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Importance of Video Storytelling for Nonprofits

“Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. As social innovators we’ve got to be tenacious, gritty, and courageous. We deal with cynicism and rejection, especially when what we’re working on is important. So we can never give up. Ever.” Jim Ziolkowski, founder and CEO of buildOn

Your purpose is not to generate revenue for the sake of revenue; it’s to make a difference, to effect change, and to improve lives and communities in some way. Nonprofits have to be tenacious, gritty, and courageous as they fight against tremendous odds — including tight budgets. You need to create “buy-in” with your community and with donors so your work is supported.


The success of your mission hinges on the power of your story — and your ability to tell it to the right audience.


Helping Kids Build a Better Future


Carmel Indiana Youth Assistance Program is a nonprofit with a compelling story. Formed in 2015, CYAP’s mission is to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement. They provide referral services for mental health counseling and medication management, parenting classes, mentoring, camps and recreational activities, tutoring, attendance and truancy support, and food, clothing, and financial assistance to community members who are struggling.


AGM is helping them tell their story in their own words.


Video storytelling for nonprofits are remarkably effective at galas and other fundraising events. Potential and current donors and volunteers have an opportunity to learn more about the why and who behind your mission.


Your stories give the audience the chance to connect with beneficiaries — and they can even become a hero in the narrative. Knowing they can make a real difference in real lives, right now, is powerful. As 71% donations are made by individuals, connecting people with your cause is essential.


Think Like a For-Profit (for a Moment)


Americans are tremendously giving; in 2018, we donated $410 billion to charitable organizations. At the same time, there are over 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the country. Competition for those dollars is fierce. Like a for-profit business, you need to think about how to differentiate yourself so you reach into the hearts — and wallets — of potential donors.

Again, video storytelling is the optimal vehicle. In the CYAP film, they show several ways they make an impact. They forge and maintain connections with families, with law enforcement, and with schools. They inspire dedicated volunteers and mentors. The mayor of the city is on board. They understand the community, and the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, on a personal level.


These are key factors that help them stand apart. What distinguishes your nonprofit in the eyes of potential donors and volunteers?


Creating Opportunities to Change Their Stories


New Moms, a nonprofit based in Chicago, seeks to disrupt generational poverty. Of the young moms who access their services, 100% live in extreme poverty. Most (63%) come from homes where their mothers were teen parents. They feel stuck, discouraged, and bound to continue the cycle.


Until they connect with support, resources, and help to find stable housing, access job training, and learn from parenting classes that empower them to raise strong families.


As New Moms says in this video, “We’re creating opportunities for families to really change their story, to change the story of a young mom and her child.”


You can change the story of your nonprofit by highlighting struggles and successes, challenges and triumphs, and — critically — problems and solutions. This gives donors tremendous transparency into your organization and its goals. It shows them how their resources will be applied, and, again, it casts them into a key supporting role. They can participate in the story — and change the outcome for beneficiaries.


Maximizing Your Video’s Impact


As a nonprofit, you become skilled at doing more with less. Video storytelling is an invaluable asset in that you can leverage it in multiple ways. We mentioned that they are terrific headliners at galas and benefits. But you can also:


  • Feature them on your website.
  • Add them to blogs.
  • Edit out “shorts” to create several videos for use on social media and promotional materials.
  • Include them in newsletters. Emails with videos can increase your click through rate by 300%.
  • Send them to the press. With all the bad news we see, everyone loves a feel-good story.
  • Use them as follow-up messages when someone expresses an interest in donating and/or volunteering for your organization.


There’s no reason that your video shouldn’t work as hard, and as efficiently, as you do.

Tenacity, grit, and courage are, indeed, necessary in enabling your nonprofit to continue its good work. Those are the stories you need to tell.