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Into Focus: The First-Ever Benchmark Report and Guide for Nonprofit Video


It is clear to everyone in the nonprofit world that video is a critical communications tool. Video is everywhere, online and on mobile. YouTube alone delivers four billion video views a day. How nonprofits can effectively use video is less clear – questions of how to produce compelling video, how to measure video’s effectiveness and how to budget for it still loom large.

To address these and other questions See3 Communications has launched a new report, “Into Focus,”  in partnership with YouTube‘s Nonprofit Program and Edelman as part of their shared commitment to helping move the nonprofit sector forward through effective communications. The guide, which See3 describes as, “the first ever benchmark guide to examine how and what nonprofits are doing with video” is available here. For an overview of the report and its top “take-aways” go here. 

To give you a taste of the thinking behind this project, we caught up with See3’s CEO, Michael Hoffman, to ask him a few questions about the project:

michael-011. This is a substantive report and project–500 organizations surveyed, a great deal of data analyzed, webinars and other programmatic follow-up–what was the impetus for the time spent? 

Video is the most important communications tool we have. Video already makes up more than half all the data on the internet, and it continues to grow. People are watching video. And yet, there is still little discussion about video in the nonprofit world. There are benchmark reports and surveys for social media and email and fundraising and all kinds of other things nonprofits do. There was nothing about video. We felt that wasn’t right and the time had come to create a report based on real data.

2. Was there anything that surprised you in the survey?

The biggest surprise for us was the gap between how important people think video is (very!) for them now and in the future, and how few say they expect to put additional resources toward it. That makes no sense! When you dig deeper you find out what’s keeping organizations from doing what they know they need to do.

In some ways, the report confirmed a lot of what we see working with organizations day in and day out with video. One thing we did here was to put together a whole set of tips and tricks in one place. So this is more than a report from the survey, it’s also a guide for creators.

3. One of the interesting findings in the report is that although video is seen by nonprofits as highly important, more than two thirds say they think their video budgets will decline or remain flat over the next year.  Do you have any advice for communicators on how to make the case for video budgets?

I think organizations cannot see the direct ROI from video and so it doesn’t garner the attention of other investments yet. And fundraisers, who are able to tell to the penny how much direct mail has raised them, cannot do the same for video, and so do not want to use their limited budgets on projects that are not proven to work.

Advocating for resources starts with having clear and achievable goals. If you go to your boss and say you are making a viral video that is going to change everything… well, you quickly become the boy that cried wolf. It rarely works out that way.

And so I put a premium on small victories at affordable prices which can then lead to more investment and bigger wins. A thank you video for a donor can be done in-house and inexpensively. When the leadership hears how it was impactful toward an upgrade or strong engagement by that donor, then that’s a win that can translate into the more ambitious project.

That intro video for the website might cost a bit, but it might also have a shelf-life of 5 years and make your leadership proud to share it. And it might not oversell expectations.

There are many examples of how smart goals and smart investments can lead to a more productive path and unlock the dollars over time.

4. What is it about video that is so compelling?

I am not sure, but it’s not new. I remember being in a Bedouin tent in the Sinai desert and there was no running water. It was a shack, not even. It had a corrugated tin roof and no sides and goats in the house. The people were poor nomadic farmers. But there was a small generator and a small TV nevertheless.

That was in 1989. These folks are probably watching “Arrested Development” on their iPhones today. Regardless of why, video is here to stay and only those that end up creating compelling content on a regular basis will gain enough attention to raise funds, change laws, move opinions or educate people.

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