Charity Video Production: The Why and the How


charity video marketingThe economic downturn has had a particularly significant impact on charities and non-profit organisations. Like any businesses, when budgets are cut, marketing is the first to go – this is particularly true for charities. The irony is that marketing is essential for survival. Charities depend on their messages being heard in order to attract new funding sources, as well as reminding existing donors that they are there and their support is appreciated.

The challenge for charities is therefore about doing more with less. Traditional options might include TV advertising, which is so expensive it simply can’t be justified in times of economic struggle. Direct mail and e-marketing campaigns are more affordable, but less effective as there is no guarantee of them reaching your audience and engaging them effectively. The answer lies in charity video production. Online video is like gold dust for charities and non-profit organisations – it’s just that a lot of them don’t realize it yet.

Not only can online video be affordable to produce, it is also affordable, if not free, to distribute. Video sharing sites like YouTube and other social networking platforms offer the opportunity to promote and share videos with minimal expense. It is possible to measure the effectiveness and reach of videos meaning that it is possible to evaluate successes and failures and build on that learning to improve further campaigns.

Here are some online video campaigns by charities that highlight what is possible.

Charity: Water

Charity: Water combined email marketing with online video to increase donations by $800,000. The charity chose to send out weekly emails during the period of the campaign. They integrated video into the email, rather than just link to another webpage (e.g. their YouTube channel). Rather than overdo the calls to action and requests for donations, the charity chose to simply focus on telling the stories of the people who would be positively affected by the charity – thereby allowing the audience to decide for themselves what action they might take.

Charity: Water recognize the importance of telling real stories. Charities are in a great position in that they work at a grassroots level with communities and they have important stories to tell. Translating these stories into a charity video production is a valuable resource at their disposal.

British Red Cross

The British Red Cross worked with the Viral Ad Network to create this video with Konnie Huq. In the run up to World AIDS Day in 2009 it achieved 18k views and was embedded on over 50 different websites. A year later, the video had reached 60k views and 60 comments. In terms of virality, these aren’t the most impressive stats. However, these results do equate to 60k people hearing a message that it would have been difficult to communicate through an email, for example. As well as that the people who are likely to be watching the video are also the ones that are likely to support the charity financially.


Refuge is a domestic abuse charity that launched this video via Lauren Luke’s (a vlogger) YouTube channel. Luke has 444,000 subscribers giving the charity an immediate audience and as Luke herself is a survivor of abuse, her subscribers were likely an appropriate starting point. Luke features in the video, which is a parody of a traditional make-up advice video. Instead, the advice is for covering up the injuries of domestic abuse. This is an extremely powerful video, which was part of Refuge’s ‘Don’t Cover It Up’ campaign. At time of writing it has had way over one million views.

It is worth noting the production values of this video. It is a very simple production and would have cost Refuge next to nothing to make.

It Gets Better

The ‘It Gets Better’ video campaign has resulted in the formation of a non-profit organization. In 2010 author Dan Savage created a video with his partner and put it on YouTube. Their goal was to inspire hope for young LGBT people who are facing harassment. The message is simple – it gets better. The project has become a global movement. It has inspired the creation of 50,000 user-created videos; together they have achieved more than 50 million views. The campaign has received video submissions from well-known contributors including President Obama, Colin Farrell, Sarah Silverman, Ellen DeGeneres, Google, Facebook, Pixar and many more.

This campaign is a fine example of the fact that, at times, the organization doesn’t even need to make the videos themselves! They simply need to act as curators of contributions from supporters or beneficiaries. Their role is then as guardians and deliverers of the message to a wider audience.

If you are working for a non-profit and your marketing team isn’t using online video, do them a favour and mention it. It could help you open the eyes of many more people and inspire additional support for your organization.

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