December 7

Using Video as a Public Relations and Fundraising Tool for Nonprofit Organizations

How To Make A Fundraising Video

Since the advent of television, video has been used repeatedly as a successful fundraising tool. Think of events like the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy, as well as everyday local commercials for the car dealer on Main Street, and you can get a grasp of the enormity of video used as a fundraising tool.

Using Video as a Fundraising Tool

I was recently presented with the opportunity of creating a video for a local nonprofit, the Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled. OKFD is a truly remarkable organization that provides exceptional daycare services for disabled adults. Sadly, state funding has been slashed and services are threatened. They came to me needing a video to distribute among potential donors.

The two videos I came up with are below in this post. One is longer than the other, otherwise they are quite similar with many elements copied and pasted. I did two lengths so they would have options dealing with different subsets of potential donors.

  • The shorter version is intended to spark interest with details being provided with a follow-up discussion.
  • The longer video would be shown to someone already familiar with OKFD so it provides more details and answers questions they most likely already have.


em>This short version of the video is intended for first time viewers who have little to no previous experience with the organization seeking funds.


This longer version of the video is intended for viewers who are already familiar with the Foundation are are seriously contemplating giving funds, so would have more desire to hear details.


That is one of the most common questions beginning video makers have. Truth is, there is no set length. A video needs to be as long as it needs to be in order to accomplish the goals. No one will sit there with a stopwatch timing the video. The point is, a long video is likely to be a boring video and by all means, avoid making boring videos!

Generally speaking, a video producer lives by the mantra, “shorter is always better,” but that is not a hard and fast rule. I believe you have to recognize when details are indeed important to the viewer. Some viewers are frustrated by “short,” as they perceive it as superficial. Give them the answers they crave!

That information probably also happens to be the answers the organization wants them to hear. No matter what type of organization it is, producing a video saves time and aids the staff by giving them a tool to distribute so they can accomplish something else besides giving the same pitch over and over.


To successfully move a viewer into opening his wallet and making a financial contribution, the first rule is the video has to tug at his emotional heartstrings. To accomplish this, all the elements of good video storytelling need to come together:

  • The videographer needs to capture images that pack a punch
  • The interviewer needs to solicit answers which express emotion
  • The scriptwriter needs to choose soundbites and words carefully
  • The video editor needs select the best shots, be mindful of pacing and add appropriate music.

The emotion needs to be backed up by an obvious need for the money. That need is shown by giving facts.

People need to know their donations will be put to good use, not wasted. Trust is a huge factor. People donate in order to make a real difference and help change outcomes. A video needs to convince them that a donation will indeed serve those objectives.

An organization like the OKFD provides plenty of material to tell a compelling story with video. Truth is, they DO change lives. They DO watch their pennies. Donations are indeed put to good use, so as a video maker, it is simply my job to translate the truth into an entertaining video. This is done by telling the stories of the people who rely on the organization and those who run it for them.

Interviewing parents and administrators forms the heart of the video. For this project, I interviewed two parents and one administrator on camera. Each person’s interview lasted about 10-15 minutes. It would have been nice to interview even more parents, but none were available at the correct time.

After spending a full day videotaping, I then transcribe all the interviews and write the script based on the interviews. You can read another post with more details on that process here.

If you watch the OKFD videos, you can see that I addressed all of the basic concerns of donation in the video script.

  1. Yes, it’s money well spent on a worthy cause.
  2. Yes, it’s money that is truly needed and put to good use by responsible people.

As any salesman knows, addressing the concerns of a potential buyer upfront is the best way to close the deal. Remove all the obstacles their mind is throwing up. Then, what is to stop them from buying, or in this case donating? Hopefully, nothing if the video has done its job well.


Most non profits are strapped for cash. They need a video, but simply can not afford to spend lots of money getting one made. Many large video production houses produce videos for charity for free and then write it off on their taxes. Even so, they need to keep the budget as low as possible.

The main way I kept the budget of this video down was to shoot everything in one day, mostly at one location. We asked the participating parents to come to the center and meet me (and my camera) when I was already there videotaping the various activities happening on campus. I did not ask that anything special be staged for the camera. Rather, I wanted to capture the everyday reality of the facility so I simply taped what was happening anyway.

To get plenty of footage and interviews, I spent one entire day with my camera at the OKFD. I got there at 9 a.m. and left around 8, so it was a long day. Most novice video makers are surprised to learn how many hours you spend shooting. Anything less than that and I would have been left wishing for more once I began editing.

Post-production included transcribing all the interviews, writing the script, rewriting the script, then editing the final video. In all, it was about four full days of work for me, a one-person crew.

I wrote and edited the long version first. When it was completely finished and approved by the client, I pulled the short version out of the long version by simply cutting out all the details and leaving only the meat. This process took me about 15 minutes of editing, mostly copy/paste/delete. Then I polished the splices and changed a few of the shots in order to show the buses. I’d removed all the narration pertaining to the buses, but I still wanted to show them visually, so I had to move and replace a few shots. Remember, video storytelling is a combination of visuals and narration that can be combined in an infinite variety of ways.

I hope this information helps you create a video to help out a nonprofit organization.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips
Lorraine Grula


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  1. That video did have some good tips for product demos in it so I am happy to post it for my readers. However, my tip is for them to use individual microphones for better sound. At least there was no background noise, so you could indeed understand them well, just sounded real hollow. Otherwise, good job!
    Thanks for you comment,

  2. Great run-down on your process, thank you!

    Just wondering, do you always transcribe your interviews? I don’t typically, but am wondering if it is worth the trouble in any case. Also, do you know of any low cost transcription services?

  3. Hi Carson. Thanks for your question. I am absolutely in the habit of ALWAYS transcribing interviews. Unless it is super short, but honestly that rarely happens! With this video, each interview lasted at least 30 minutes. For me, it is critical to have that entire transcript. I want the details of everything they said right there in front of me. I will refer back to it a zillion tines when writing the script. Then too, the script is more complete and when I give the first draft to the client they can read it and comprehend it. It’s funny because sometimes they will say, “I said THAT? Can we change it?”

    Low cost transcribing is hard to find and that is indeed an issue. It takes me forever to transcribe so it can get expensive. Find a fast typist! I’ve used folks I found online and never had an issue with quality. The prices are pretty similar from one service to the next. Years ago I used a local gal I found through a temp agency who indeed was a fast typist. She could type as fast as they spoke. I can not do that so have to pause it every 5 seconds. Such a pain, but yes very necessary. 🙂

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