Getting the Message Across with YouTube: 7 Ways to Take Your Nonprofit to the Next Level


What is one thing your organization can do to improve its message? Get online with video blogs.YouTube is to television what Guttenberg was to the press.

Well, maybe it isn’t that extreme, but you get the analogy.

How This Post is Organized

In this entry, I present you with 6 strategies your organization can use to craft a superior video message. Each will be accompanied by a best practice example by video.

For further recommendations, go to my YouTube account and see what I am watching. I am carefully gathering a folder of best practice models in my playlist labeled The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy.

Why Your Foundation Should Use Video

Video is an advanced, but important step for an organization. Videos are most often used by established foundations with set priorities and secure funding– but they don’t have to be.

If your organization prioritizes media relations and has a graphic designer or someone computer savvy on staff, a video is a great way to get your organization’s message to a wider and more diverse audience.

Six Things To Consider When Making a Video

Here are six high value components for a YouTube video:

  1. Target your audience
  2. Combine images, text, and voice to appeal to multiple intelligences
  3. Use visual analogies to better communicate your message
  4. Use humor– it’s universal
  5. Keep it short
  6. Brand up front and give instructions on how to get connected

Best Practice Examples

1. Target Your Audience

The number one key to success in communicating your message through video is to understand your target audience and speak directly to them. Keep in mind age, language, level of education, socioeconomics, and geography.

The best practice example for targeting your audience is a condom education video from India (with subtitles). Through dance, humor, and an array of mixed media techniques, the Nrityanjali Academy speaks to every audience about sexual health and education.

Their message is so universal that any person in the world could understand this message.

2. Combine images, text, and voice to appeal to multiple intelligences

Some people are more visually oriented, some are more aural, but we all respond better to media that combines these aspects in totality.

The combination of these factors accounted for MTV’s immediate and lasting popularity and success that had thousands chanting, “I want my MTV!” What can you do to make your viewers say the same?

Public service announcements have an especially strong history with the combination technique because their message needs to be communicated to the widest possible audience. Using images, text, and voice also allows you to produce a higher quality, lower budget product.

For this example, I have chosen the Australian government’s Australia Says No to Violence Against Women Campaign, which uses strong textual stamps to contrast what is being said by the speakers.

3. Use visual analogies to better communicate your message

As effective as the combination of visuals, voice, and text are, using analogies can bring your message to another level.

I often view advertisements and video campaigns from around the world, many of whose language I either understand slightly or don’t understand at all. What elements unite an effective message? A visual analogy that overcomes all language and cultural differences.

Check out this Greenpeace video on climate change to see visual analogies in action.

If a picture says a thousand words, can a video raise 100,000 voices? Let’s hope so.

4. Use humor– it’s universal

Humor is defined by the unexpected. Surprise your audience by doing something outside of your typical message. Change the way they view your organization. Startle them into action. Jar their reality.

While this video for the Literacy Foundation of Quebec may not directly qualify as humor, it does use the unexpected to get a message across to two different audiences (read and listen to find out how they do it).

To get best practice examples for using humor and spoofs in videos and text ads, visit Claude Chaffiotte’s Bl’ong blog.

5. Keep It Short

The best messages are powerful and simple.

One of the best examples of this that I have seen is the video of ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History. The impact of their 34 second video is undeniable.

ONE uses stark contrasts and a simple message to communicate with their audience. The celebrities featured bring extra cache to the cause, but the effect that is used is directly transferable to your organization.

Think how simple this video was to produce and consider how you could do something similar to promote your own message.

6. Brand Up Front and Give Instructions on How to Get Connected

Sounds simple, right?

How many times have you watched a television advertisement that could be for jeans, cologne, a soft drink, or a new car? Don’t keep your audience wondering about who you are. Make it obvious from the very start.

In the first 5 seconds of this video for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we get the message: “Imagine a world with no VFW.” We relax. We know the agenda and now we can pay attention to the message without wondering what the angle is.

State your organization up front and let the video communicate your mission and your message. Everything you do contributes to your brand. Your video should be your brand. Think about how you can make this happen.

7. Take the Next Step

Where do you go from here?

Assess your priorities and capabilities. If this is something that you are interested in for the future, but aren’t sure about your present ability, keep your eye out for best practice examples, be they on television, text, internet, or video.

Think about what a good video has to look like. Think about the central message of your organization and how best to communicate with your audience. Think about using a video as a call to action.


Videos work best for a young audience because they are the most internet savvy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Maximize your video’s reach by launching it on your website, putting it on your Facebook page, and promoting it front and center.

Your ability to make a good, professional video says a lot about the flexibility of your organization and its ability to surf the crest of current trends.

Successful nonprofits rely on a powerful, simple message to communicate with their audiences. A video can help you do this.

Join YouTube’s Nonprofit Channel

In the meantime, every nonprofit reading this should think about applying for YouTube’s nonprofit channel. (And check out DoGooder TV, a nonprofit media hub.)

The first 300 organizations to sign up for YouTube’s nonprofit channel get a free video camera. And you know what? That offer has been up for weeks, far longer than it should have been if we nonprofits were treating technology and mainstreaming our message like we should be.

DoGooderTV Logo

I know that YouTube will take that offer down as soon as it is met. Learn from this that the field is wide open. We are all figuring out what works best and going with it. This is a new medium and there is a lot of flexibility and forgiveness from viewers. Get in there and start using the resources you have been offered.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Contact Me with Best Practice Examples

Proud of your organization’s video? Please send me a message. I would love to take a look and may even feature you on a follow up post.


Title photo sourced from here, with thanks.


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3 Responses to Getting the Message Across with YouTube: 7 Ways to Take Your Nonprofit to the Next Level

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