Six Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Nonprofit Video

By Josh Gold

More nonprofits are producing films to support their causes than ever before. Maybe you’re thinking of making one yourself, to update donors, target your fundraising efforts to new audiences or give your public face a little extra zing or polish.

Over the years, we’ve seen companies execute film-based marketing strategies with great success. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen which mistakes most commonly keep a great concept from achieving its potential. There are a lot of traps you can easily fall into if you’re not keeping your eyes open.

Here are some common snags to watch out for:

1. Forgetting thebig picture

Video production is a long process with many moving pieces. When you’re caught up in the day-to-day problems, you may find yourself getting carried away by an exciting idea or feature that isn’t really the most constructive use of your resources.

The best way to avoid this is to subject every decision to the question: “Does this help us achieve our goal?”

Is the purpose of the film to raise money? Recruit more participants? Raise awareness? Every aspect of production ultimately needs to come back to this central premise.

2. Trying to include too much

We know that your instinct is to cram in as many ideas and visuals as possible. Videos are big, expensive projects, and you want to get as much out of your investment as you can.

But this tendency can lead to overcrowding, clutter, and confusion. It weakens your ability to connect with viewers and does more harm than good. A clear, controlled message is unquestionably the better choice.

3. Going for information instead of emotion

Video is an ideal format for introducing yourself to the viewer. This isn’t a matter of sharing all the facts and figures underlying your work; it’s about making a personal connection.

Videos tell stories. They make jokes. They put a human face on your organization so that viewers can relate to your cause. This emotional investment is what drives people to contribute to you rather than to some other worthy movement.

Leave the finer details to your website or the glossy pamphlets. Once the video has drawn them in, viewers will be able to look these things up at their own pace.

4. Failure to prioritize during filming

As you start to work, it might seem that every moment is a potential filming opportunity: “We have a famous presenter coming and we’d love to feature him in the video. Let’s interview fifteen more people while we’re at it.”

Your organization is complex, layered, and unique, and you want to make sure that the full scope of who you are comes across in the final product.

Trust us when we tell you that good planning is the best way to deal with this concern. A professional marketing firm will work with you to prepare your concept, shot list, and interviews based on valid criteria rather than last-minute panic.

If a filming opportunity does pop up unexpectedly, stop and take a breath. You’ll often find that eleventh hour solutions are redundant; you’ve already put everything you need into place.

5. Disregarding theutilization plan

Your homepage, a live presentation and Facebook all have different requirements. That’s why your video will need to be modified according to what you intend to do with it.

The worst thing you can do is shoot the footage and only then determine how you’re going to use it. You need to go into production knowing which techniques are most suited to your plans. Otherwise, you will likely waste time and money filming scenes you won’t even be able to use.

Utilization shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be an inextricable part of planning and creating every film.

6. No calltoaction

You’ve just spent thousands of dollars putting together an emotionally affecting video. You’ve spent yet more money getting that video in front of the right people. But if you didn’t give them a way to follow up, the energy you inspire may well disappear before anything comes of it.

A video without a call to action is like a meal served without a fork and knife. It isn’t impossible for viewers to respond, but it’s surely inconvenient, and most won’t bother to get their hands dirty. Without a prompt from you, it may not even occur to them to try!

Make sure you know exactly what you want people to do after watching your film. Then make sure they know it too. Give them a way to accomplish it, and you’ve greatly increased the chances that they will.

It takes a lot of work to create a quality video. You don’t want to undercut all that effort by making an easily avoidable mistake. Keep this list in mind, and you’ll get through production without a hitch.

Josh Gold, owner of Serio Films, has spent the past eight years working with nonprofits to grow their brands through video-based marketing. Josh can be reached at