Four Important Keys to Successful Fundraising Videos

Hundreds of nonprofit organizations and religious ministries use fundraising videos to tell their story. It’s a powerful medium, and along with other projects, our team at Cooke Pictures produces fundraising and donor development videos for some of the largest nonprofits and ministries in the country. After years of producing these around the world, we’ve discovered some important keys to creating an impact with the audience. The next time your organization considers a promotional or donor video for your website or to show at a live event, here’s some important principles to remember:

1. Keep it short.  Some studies indicate as many as 66% of viewers stop watching a video after the 2 minute mark. For a live presentation you have a captive audience, but even then I rarely produce anything longer than 4-6 minutes. Leave the audience wanting more. As a famous opera singer once said, “You need to stop singing before the audience has stopped listening.”

2. A successful video isn’t about facts, it’s about emotion.  The audience won’t be moved by the fact that last year you served 10,000 meals, housed 500 homeless people, or built a medical clinic in the Congo. They want to see the lives changed because of what you did. Stop using statistics with fancy graphics, and start telling stories. Never forget that video is about emotion, and if you need to share facts, then print them on a brochure or put them on your website.

3. Don’t create a music video.  I don’t care how much that worship song by Chris Tomlin means to you, illustrating a song with shots of your work doesn’t impress anybody. Interview people and let them tell the story, or have a narrator do it. Music videos rarely lend themselves to sharing your vision, showing the results, and calling people to action.

4. Do it well.  Your brother-in-law may have a home video camera, but trust me – he’s not going to show the emotion, the drama, or the story an experienced professional will capture. The point of a donor development video is to call the viewer to action, so get the kind of advice you need to do it well. I can’t stress enough the potential of a compelling video presentation, so don’t leave it to chance. Be creative, be contemporary, and most of all, be strategic.

Potential donors want to hear your story, and in today’s visual culture, showing a powerful video is an incredible tool.

The question is:  What’s the story your organization needs to tell?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Crash Davis

    Four great points, Phil. I would add that there is a very special skill when creating moving stories that spark awareness and raise support. Not everyone in media has the unique insight (or savvy) into producing fundraising videos. There is a nuance & sensitivity involved in the subjects, flow and appeal. Many just hand the mic to the pastor or leader for the on-air pitch. Also, just because someone shoots corporate videos or broadcast or even commercials doesn’t mean they know how to handle emotional appeals. It’s a “genre” unlike other media formats. You need a “specialist.”

    Years ago I was producing for a Canadian missions group…stories of their work all over the world. They bragged to me they were going to start using a company close to them that did videos for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I said, “just because someone does sports (even national broadcast) doesn’t mean they know how to handle missions and fundraising.” The client looked at me with the most confused expression in his eyes. He didn’t get it. His perception is “if you can shoot a camera, it’s all the same.” It isn’t.

    • Really excellent points. I’ve lost a few projects to “bigger” producers who don’t really understand how to tell a nonprofit’s story. As a result, it’s always been a disaster…

  • Chris

    Hi Phil, I just watched your video on My Faith Votes, which was my introduction to to you. I was wondering what your company did, so I made my way over here to your website. I read some great stuff. I kept thinking how our small private school could really benefit from a great video and by adopting some of the other ideas I read here. You don’t happen to know anyone that does fundraising videos in Central Pennsylvania do you (in the greater Harrisburg, York, Lancaster area)?