Not-for-Profit Video Marketing Do’s and Don’ts (Video and Transcript)

If you’re creating a marketing video for your not-for-profit or impact org, I want to save you time, money and frustration.

Videos are expensive to produce and harder to change than other digital marketing materials. That’s why you need to get it right the first time.

I’ve written dozens of video scripts, but without exception, the hardest are for charities - as I’ll explain here. Your messaging is not easy.

But, your video can be extremely powerful when you break out of the all-too-common pitfalls.

In this video, I share tips, strategies and demonstrate a live teardown of a video storyboard for a charity client. You’ll also learn what really works from an example I love - the new Supermajority video.

No time to watch? Don’t worry, I’ve included a post below detailing what you absolutely must know before you create your not-for-profit video.

Watch this just to see how ridiculously animated my face gets during the Supermajority video:)

Short on time? Read this instead.

(This is an edited mash-up of transcripts from my video, which is my new favourite way to blog.)

Hey, welcome back to Conversion Copy Co.

This video is one in a series that I’m recording as I do a project for Thrive, formerly Organics for Orphans. Thrive is a very innovative not-for-profit, trying to get clearer on its messaging and make a bigger impact.

In this tutorial, we’re going to look at a storyboard for Thrive’s new marketing video.

This storyboard raises some of the key questions to think through when you create a marketing video for your charity - and points to some pitfalls you must avoid.

Let me preface this by saying that video is very hard, for a number of reasons.

It is very challenging to step outside how you think of your organization and what you do. I know this. I write video scripts all the time, but for my own business, writing about what I do is incredibly difficult.

Chances are, it's difficult for you as well because you’re deep in the details of what your charity does day-to-day.

But here, I’ll give you some tools for thinking from another perspective so you can be more persuasive in your not-for-profit marketing video.

Again, this is important because video is expensive - and also difficult to change.

If you want to test a headline or do something differently on social media, you can do so instantly and inexpensively.

Video, not always the case. That’s why we need to get it done right the first time.

So, what does getting it done right look like when you’re making a not-for-profit marketing video?

A great example is the Supermajority video here. Here’s the script, for your reference:

Women are the majority of Americans.

We are the majority of votors.

We are the majority of grassroots volunteers and donors.

Our government should look like us.

Our leaders should fight for us.

The only way we can make that happen is by standing shoulder-to-shoulder-

... with women who believe this too.

Maybe you've fought for change for decades.

Demanding equality in your home, in your workplace, from your government.

Maybe you're just getting started.

Let's work together.

Supermajority is a new organization for women who want to build our collective power and use it to change this country for good.

Because one of us can be dismissed.

Two of us can be ignored. But together-

... we aren't just the majority, we are a supermajority. And we are unstoppable. Let's make sure the entire country knows it.

Why the Supermajority Video Stands Out in a Sea of Not-for-Profit Marketing Videos

You could write a thesis on why this video works for this particular cause. But here, I’ll stick to five lessons learned from Supermajority.

One: It Has a Strong Hook

We’ll get into what a hook is and how to nail one. For now, note the opening line. It’s unexpected. They have my attention.

Two: It’s Audience-Centric

This is so critical. Note that Supermajority doesn't talk about their organization until about three quarters of the way through. And when they do, their “about us” message is a small fraction of the video script.

The rest of the message is about the audience: women.

It's about rallying them. It's about inspiring them. It's about making them feel part of something. Which brings us to…

Three: It Inspires Feeling

The Supermajority video has a lot of feels, which today is really important, especially if you’re a not-for-profit or an impact organization.

It's no longer novel just to have a video. Right now, your video has to do something else and, in my opinion, it has to make people feel something so they’ll take action.

You can write white papers to make people think. The purpose of a video is make people feel. I'm going to stand on that soap box!

What else is great about the Supermajority video?

Four: It Gets the Audience Riled Up With This One Word

This is subtle, but important.

Supermajority addresses the problem from the outset by saying "should". Women should be represented proportionally in government.

Should is a very powerful word (as I learned from Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers). It speaks to an injustice.

Supermajority gets straight to the injustice. They give it a name. They're picking a fight, which is a hook. I will talk about that more shortly.

Also note how they speak directly to the viewer, saying, ‘Maybe you’ve fought for change for decades… Maybe you’re just getting started.’

They're engaging the viewer, the audience, in the fight. They’re helping us self-identify as someone who is already part of the movement.

Five: It Keeps the Momentum

Notice the entire video keeps this sweeping, elevated emotional arc, from start to finish. That's quite a massive achievement because many of us will make the mistake of getting into the weeds of what we do in a video. And often, that will kill the energy.

Most people in your audience are not concerned with ‘how the sausage is made’, as they say - at least not in a marketing video.

You only have so much time, so use it to tell your audience what's in it for them and why they should care.

We can explain the details of our programs on the website after we’ve piqued interest with a video - and the Supermajority video definitely piques interest.

Alright, so from a copywriting perspective, those are a handful of key strategies you can borrow from the Supermajority video.

Now, let’s get back to the Thrive video in the making

Critiquing a Not-for-Profit Marketing Video

Note that the actual marketing video is not recorded - yet. It's in concept phase. I’m walking you through my first impressions of the initial video concept - which isn’t what will go to production!

When I saw this storyboard, I knew that more needed to be done on the message before the video could be made. And I wanted to share that with you because chances are, many not-for-profits are struggling with the same messaging challenges.

So, let’s get specific.

As context, Thrive trains and equips people to grow health. They teach a method for organic growing as a solution for hidden hunger.

Now, the storyboard opens by talking about the soil - that it's uncultivated, that it could be fertile but it's not. The waste here and the problem is framed in terms of the soil.

Have I already lost you? Because they'd already lost me.

To me this seems like the beginning of a BBC documentary. Something you would kick back, and if you're comfortable, maybe let the sound wash over you.

This is not what you want your charity marketing video to do. You have three seconds to catch your audience’s attention before they scroll away.

Don't start your script with something impersonal; something that your viewer, your intended audience, can't immediately relate to.

Find Your Hook - And Recognize Scripts That Have None

In the Thrive storyboard, this soil concept is presented as ‘the hook’. As soon as I saw this, I said, this is not a hook.

It's important to know what a hook is, because your entire video can be framed around this conceit.

A hook tells people why they should care. That's the definition of a hook.

There are several possible types of hooks that you can use in your charity marketing video, and we’re borrowing this list from a Copyhackers blog post.

Your hook can…

Pick a fight. Start your text / body copy by saying the opposite of what people believe to be true.

Disrupt expectations by changing a cliche. The hook for ad about a hairstyle tutorial: Drastic times call for drastic bangs.

Help them imagine, “What if?” What if you had your competitors’ keywords at your fingertips?

Cite a previously unknown study. This hook naturally requires some work – but did you know that 98.4% of all work is worth it?

Kill something off. Crop-tops are dead.

Revive something. Drop shadows are back.

Use a known quote, without “quotes.” Say hello to my little friend: Tamagotchi for iPhone 6.

Change a known quote, without “quotes.” It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of good fortune treats herself to a Porsche.

Make a confession. You’re not gonna like me for this, but…

Any of these might be right for your charity video, but the top three are really natural fit hooks.

Let’s start with the hook, ‘pick a fight’.

As a not-for-profit, you may want the broadest possible support from the largest possible audience. But sometimes the best way to rally support is to say who you’re for and who you are not for - who you are against even.

It's a bold position, but, you're not going to win everyone, right?

And the truth is that the world’s problems aren't just floating out there in the ether with no cause. There is causation. There are reasons that people are poor, that people are sick, that people don't have equality. And many of those reasons are structural, which means we can do something about them - if we fight.

So don't be afraid to pick a fight in your not-for-profit video.

If you're in a not-for-profit that’s fighting injustice, that's dealing with poverty… almost any cause that you can think of is a battle.

And it's not a battle between good and symptoms of evil.

It's a battle, often, between our drive to do good and these systems and structures. If you can personify those, if you can make those come to life… you have a higher impact message.

So, don't just paint a picture of what's wrong in the world (unless it’s an issue with low awareness). If you can get a diagnosis and point to the villain, that’s more powerful.

I'm not talking about a scapegoat, I would never recommend that you scapegoat anyone or anything, of course. But there truly are some forces for evil out there in the world, and in this case, in the case of Thrive/Organics 4 Orphans, the villain could be the industrial food complex.

The environmentally conscious, health conscious, North American population is already alive to the fact that industrial food is causing environmental problems and health problems at home.

By picking this fight, we’d be tapping into an existing animosity and broadening their perspective on the problem. We’d be saying, the problems that you see here, in North America? Those problems are even more profound in developing countries.

See how you can pick a fight in your charity messaging? How can you stand against something, even if it feels scary…

Your audience could be an audience of millions. It could be an audience of billions. You're not going to get all of those on side, but you will get more die-hard fans if you say who you're for and who you're not for, definitively.

I think that's going to be one of the new secrets for brands - to say not only what you're strongly for, but what you’re against.

There is a lot to be against in the world, and to just ignore the potential for a fight cuts off your power as a brand, as a powerful messaging organization.

Now what about the next hook option in the list? Disrupt expectations by changing a cliché.

This one can be very powerful for not-for-profits as well, because there are so many clichés around the not-for-profit sector. There are clichéd images, clichéd phrases. You really need to listen to what's disruptive out there - to what little shifts there are in the consciousness around social impact and making a difference, and give your message a twist to break out of that cliché.

So, if the cliche around Africa is classic starvation we could say, actually, it’s Hidden Hunger. It’s invisible malnourishment. And even though we can’t see it in the form of underweight bodies, hidden hunger kills 150 million children every year.

See how disrupting expectations can hook your audience in?

And then what about the next hook in the list? Helping the audience imagine a better, a 'what if' scenario? I think that can be a really powerful potential hook for a charity’s marketing video.

Not-for-profits by definition are visionary, idealistic. So, your marketing video can help your audience imagine "What if” along with you. It’s a great fit as a hook.

I just want you to remember that the ‘what if’ scenario has to be relevant to or directly speaking to your audience's life.

So, not just "What if people weren't dying of hunger?" But "What if you could make a difference in the fight against industrial food that leaves people impoverished, dependent, malnourished?"

Those, I think, are three excellent hooks for a not-for-profit marketing video. Pick a fight. Disrupt expectations. Or ask, What if?

Starting with the soil is not a good hook because our audience doesn’t care about uncultivated soil and a land without a gardener. That just doesn’t seem immediately urgent. It’s a symptom of the problem.

To get your hook right, just remember: the hook is your chance to make people care enough to keep listening, keep watching.

We have to start with something people already care about. And a good place to start is with people, up close and personal.

The Supermajority video starts with images of women that we can relate to. Which is smart. Studies show that people are attracted in ads to other people's faces. We are riveted by faces, which is part of the reason you can't look away from the Supermajority video.

Okay, so I would challenge you to get to something more personal, more human and more relatable in your marketing video.

Now, moving from the hook back to this proposal, this storyboard for Thrive’s marketing video. There are more common errors I want to point out that you can avoid while you're making your own charity marketing video.

Nail the Problem You Solve - In a Way That Makes Your Audience Take Note

A common copywriting formula for a video or other persuasive argument is Problem, Agitate, Solution. There are variations on this. So, if you follow that formula, you will be a step ahead of many video scriptors who are unsure where to start.

Unfortunately, for not-for-profits, framing the problem they solve can be tricky.

Because the problem is often complicated. And it may not be one that your audience can directly relate to. Yet you need to make it relatable.

In this storyboard for Thrive’s marketing video, the marketing company has proposed showing a flurry of stats to define the problem.

A couple of issues with this.

One, stats get people into logical mode, instead of feeling mode. And as soon as you get people switching into trying to decipher statistics, bars, graphs, you may lose them.

They raise questions like, "What are these stats? Where are they from?" Your viewer might start asking, "Is that true?" or "Oh I didn't catch that, what was that?"

They'll be thinking about and evaluating those statistics, instead of listening to the rest of your message.

And worse - if they don't understand your stats, they tune out immediately. As soon as people can't understand your message, they will stop listening.

I would strongly recommend that you stay away from too many statistics in your marketing video as a not-for-profit. Unless it's one very simple, powerful statistic, I would stay away.

Instead of using stats, find other ways to make them understand the implications of the problem you solve. Agitate the problem, as we say in copywriting, and answer the, "so what?," question. But do it in an energetic, emotional, relevant and engaging way.

Use commonly understood concepts and terms. Make the problem seem relatable, as if it could happen to your audience.

Only once you’ve made the problem come alive can you present the solution. When you do, you’re now offering relief.

Keep the Solution Snappy

In the storyboard, here, they have proposed showing the work that Thrive does, in Africa, like sitting in a classroom, learning, training. This is the solution, in fact, in a very real way.

Now, the mistake here would be to present the solution in a dry, detailed, technical way. It would be like droning on about what you do for work to a person you’ve just met at a party. You wouldn’t do that. You’d tell them just enough to keep it interesting.

As I have said before, you can get into the details of what you do elsewhere. In the video, you have to hold attention and make people feel enough to act.

Supermajority nails this. They don't get into the weeds of their solution at all.

Unless the solution itself is something highly desirable for your audience - unless the solution is the value proposition here - it’s not the focus.

In most cases, the solution is removed from your donor or supporter audience. They don’t experience it.

Now, they need to know you're doing the right things, the right way, for the right people, and getting the results. But they don't need to be weighed down with HOW it’s done in your marketing video.

So as you introduce the solution in your video, ask yourself whether you are doing so from a technical perspective (how it's done, the thing you produce, or the thing that you accomplish) or if you are talking about it in an emotionally charged, inspiring, outcomes-based way.

Just remember that if it's not inspiring, if it's not personal, if it's too technical, you should probably keep it out of your video and put it somewhere else, in an explainer section of your site.

Make Your Audience the Hero

Now, in the last part of your marketing video you want to wrap up with something inspiring that motivates your audience to take action.

But as you do so, bear in mind that the hero for your video needs to be the audience. This is true for not-for-profits, for-profits, for everyone. The hero is your audience.

Now we know, in fact, that there are many heroes in the Thrive story. The people impacted in Africa and other developing countries who are changing their lives, who are taking action, empowering themselves - they're heroes.

But for the purposes of your video, if you're speaking to potential donors, supporters in North America, you have to make them each feel like the hero, individually.

So how can you do that in your video wrap up?

How can you sell them a better version of themselves? A version of themselves that’s aligned with their values of improving the world, helping others, making others' lives better? A version of themselves that is generous?

Now - Break All the Rules in Your Call to Action

Your call to action is the statement that invites the audience to take the next step with you.

In copywriting, specificity always rules. When we write calls to action for pages, posts, emails, we make them specific. E.g. Save 10% Now.

That’s because when the outcome of an action is vague, people shy away.

Take the Supermajority call to action as an example. If I were writing a landing page or a sales page, this would be a weak call to action: Let's make sure the entire country knows it.

What does it mean? What should I do next?

But the fact is, most charities will have one main marketing video. And that video needs to speak to people at all different phases of their journey with you.

There are the people who have never heard of you. Chances are, their first step won’t be to donate immediately on watching your video. They’ll need to get to know you first. So, your call to action might be to drive them to a page where they can learn more…

And that would be a great call to action, but often your video will also be consumed and shared by people who are further along that journey. Current supporters and donors will be watching. In fact, a main function of advertising is to remind people why they should still care about you.

So, that “learn more” call to action won’t work for your existing supporters. See the challenge?

How can your call to action play by the “be specific” copywriting rule when you’re writing to a mixed audience, viewing your video under a variety of circumstances? (E.g. I didn’t discover the Supermajority video on their site. I found it on Twitter. And then I watched it repeatedly on Youtube.)

Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to break the specificity rule. You’re going to have to wrap with a call to action that meets a large swathe of your audience where you suppose they might be.

That’s the downside of traditional marketing - and video ads are traditional. It’s not easy to segment and send tailored messages, like you can with email.

The right call to action for your video is going to vary based on your strategy. The key is to think about the next best possible steps you want your various audiences to take as a result of this video.

But they’ll only take that next step if your video has inspired, energized and intrigued them to do so.

Ok? So, let’s wrap this up.

If you’re planning to invest in a marketing video for your charity, what are the main things you MUST remember?

The key takeaways here are:

Find a real hook. If it’s the pick a fight hook, then make the fight present for people. Make it a fight that they can relate to, that’s emotional, that inspires them to take action.

Keep your audience as the hero, framing everything in terms of "you." (Or we, or us if you’re creating a sense of tribe, like Supermajority.)

Use the problem, agitate, solution formula to script your marketing video, but make each piece of the formula highly relevant and desirable to your audience.

And finally, work backwards from what you want your viewer to do next; from what action you want them to take to begin their journey with you. That’s how you’ll find the right call to action for your one big video investment.

That brings us to the end of my critique of this storyboard and script.

I hope this has been helpful. There's a lot that you have to think about when you’re making a big investment in video, and it's never more complicated than it is with not-for-profits.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I would love to talk about your not-for-profit’s marketing video.