Making a Video Without a Budget

By Josh Gold

These days, it’s hard for any organization to make do without video.

For nonprofits in particular, it’s hard to compete for attention among prospects and donors, and hard to impress those whose eyes you do manage to catch.

But video is expensive, too. At their most elaborate, videos can utilize sets or exclusive locations, actors, script writers, original music, and more. When you see a flashy, corporate ad, that’s likely the scale they’re working on. Plenty of nonprofits, on the other hand, make great videos that rely on their own internal resources, people and locations to convey their character authentically without breaking the bank.

We’ve broken down the process before so you can understand exactly what goes into making a video and where it makes sense to cut costs.

If it’s within your means, there are good reasons to make the investment in a quality video. But even if hiring a film crew is a stretch for your annual budget, that doesn’t have to be the end of it for you.

Wait for it

Making a video isn’t all or nothing, and it isn’t now or never. If you can’t do it this year, see if you can still set aside a small amount of your budget for next year. See if you can do this a few years running.

If your organization is able to think long-term, you may end up being able to make a video after all.

When you do, don’t forget that it’s likely going to be a good few years until you can put the next one together. Try to avoid references or concepts that will give the video a short shelf life. Stick with the core principles that will continue to define you no matter what else changes.

And in the meantime…

Total or partial DIY

It’s also possible to make small, semi-professional videos where you do most of the work yourselves.

The most important thing is that you have a plan and purpose for the video.

Take a step back and ask yourself whether these things are clearly defined: Do you have a concrete goal that you want to accomplish with this video? Do you have a target audience in mind? Do you know how and where this video is going to be shared?

Knowing what you’re doing and why – and sticking with it – is half the battle when you’re trying to make the most of your resources.

Then, you can focus on how you’re actually going to get it done:

  • Choose someone with steady hands and a good phone camera to capture some footage of your activities. The lighting may not be perfect, but there’s still plenty of value in the content.
  • If you can afford to hire someone to do the editing, that will go a long way towards making the video feel polished and ensuring that your chosen message comes across.

Again, remember that messaging is key. You’re not going to be able to do much with a video that looks great but has nothing to say.

  • Try reaching out to a student or aspiring filmmaker who needs experience and is willing to work for less. You’ll both be doing each other a favor.

Have some more ideas for making low-cost videos? Any other questions or comments? Feel free to share.

Josh Gold, owner of Serio Films, has helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars through video-based marketing. You can follow Josh and his team over at and To get more discussions like these right to your inbox, sign up for their newsletter.