up the people and places you need, getting permission, signing releases – plus you have the camera crew and their equipment.  It can be a logistical nightmare!  But you can minimize it by being well organized and doing as much as you can in one day (that helps the budget too). 
      6. Preparing for interviews.  You may want to be the one who asks the questions, off camera.  Make sure you and your video crew know who is guiding the conversation, plan in advance how you will work together.  Have a list of prepared questions but be ready to follow the lead of your interviewees also –as long as it is on-track to tell the story.
      7. Doing the interview.  Always make your stars comfortable, let them know you will be asking personal questions and they can choose not to answer.  Also, be sure they understand that you can edit out anything they are uncomfortable with.  They should know that the interview may take an hour but their final appearance could be less than two or three minutes.  Say as little as possible, allowing your stars to tell their story in their own words.
      8. Making the cut.  Editing is a long, time consuming process.  If you have been clear about the purpose of your video and have good material, leave it to the pros to edit the material and make the first cut of your story.  They are able to go back and add or subtract, even-out voices, add music etc. after you have reviewed the rough cut and are pleased with the result.
      9. Showing the video.   It’s great to show a video for the first time at a large event.  The impact is quite significant and can greatly increase the amount you fundraise.  Be sure to do a test of the projector and sound system before the event as technical mishaps can be caused by simple things like not having the right cable or adapter.  If you have a professional AV company be at their “tech run through” to be safe.  At show time be sure the lighting is turned down and your audience is clear that they should turn their attention to the screens.  You will need more than one screen in a large room with hundreds of people. 
      10. Reusing your video.   Your videographer will provide additional copies on disc for your use.  You’ll get the most impact from your video when it is shown in context of a larger presentation, especially if one of the “stars” of your video is present to speak with the audience.  That said, you can post your video on Youtube for public viewing or by-invitation-only.  It’s easy to put a video on your site (it actually resides on Youtube).  If it will be used in different settings, you may want to make minor adjustments like adding the logo of a corporate sponsor or including a call for action at the end.

Your video will be an excellent investment and should be part of your annual budget.  Advance planning and the services of a great videographer will get you the results you want!


Merle Benny is known as the Mentor of smart, bold Nonprofit Leaders, ready to change the world. She is the founder and president of Nonprofit Champion, a company committed to the growth and empowerment of nonprofit executive directors and board leaders around the globe by sharing high-level thoughtful marketing and growth strategies – while supporting their work and values to create sustainable success.

After 20 years in a successful corporate career developing technology companies, Merle followed her passion and turned her talents to the nonprofits she loved.  Joining years of nonprofit board leadership with marketing expertise, business savvy with a philanthropic heart, Merle empowers highly successful nonprofit leaders.