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.
Short on time? Read this transcript-ish instead.
(This is an edited mash-up of transcripts from my video, which is my new favourite way to blog when I need to document ideas quickly.)
Hey, welcome back to Conversion Copy Co.
In this tutorial, we’re going to look at a storyboard for the charity, Thrive’s, new marketing video. To be clear, this is not an explainer video. It’s the one video that will be used across channels and at in-person events to raise funds.
We’re going to talk through key questions you must consider 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. Chances are, it’s difficult for you as well because you’re deep in the details of what your charity does day-to-day.
And if you outsource your script (as Thrive did to a video marketing company), that scriptwriter can only work with what you give them in the brief.
But here, I’ll give you some tools for being more persuasive in your not-for-profit marketing video.
So, what does persuasion done right look like when you’re making a not-for-profit marketing video?
The Supermajority Video: An Incredible Example of Not-for-Profit Marketing
I love the Supermajority video . 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.
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.
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 helping us self-identify as someone who is already part of the movement.
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. If you listen to some of the most persuasive copywriters, they sell you with “should.” 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. (More on that below.)
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.
Your audience is largely unconcerned with ‘how the sausage is made’, as they say – at least they don’t want to hear it 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.
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. Primarily in Africa.
Which means it will be harder for Thrive than for Supermajority. Harder to capture attention. Here’s why. People tend to care first about what’s immediately relevant to their own lives.
Supermajority gets to rally American women to help themselves. Thrive has to rally mostly North Americans to support people with dramatically different lives, thousands of miles away.
And there’s a level of problem fatigue. Which isn’t entirely fair because the problems in Africa haven’t stayed the same over decades. But from here, it can feel like poverty is intractable.
So knowing these special challenges, Thrive’s video has to work harder. From the very start.
Find Your Hook – And Recognize Scripts That Have None
Now, the Thrive video 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 to watch and 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.In the Thrive storyboard, this soil concept is presented as ‘the hook’. But it’s not really a hook. Which is not exactly the video marketing company’s faulty – it comes down to the briefing.
It’s important to know what a hook is, because your entire video can be framed around one.
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 what you’re against.
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.
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 get a diagnosis and point to the cause… you have a higher impact message.
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.
How you can pick a fight in your charity messaging? How can you stand against something, even if it feels scary?
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 need to listen to what’s disruptive out there – to what little shifts there are in the consciousness, 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?
Help the audience imagine a ‘what if’ scenario?
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?”
Now, we’ve talked about three excellent hooks for a not-for-profit marketing video. Pick a fight. Disrupt expectations. Or ask, What if?
Tap into what they already care about.
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.
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 your charity solves – in a way that matters to your audience.
A common copywriting formula for a video or other persuasive argument is Problem, Agitate, Solution. There are variations, but 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.
Be smart about hard data in charity marketing videos.
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 your charity solves snappy.
In the storyboard, here, they have proposed showing the work that Thrive does on the ground in poor communities.
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.
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 conversion copywriting 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.
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 by current supporters and donors who just need to be reminded why they should still care about you.
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?
Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to break the copywriting 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.
Now, as in the Supermajority video, you can post a more specific call-to-action in text on the final screen with the url. Different versions can easily be edited in.
But remember – your audience will only take up that call to action 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, break the specificity rules to find an umbrella 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.