A recent survey from Google found that 57% of people who watch an NGO video will go on to make a donation. Impressive number, huh? You might be thinking that NGO videos are only for big organisations like Unicef and Oxfam. A few years ago, that could have been the case, but video production is now far more affordable than it used to be. So the question is not wether you should create a video or not, the question is:

How can you make the most engaging NGO video?

1. Set a goal

What do you want to accomplish with this video? Do you want to raise awareness about an issue, attract donors or a general video about your mission? Setting the goal of your NGO video is a key step, so meet with your team and decide what your needs are. For example, WINGS Guatemala felt “people didn’t understand what mobile clinics were and why they’re so necessary”, so they commissioned a video to show how they work.

2. Know your audience

Who is the main audience for your video? Audiences can be very narrow or extremely broad. Maybe you’re aiming to attract new donors, a specific population, or the general public. Before you start, decide who your audience is, since that will set the tone of the entire video.

3. Set a budget

Yes, we know. NGOs usually need their funds to raise people up from poverty and provide services to underserved communities, so using part of their budget on a video might seem frivolous. But 79% of donors surveyed reported that online video ads were the most useful online media marketing they were exposed to. An NGO video is not an expense but actually an investment, as it can help you raise funds effectively. The NGOs we worked with made between 5 and 50 times the money they invested in the video. You don’t need a huge budget, nowadays video production is very affordable and you could even start with an engaging 1 minute video. But whatever you do, make sure to hire professionals!

Video production is now far more affordable than it used to be

4. Find the best producers for your NGO video

The Guardian states that the hardest part is finding the right people to do the job. They need to be digital natives, millennials, and understand the language. “We’re hiring people who aren’t just great filmmakers, it’s about having a strong understanding of why people share stuff on social media and how they interact with content,” says Richard Casson, online campaigner at Greenpeace. A face-to-face meeting will tell you if you’re on the same page with the production company: “when I met David Maho from On the Road Media, they understood exactly what I wanted and brought great ideas to the table,” said Shaili Zappa.

Maho and David in Dhaka, BangladeshMaho and David in Dhaka, Bangladesh after finishing the shoot.

5. Create the perfect script

This is a crucial part of the process. You might not be an expert on audiovisual language, but your producers are. Work with them to create a script that reflects your ideas and trust them to bring them to life. Timothy Lam suggests keeping in mind the Three S’s:

Short: Quick, sharp videos are the best way to reach an audience, specially online. Your video should be no longer than 5 minutes for a captive audience (like the people who would watch the video during a fundraising event) and between 1 and 2 minutes for online viewers. You can also create a long and short version with the same footage.

Simple: We are constantly bombarded with stats and figures that we easily forget, so make sure to feature in the video only the information that you want people to remember. Focus on one message or one need that your nonprofit has.

Storytelling: Create videos that tell a story rather than simply talking about the NGO. Reuters found that emotional video storytelling, where emotions are favored over facts, sees more success on Facebook. When people make decisions, it’s 
often emotion that drives it. Every story needs a character, so find someone who can show the results of your NGO’s efforts. And remember: a good character has to be extroverted and willing to be on camera.

A good example of this is our video for the Guatemalan NGO Small Change for Big Change. It’s SHORT: only 3 minutes. It’s SIMPLE: it focuses on the family’s relationship with the nonprofit and how it has benefited from it. The STORY is about only one family and it’s narrated by Silvia, the mother.

Emotional video storytelling, where emotions are favoured over facts, sees more success on Facebook.

6. Be organised

The script will help the producers create a shotplan, a guide to what will be shot each day, with whom and where. This is fundamental and will save you time and money. Make sure to communicate well with the people who will participate in the video, as they need to understand how important their presence and punctuality will be during the shoot. They should also know what they will be doing, what kind of clothes they need to bring and how the video will be used. Any delays could end up costing you money, so also sign a proper contract with the production company that clearly dictates the work conditions.

7. Pay close attention to post-production

The work doesn’t end once the NGO video has been shot. The producers will send you a first edit of the video for you to approve or make comments. Before they start editing, make sure the script has a concise and simple message that is in line with the NGO. Send the producers your nonprofit’s fonts and logos and create a good call to action at the end of the video, like the one we made for the Mexican nonprofit Impacto:
 NGO video for nonprofit Impacto

8. Use the NGO video to its full potential

It’s great if you used it for an event and successfully raised funds, but don’t think that’s all your video can do. Post it on social media, send it in your newsletters, put it on your website, let it be seen everywhere! But remember: although a video can be a very important part of your communication strategies and campaigns, it’s only one part of it.

NGO video mobile statistics

9. Measure the video’s impact

Last but not least, you should be able to measure the impact of your NGO video. How? Evaluate if it has accomplished its goals. “With the video we commissioned, we were looking to spread the word about our mission, reach more people who needed wheelchairs and raise funds,” says Ilse Caballero of the NGO Refugio de Esperanza. “After we used it on social media and during presentations, we received hundreds of requests of wheelchairs and $50,000 in funding for 2,000 new wheelchairs that will be sent all over the world. It also brought us more press, as we were featured in an Al Jazeera video about happiness in Guatemala.”

So we’ve told you how to make a video, but here’s another important point:

What to avoid in an NGO video

  • Don’t have someone on camera talking about the NGO for minutes, it will simply bore people. Instead, you can use video with overlayed text to illustrate  your points.
  • Don’t use pity to make people donate money. Instead, tell positive stories of change with real characters.
  • Don’t make it about your NGO. Instead, the story should focus on your staff, donors or, most importantly, the people you serve.
  • Don’t ignore the sound. Instead, choose good background music and have clean direct sound while you shoot.
  • Don’t make it about the campaign. Instead, shoot a story about an interesting character that people can relate to. Remember the NGO video will only attract and move viewers if they feel connected to it.

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