How Nonprofits can gain by making videos in 2024

Last updated on 5 June 2024, Published on 21 March 2021

Making videos for nonprofits can be exciting both in terms of production and tapping its marketing potential.

But more often than not, many of these organizations pay little or somewhat lackadaisical attention when it comes to filmmaking. Without a proper strategy and production in place, they fail to capitalize on marketing.

It’s important to realize that videos can strike with the kind of impact on their audience within the shortest period of time, that no other type of content can render.

Be it showcasing the program components to your website visitors or for a presentation before the officials of the funding agency, your marketing campaign might fall flat if you aren’t still seriously considering making videos for your organization.

Many nonprofit organizations, small to medium, hesitate to plan for making videos. Either they think of it as too much of an expense or just don’t ponder over it due to the intricacies. The actual scenario is quite different.

In this article, I will explain different aspects of making videos for nonprofits that the people responsible for marketing and communication in those organizations could consider for marketing gain in the coming days.

Going through this post, you will get to know

With the advent of technology and low-cost gear, anyone can shoot videos these days. And these can be prepared much faster than they used to be.

But before delving deeper into many shades of video making, let’s see what the big shots are talking about the potential of video marketing in the coming days.

What are the potentials of making videos for nonprofits in terms of marketing?

The pandemic has done one thing for sure. It has made people with restricted movement spend more hours on their mobile consuming online content. That’s nothing sort of a denser marketplace full of opportunities a marketer can ignore.

Hubspot released the results of their video marketing survey in 2015 at wyzowl. And they are doing that every year since then.

The pandemic has changed the online game of content creation and promotion worldwide. The consumption of audio-visual content has gone many-fold up among consumers in this period. It has made digital marketing agencies and corporations chase and cash in on content marketing to increase their sale. 

86% of businesses use videos as a marketing tool. Although marginally up from 85% in 2019, it’s almost a sea change since 2016, when it was 61%. It shows a 41% increase in the number of businesses that use online videos for their marketing. 87% of video marketers said they had a positive ROI from their videos, while 69% of non-video marketers expressed their interest in using video as a marketing tool in 2020.

Now you think of the immense possibilities of video documentation of your ongoing program. One way is to do the documentation, which may itself be a program component. Another way is to create many shorts and flood your social media channels for inbound leads.

Making videos for nonprofits has, these days, become economic in terms of their repeated use. You shoot once and then create long to medium to short-duration formats on posts.

These days, people aggressively campaign to showcase programs with even short animated explainer videos that act like hookers on social media. These are cheap and easy to make compared to a proper documentary. But the target audience and reach are certainly different for these formats.

The possibilities are endless!

We will come to the inbound marketing later. But for those who are still not accustomed to the term, inbound marketing is a technique where you consistently create quality content for your prospects or audience. Attracted by your content interested people come forward and make queries. You don’t actively call the consumers. But, lure them with regular content promotion.

And here comes the advantage of video documentation of a Non-profit-run-program. You can make short videos with real-time footage, interviews, or an explainer with simple animations to detail your service. There are so many styles you may adopt to attract your target audience.

But we will come into that later.

Forbes said, quoting App Annie, a mobile market data and analytics platform, that different social apps like Snap chat, and Instagram are gradually fading the lines between social media and the entertainment industry. It reflects how much the consumer space is up for the intense competition!

The pandemic has further fueled the habit of watching videos on mobile. A message through video is always better registered among consumers. Social media video spending stood at $5.65 billion in 2017. It is likely to reach $14.89 billion in 2021 [read here]. And that’s just about the US consumers.

Oberlo has pointed out a 2018 Animoto report that says 80% of video marketers are satisfied with their ROI against the campaigns they ran on social media. That means their conversion is high when they use video as a marketing tool on social media.

Now, what does that mean for Nonprofits, when it comes to making a video for effective communication with their target audience?

To get into that, we first have to know what quality and eye-catching video could efficiently communicate with people. 

    Why the nonprofit videos look unappealing without a proper strategy in place?

    It’s a no-brainer. It mostly lacks fascinating stories.

    You have captured your video in an unreal way. Then you cut those visuals to show only the feel-good story with everyone smiling at the last scene.

    There are a few reasons that attribute to such unappealing films.

    • Lack of planning
    • Shortage of visuals, especially B-Rolls
    • Hardly any story-telling. No central character and build-up
    • Improper length of the film

    Under a short and cut-throat budget, you may not hire an agency or a professional filmmaker. That’s okay.

    But you have to engage people who are meticulous in planning and do have a professional bent of mind. Even if an amateur is engaged, as the person in charge, he has to pay attention to every single detail and finish the job under a deadline. Film production is an intense process. The less time it takes the better.

    Low-rental DSLRs mirror or camcorders are readily available. They are easy to carry. You could take it anywhere to take some B-roll footage. B-rolls are the generic visuals of nature or people in action that can support the message along with the narrative.

    Everyone loves a story. But the commonplace videos often lack the story. With a story, the structure of a video becomes loosened and viewers leave the webpage within minutes, sometimes within seconds. This increases the bounce rate of the site itself. Building a story around a character, say a program beneficiary, helps attract viewers for a longer period. Mostly the videos doing the rounds lack a coherent style of storytelling with a character at its core.

    Nonprofits are a goldmine for stories. Human relations, change in societal fabrics, conflict of interests you just name it. There are ingredients aplenty for making videos for nonprofits that can literally hook and rivet an audience.

    The length of a video is crucial for its viewership. Videos longer than 6-7 minutes usually fail to get the audience hooked on to them unless you have an established brand or a widely publicized event. There are numerous of data available in the public domain about the optimum length of a short film for good viewership.

    Gone are the days when making videos for nonprofits was merely a part of the program documentation. We have long surpassed and now are in the era of reasonably priced gears with advanced technology and digital marketing.

    So if you are still dithering about making a video for your organization and yet want to make an imprint, you are possibly wasting your precious time.

    What are the challenges of making videos before you even start planning?

    There are certain hurdles everyone comes across while making videos for nonprofits. They could be like the ones right below, though not in that particular order.

    • Visualize or design the video
    • A human resource to engage
    • Pick up a storyline in line with the program
    • Screen or select the beneficiaries
    • Fund to allocate
    • Prepare a schedule

    It’s crucial to decide for whom you are actually making the video. A video, capturing a case study or a success story, for the funding agency will be different from a short promo meant for social media circulation.

    You can also think of making several versions of the video during post-production and plan a shoot accordingly. It will reduce the production cost but will let you have the opportunity of creating multiple edits later.

    These days, it’s mandatory, in nearly all programs, to carry out video documentation. Funding agency officials particularly look for a short film that captures the previously implemented or ongoing programs during presentations.

    This gives you ample opportunity to showcase your work and beneficiary or community before them.

    On the other hand, you can’t ignore building your brand on social media. Not only do you have to make your presence felt in the network, but you also have to create and upload content regularly to grow your network.

    The video must be one strong leg of your content promotion strategy. It will, over some time, create a wider community around your organization in social media. But this requires time and patience.

    In the long run, making videos for nonprofits and sharing, screening, and sending those videos through email blasts pays off dividends.

    In any organization, it’s crucial to depute someone for this work. You can also hire someone to do the job. You have to find the right person who could make a comprehensive work plan.

    One thing everyone ponders over making a video in any nonprofit organization. That’s money!

    If budget is a constraint (it is for many), planning for video production is necessary for the long term.

    You may think of relocating money from time to time from other heads to make a video. With the technology and gears available at a cheaper rate, things have become much easy.

    Things to know before you start planning.

    • The money you can spend on
    • Who is the audience of your video
    • Do you need several versions of your video?
    • What are messages for video or multiple versions of videos

    With these in mind, you can start planning for making a video for your organization.

    Want to Make a Video with Us?

    For your non-profit organization and program?

    How to plan for making a video?

    There you are!

    You have now made up your mind. Also, you have figured out the target audience. Let’s say there are two to three distinct groups. The partnering organizations, the funding agencies, and social media traffic.

    Videos effectively render messages so long as the audience remains glued to them. That’s why every pitch must start with a hook. And in the case of videos, you should think of a semi-fictional character to start with. This character will establish a connection, rather than emotional bondage, with your audience.

    But what does that have to do with making a plan?

    Yes, it does.

    When you put it into your buyer persona’s shoes, things will become easier to chart out. Think of it this way. A buyer persona will like to watch out for what you have done for the program beneficiaries and how you have carried out your operation.

    Think of yourself as a funding agency official or a fellow organization’s program official. Though, they have different perspectives, having a fair idea of these perspectives could be the guiding pointers while making videos for your nonprofits.

    Doubtless, it will make your planning less troublesome.

    Once you shape up the character in your imagination, you have to come up with a story. What exactly you would like to tell your audience through a story? There has to be a compelling story line. And it has a certain method, a definite build-up. A character followed by a conflict culminates in a resolution.

    And this calls for a structure.

    Be it a 2-minute promo for social share or a 15-minute documentary, every film has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You will always need a structure that holds your story line and rivets characters in an irresistible yet nonchalant way.

    With these in mind, you may create a To-do list at the planning stage. It could be as follows or you may have your template or you could even tweak the following.

    • To carve out a character: A program beneficiary
    • To build a story line – with a beginning, middle, and end
    • To find a structure
    • To select a crew and arrange/ book gears
    • To fix a schedule for shooting and post
    • To arrange for logistics and transportation

    This makes you armored with the entire prerequisites before you take a plunge into the production. A meticulous plan for making videos helps you cut down unnecessary expenses and production time.

    What are the factors to consider for expenses while making videos for nonprofits?

    There is a common misconception among people working in nonprofit organizations that making a video or a documentary is highly expensive and takes too much time.

    It used to hold some water a decade ago. But with the advent of technology and a doorstep availability of reasonably priced shooting equipment (available on rent), this is no longer a valid argument.

    Planning makes every penny spent wisely, but you need to consider a few things before setting the ball rolling. These things are directly related to the expenses that you have thought of allocating for video production.

    Making a video with real-life footage is way different from creating an explainer video or short animation. And so are the expenses. The bulk of the money goes away during their production or shooting.

    While explainer videos on services and products hugely circulate over the internet, especially social media, they are relatively easier to plan and produce.

    Your spending will go way beyond the allocated figure if you don’t consider the following things [shown in the table] before scheduling a shooting.

    Crew SizeRelates to logistic expenses, a 3-4 member crew is adequate for short features, and documentaries are to be shot mainly outdoors. Crew size could go up if extensive illumination is required. Most nonprofit documentaries are shot outside
    EquipmentDSLR or Mobile, If lights required, Any other gears like Slider, Pocket Jib. In the case of DSLRs, lenses are to be decided. 24-105, 50 mm [prime], and 16-35 usually do the job. A 70-200 or 70-300 is required for shallow depth of field and close-ups. Acoustics like cordless lapel (for interviews) and an external recorder like Zoom H4n for ambiance sound
    LogisticsTransport, Car rental, and hotel rents if shooting takes place out of town. Also some other out-of-pocket expenses for consumables Recce or reconnoiter is an absolute necessity
    Post-ProductionNo of days for editing, graphics, and animation (if any) Narration/ Commentary Notes: voice-over recording
    A tabular presentation of different verticals of making videos for nonprofits

    These are the key things that you need to think of before spending. There is every possibility that these can vary a bit, even if you planned everything meticulously. But, one thing is for sure, the expense will shoot through the roof if there is no plan.

    Let’s consider you have a planned an edit-schedule of 4 days. But that could extend to 5 days or days if necessity demands. Without proper planning, it will go way beyond that deadline escalating the cost of production.

    And it could happen anywhere under the above headers. More gears or lights mean a larger crew size and subsequently an increased cost of producing the video.

    You have to talk to your cameraman well before shooting, about what he is comfortable with, using DSLRs or a camcorder! Most cameras, these days, offer 4K and progressive format. However, full-frame HD or High definition [1920X1080 or 1080p] is still doing the round as YouTube doesn’t allow uploading videos over 720p for a free account holder.

    Unless you have a business account, you can consider making a high-definition video instead of a 4K resolution.

    Putting an interviewee in the golden third is pivotal
    The interviewee is to be placed at the golden third of the frame

    You must pay great attention to recording interviews.

    You have to talk to the speaker before recording, what to focus on, and precisely, what not to say! A brief on the talk and a short rehearsal just before the camera starts rolling help the speaker gets his or her flow right and help him or her sound natural. With this candid conversation, your sound recordist gets the time to monitor the audio level and can adjust the bands (levels) at low, mid, and high ranges accordingly.

    People sometimes get into a dilemma about whether to shoot at 4k and reserve the decision of cutting a high-definition film out of it later at the post-production stage. But that’s an uninformed decision. Unless you are sure of screening the video on a large display that shows 4K, you should go for High definition.

    With the current internet connection and 5G still looking distant from the grip of millions, there is no point in making a 4K resolution video for social media promotion. Besides, the footage shot at 4K also heavily eats up disk space. It’s a waste of money and technology to shoot at 4K and then downgrade the footage to the level of high definition for post-production.  High Definition video at 1920 X 1080 is here to stay over the web for the next four years.

    There are different video editing programs like Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, or Final Cut that offer monthly subscription packages, while some are available free on the internet.

    Some of the free available video editing programs: are Avid Media Composer First, ShotCut, and OpenShot.

    How to fill the gap between pre-production, production, and post-production while making the video?

    You planned to have a riveting story, thought of building up a conflict or issues with the help of a character, and consider offering a solution to your audience. These are all chalked out in the pre-production stage.

    One key issue is we often tend to divert from our original plan at the time of execution. This leads to anomalies during production and post-production.

    Here comes the role of the director or producer. Keeping everyone in sync in terms of the planned story line and structure of the video is the real challenge.

    It’s always a challenge to stick to the point when it comes to making a documentary. You never know what will happen during the shoot. A director has to tweak the story line at times at the behest of an impromptu occurrence.

    How I had to change a scheduled shooting plan within 10 minutes – An instance?

    Every walk of life has its unforeseen moments and so would you have during making videos for your nonprofits.

    Let me share an instance here.  During making a documentary on a PAN India program funded by a department of the Govt. of India, I went for the recce in a remote village. I talked to a lady beneficiary whom I was supposed to come back later and interview on camera during the shoot. I had planned to cut a sequence with her being the central character.

    On location, dealing with an impromptu occurrence is essential.
    Arun Mondal; the nodal person-turned-character

    But things turned out otherwise on the very day of the shoot. Even after repeated attempts, I couldn’t find her at the house. Possibly, she got some contractual work in a nearby town and left. The program intervention in that village was on how effective healthcare management (with scientific know-how) of the livestock could benefit the participants and help them sustainably fetch a greater income.

    I thought out for a few moments and then decided to make the nodal person who was along with the crew members take the central role. The idea was to make him visit the households of the beneficiaries and check out the health conditions of the livestock they are managing.

    He readily wore an apron and was made out to be on a visit to the village to goat farming and the pertinent health care issues.

    In this case, only the central character of a sequence was changed under an unavoidable circumstance, but all the information and messages that were to be spread remained the same with a little change in the narrative later at the post-production stage.

    In my experience, this flexibility gives us a smooth and seamless transition in the filmmaking process. It also leads us to another very important issue of time of writing the script or commentary notes (for the narratives).

    Write the script, then shoot while making the video, or the other way around?

    Usually, the clients or the people of the non-film making profession tend to have a script prepared before the camera starts rolling. It helps them have to visualize what is going to happen during the shoot or who would be shot.

    But actually, that restricts improvised storytelling. In non-fiction, we never know what would come up during the shoot and how you have to adjust your plan according to the drama likely to unfold on the location.

    If you already have a rigid story line in your mind, you would have difficulty coping with any changing scenario and shooting the visuals accordingly. Eventually, it could yield a difficult structure during the post.

    And a difficult structure means harder it becomes to make videos for nonprofits.

    There is another approach to filmmaking, even for program documentation purposes. That is to have a clear structure in mind at the very outset of the filmmaking process. In my case, I get this through conducting a recce on the locations, talking to the beneficiaries followed by some research works at the pre-production stage.

    Once I have the shape of the structure, I share it with my client. After we all get on board, I proceed to the logistics for production. This lets me have a definite structure without having to form the final story line before the shooting.

    And that’s quite logical. As I have seen over the years of my experience, there is always something unforeseen, untoward at times, that pops up during the shooting. 

    If you write the commentary before shooting, you will somewhat tend to drive your shoot according to what you have written down. That’s required sometimes, especially in an absolutely regulated environment. But, in my consideration, that’s better avoided.

    Creating a commentary is an evolutionary process. I love to carve out a story line while I am editing. When editing and writing commentary scripts take place simultaneously, they develop through an evolutionary process. It’s kind of churning.

    In my experience, that yields the best outcome. Again, I hold this view for making a documentary or a short film.

    The non-fiction genre widely deals with storytelling in real life. And that comes best when you put forth your visuals and weave different threads of story around central or multiple cores. Visuals are fundamental to non-fictional films and the function of a narrative is to support the story line, not to overwhelm it.

    My observation, while dealing with the people, mostly the communication or program officers of the non-profit organization, they prefer to develop a story line first and then go for the shoot. Budding filmmakers should be familiar with both ways if they do video documentation of a program, keeping in mind the pros and cons of both styles.

    What are the campaign channels for marketing after making a video?

    You have made a video, now what to do with it and how! Making videos for nonprofits is one thing, promotion and marketing on social media and other offline channels is another ballgame altogether.

    If it’s a component of your program or project documentation, you have to submit it straightway to the screening authority or the funding agency.

    But, it’s a different story altogether if you have made it for your organization’s branding and social media promotion.

    Here, you have to take note. If you have made a 10 or 15-minute documentary, that’s a good bet for screening before a dedicated audience. But it’s not quite so in the case of social media promotion.

    For that, you may consider creating several shorter version edits for sharing over social media. All the versions should be uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo. These shorter versions may be edited as teasers or hookers. In plain language, they will tell incomplete versions of the story with suspense or quest at the end.

    That will bring back the traffic to other shorter version clips or even to the longer version format. More inquisitive people will look forward to watching a longer version to get to the bottom of your organization’s contribution to the program, how it was implemented or it benefited people.

    These days, uploading only on YouTube and then sharing the links on other platforms do not quite serve in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You have to separately upload onto Facebook and LinkedIn for better optimization there.

    Your Instagram account could be synced with Facebook. If you use Twitter, you could share YouTube or Vimeo links there. These days, social groups are particularly important for building a community and thereby drawing greater traffic to your video and site.

    But remember, unsolicited and unnecessary social shares annoy the group admins and repel traffic. You should be seen as someone or an organization that helps people. In that context, share your links, when there is a palpable urge among the followers about your work and program implementation.

    A regular share of your videos with a little withdrawn and casual approach makes people feel interested in you. It begins your journey toward inbound marketing, where getting traffic via content promotion without asserting yourself or exaggerating your organization before the audience.


    There is no alternative to consistent video production and promotion for nonprofit organizations toward building a network and greater outreach. Online presence has already become the most effective channel for any organization’s brand identity. And the video is perhaps the most dependable leg of content promotion over the web, now. 

    People like stories and decent visuals. A viewer doesn’t always remember what you did, but he emotionally connects with you if there is an appeal and humane touch in your video.

    Nothing works better than empathy and fellow feeling among the viewers.

      Featured Image courtesy: Creatives (
      Shot in a Mayurbhanj village, Odisha, India in November 2017 while shooting for a Documentary in a PAN India program on the Scheduled Caste Community (on technology transfer and livelihood management), by the Dept. of Science & Technology, Govt. of India. Videography: Amit Roy, Technical Assistant: Rohit Yadav

      DOP: Sam Chatterjee & Dola Chatterjee

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