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.