The Impact of Video on Nonprofit Fundraising

September 22, 2014

nonprofit video

This summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge exploded across the World Wide Web as millions of people took to Facebook to post videos of themselves asking their peers to donate to the ALS Association. The Ice Bucket Challenge donations reached a total of $114 Million as of Sept 17, 2014. A 3,500% increase from the year before when they only raised $2.8 million from July–August 2013. 

Now I share these analytics, not because my supervisor has informed me that I’m a data geek, but because we’re seeing first hand a new trend in nonprofit fundraising. Nonprofits have long been aware of peer-to-peer fundraising, and after this summer I imagine, worldwide, nonprofits are paying more attention to it. It’s no secret that video may be the biggest change in social media of 2014. Two examples include record numbers of views for both the United Way of East Central Iowa and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos. Both nonprofits embraced and adapted to peer-to-peer fundraising. How? Through video.

The Traditionalists and Baby Boomer Generations have filled the nonprofit boardrooms for years and nonprofits have relied on them as their sole peer-to-peer fundraisers, asking them to reach out to their family, friends, and coworkers on their behalf. But now, Gen Xers and Millennials have recently taken peer-to-peer fundraising out of the boardroom and into the chat room (so to speak).

200 “Cupcakes” and Counting

Having a video editor tell you that video has become popular is like having a cupcake baker tell you that “cupcakes are the new wedding cake.” But that won’t stop me from telling you that video has helped bring the fun back into FUNdraising.

Since graduation, my husband (also a video editor) and I joke how we’ve transitioned from being video geeks to the hot commodity.

In my first two years as the video editor at a nonprofit, I made more than 200 videos.  Trust me – I counted.  200 videos seemed like a lot even to me, so I started tracking the analytics because I wanted to know what videos people were watching and if what I was doing was working. At the end of 12 months, I had enough data to see a trend and I was surprised to see the must viewed video of the year wasn’t one of the 200 videos I color corrected, or sweetened the audio, or even edited. It was a video with bad lighting, soft sound and zero editing. United Way’s most viewed video last year was a pie in the face video.

There are around 500 companies locally in Cedar Rapids and surrounding area that hold United Way campaigns. They let us come in and ask their employees to donate to United Way through payroll deductions. A majority of the 200 videos I made help explain to each of these companies and their employees “What does United Way do” and “How your donation is helping.” Only one video with a pie. One. And that video was the most viewed video of the year?!?!

Bringing the FUN back into FUNdraising

I’ll admit, this was really hard for me to swallow and only after a few days of wallowing in my self pity and questioning my four year degree — I decided to give the people what they wanted. More cowbell — I mean more pie. This year, we started seeking out companies who were raising money for United Way by hosting fun fundraising events like kiss the pig and dunk tank contests. Because of these company focused videos, we had a record month on YouTube in August 2014 with more than 900 views (average is 300-500 views per month).

Now that’s nothing like the millions of YouTube hits for the Ice Bucket Challenge but both nonprofit organizations share one thing in common: They embraced and adapted to the new wave of peer-to-peer fundraising utilizing video in a fun way.

Photo via Flickr user James Kim

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.