Investing in Video: The Nonprofit Video Benchmark Report

web-video-iconby Miriam Brosseau

Social media marketing experts like Mari Smith are calling 2013 “the year of video,” and with good reason. The social web is increasingly image-driven, and video accounts for some of the most engaging and emotionally compelling content available. More than half of all Internet content is video. YouTube accounts for 4 billion hours of videos viewed every month. In this “new world order,” attention is the currency, and content, especially video, remains king. But to what extent are nonprofits taking advantage of video?

It is with this question in mind that See3, in collaboration with YouTube and PR firm Edelman, launched the very first benchmark study into nonprofit video production and use. Results were tallied from a diverse group of nearly 500 respondents, representing nonprofits of all sizes across the United States and Canada, working in areas from education to the health and human services to religion. The key findings included the following:

  • Video is important, and becoming more important.

    80% of respondents said video is important to their origination today

    91% believe video will become more important in the next 3 years

    92% value the investment they have made in video

  • Organizations want to make more video, but aren’t allocating the funds to do so. There is a massive disconnect between the belief that video is really important, working and wanting more of it, and allocating the funds to make more videos. Nearly 2/3 of organizations say their video budgets will stay the same or decline.
  • Metrics with video are hard and that’s probably one thing holding back investment. The survey reveals that organizations are counting what is easy to count: views, likes, and clickthroughs. These numbers only have real meaning and value if you understand their connection to the underlying organizational goals that the video was meant to achieve. If, for example, your goal is email sign-ups, how do views translate into constituent engagement? However, when it comes to analyzing the impact of their videos, 76% of the respondents either don’t know how it’s measured or they only track it anecdotally.

Even though most nonprofits recognize the “video revolution” and want to do more, few are prepared to make video really work for them. There are many barriers to having an effective video program at nonprofits. Budget, for example, is one of those barriers. The biggest challenge, however, is not about money – it’s about culture. Video, like websites before it, will become one of those communications tools that are indispensable to organizations. Organizations will find a way to build internal capacities and think differently about how they use video … because they have to. This report is a first step to understand how to move in that direction.

The following are three broad recommendations for the Jewish nonprofit community based on the findings of the study:

  • It’s time to think seriously about and investing in video production. If you went to a nonprofit in 1995 and said they needed a website, they would probably have seen the writing on the wall and said, ‘Yes, we will get a website.’ If you told them that within ten years they would have a whole web department, they would say you were crazy. They would ask, ‘Where could we possibly get the money to do that?’ Nevertheless, the culture started to shift – even before organizations had the ability to assign money and staff. We are in the same place now with video.
  • Don’t let budget concerns keep you from telling your story in the most compelling way possible. As mentioned above, the benchmark report clearly showed a disconnect between the value and potential nonprofits see in video and the investment they are willing to make in its production. To begin closing this gap, start small and build your capacity. Find the staff member who already has the ability and support her, or get training for that person who has the interest. The combination of local or online classes with the equipment you probably already have on hand (reading this article on a smartphone, perhaps?) can give you an affordable way to hit the ground running. Additionally, tapping into resources across silos (or even across organizations?) may not only streamline resources, but build social capital among stakeholders which lays the foundations for a video-conscious culture.
  • Most importantly, have a goal for your video and determine whether you’ve hit it. This means more than counting hits on YouTube or glowing with pride at those anecdotal stories of your video’s impact. It means planning a campaign first, before you even think about the video element. It means not conflating key performance indicators (KPI’s – things such as clickthroughs, likes, and views) with meeting real goals. It means understanding the audience you’re talking to, defining the one clear message your video can relate to them, and tying the results back to the broader change your organization is trying to make in the world.

The benchmark report not only details findings, but is intended as a guidebook for stepping up your own video efforts. See3 is also hosting a series of three webinars to dig further into the study and help nonprofits begin to take advantage of video in a more serious way – sign up for the series here. We encourage you to download the full study, join the conversation on Twitter (#intofocus), or get in touch with See3 to learn more about bringing your stories to life.

The video train has left the station. Is your organization on board or running to catch up?

Miriam Brosseau is Associate Director of Network Initiatives at The Jewish Education Project and Darim Online.

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  1. Alan says

    “Organizations want to make more video, but aren’t allocating the funds to do so… Don’t let budget concerns keep you from telling your story in the most compelling way possible.” I wonder if (hope?) this means more nonprofits will take the DIY route, meaning we’ll see more awesome vids like this one which features the rabbi and chazzan from (one of) my shul(s): Not what See3 wants to hear, I’m sure, but by golly if the shul didn’t exceed their goal, and continue to raise money today. Here’s an example of a slightly more produced vid from JTS’ ReFrame that most folks already have the technology to create on their computers: Sure, it’s not as spiffy as some of the stuff See3 and Edelman do, but it’s just as impactful – maybe moreso for the folks who were in the room at the time it was shot.

    “Video, like websites before it, will become one of those communications tools that are indispensable to organizations.” With 2013 being the “year of the video” and all, I would argue that videos are already indispensable. I’m just not convinced that you need a whole bunch of money to hire a big firm or to start a video production department to make your point. I know we’re fond of stressing the “social” in “social media;” why should video content be any different? It’s true that in many cases, we viewers demand high gloss and production value, but when it comes to nonprofits, I think we’d prefer to feel confident that our donations are going to a good cause rather than make-up and lighting.

    So, good for See3 , YouTube, and Edelman for launching the study. Nonprofits use and NEED to use video differently than most other folks. I expect – nay, demand – high quality vid production from pop musicians, art films, oil companies, etc. But I’d be much more likely to care about a good cause if my friend showed me a funny/shocking/moving video he shot about it in 30 seconds with his cell-phone camera, than if a random stranger showed me a fancy-schmancy 6-minute video it took a dozen people several weeks and thousands of dollars to make.

  2. says

    Miriam hits it right on the head in the first paragraph: “video accounts for some of the most engaging and emotionally compelling content available.”

    Yep. We at G-dcast (a Jewish media production company) agree. We have seen time after time that there’s a magic in video that unlocks tricky ideas for kids and adults and inspires further learning. Many times, I see a kid watch one of our shorts and come away fired up about learning more from the original Torah or Talmud source. It’s very satisfying.

    Important to keep in mind, also, is that one shouldn’t make a video just to make a video. Remember the lessons of the (first) dot com boom/bust: just because you have a fun idea doesn’t mean it’s a good video project for you to invest your hard-won funds into. Think hard about your goal in producing a video – do you want to teach something? Convert people to newsletter subscribers? Raise money? All these things are possible but as See3 says, they require planning, testing and expertise from educators, marketers or fundraisers respectively. And you should make a video when a video is the BEST way to tackle the goal. If a page of text would be just as good, do that instead.

  3. says

    As a video producer I am all for the use of more of video by non-profits. That said, I would recommend reading this report with a grain of salt. YouTube’s involvement puts any findings into question. It should not be a surprise that a report produced by YouTube is encouraging greater investment in online video.

    The last point raised by the article above is really most important: “have a goal for your video and determine whether you’ve hit it.” This is the best measure of success.

    I’ve downloaded my copy and look forward to reading it.

  4. says

    Alan, See3 loves to hear about DIY video! While we make awesome professional productions, our primary work is to help organizations achieve their missions, not make videos. The way we see it is like a pyramid, where the foundation is in-house with lots of content and the smaller part are a few key professional productions that have a long shelf-life. In fact, we are launching a product called Propelit, to help orgs get their constituents to make iPhone videos — it’s starting Beta testing and you can see more about it here And we have training programs to help orgs figure out and develop their own in-house capacity.

    Sarah – your work at G-dcast is AWESOME and has been a game-changer in online storytelling in the Jewish community. Totally agree — let real goals drive your tactics and beware the shiny objects.

    Noah — I can understand why you might think YouTube would want to promote online video. But the truth is, they don’t have to. It’s massive. No need to fake it. YouTube doesn’t need nonprofits to make money. Like Google, they have some programs to help nonprofits that are very small for them, and big for the nonprofits. The YouTube Nonprofit Program gives nonprofits things no one else gets, including clickable annotations that let you create links in videos to outside websites. (Everyone can use annotations, only nonprofits can make those links go outside of YouTube.) (So if your org isn’t in the nonprofit program, it should be.) And just to say, YouTube did not have editorial control of this report, it was done independently with the input and support of the three sponsoring organizations. YouTube gave us some data from their platform that they had never released.

  5. says

    Hi Everyone, I just came across this article and it gives great insight into this topic. Our company produces a large amount of films for the Jewish non-profit world, possibly one of the most. Over the last 2 years we have seen an increase in spending for films overall. I cant agree more that video is key to every marketing plan out there for non profits, but like I always tell my clients, its a tool in your overall strategy. If you dont have a strategy the video wont really have an ROI and do anything for your cause.

    Todays generation is all tech savvy, online and mobile. If a non profit doesn’t have a presence online and have films, they wont reach this generation. People ask me all the time why do you want to work with non profits? I explain easily, that I love to work on projects that mean something and make a difference. We produced a film a few years back that today on a weekly basis I get comments on and more important has made an impact all over the world. Thats a great feeling and is worth more than a corporate video.

    The future is here and its changing on a constant basis. Its important as a creative company to stay on its toes and keep on creating content that is fresh, stay current on technologies to help make better films and have a strong passion for this space.

    So thank you for this article and thanks to See3 for the study.

    Think BiG