What’s the First Video I Should Make for my Nonprofit?

By Josh Gold

We’ve spoken about this in the past.

There is no one perfect video for all occasions.

What are you planning to use your video for? Who is your intended audience? When and where will they be viewing the video? The most effective message, format and style all change according to the context.

But not everyone has unlimited funds to spend crafting the ideal, multi-tiered campaign that will, with the combined power of big and small videos at every stage, funnel prospects from awareness to commitment. There has to be a cost-effective, constructive and sensible way to get started. Right?


In today’s post, we make the case for choosing the Identity Film, which lays out the general ethos of your organization using a mix of on-camera interviews and supporting visuals.

It is both a productive starting point and a stable foundation for the future expansion of your digital marketing efforts.

How does it manage to be all that? Good question.

It’s informative

The purpose of the Identity Film is right there in the name – it’s a film that distills and conveys who you are for the viewer. It does this by defining your USP (unique selling proposition).

What do you do? Why is it important? What sets you apart from other nonprofits with similar organizational missions?

By answering fundamental questions like these, the Identity Film serves as an effective introduction to interested parties. It makes it easy for the public to learn what you’re all about.

You’ve most likely seen videos like this before, say upon encountering a new organization or visiting its website. If you’ve been around the block a few times, you may even begin to feel that this kind of video is overdone and that you’d rather try something new to stand out from the crowd. There are certainly strategies for how you can keep things fresh as well as avoid common mistakes – after all, just because everybody is doing it doesn’t mean they know how to do it right!

All that aside, the real lesson is: Don’t overlook the central importance of telling your story.

Think of it this way: Imagine a flashy ad campaign that draws attention to your organization. That surely sounds well and good. Now imagine viewers, intrigued by your ads, looking into your work more seriously. Isn’t that the moment when you need to sell the hardest? What do you have in place that can not only explain what you stand for, but do it in a way that brings prospects fully on board? How are you going to seal the deal?

Spreading awareness is an excellent goal and an exciting, creative problem to tackle with video … under the right circumstances.

But it’s a wasted effort if you can’t convince prospective supporters that there’s more to you than viral videos. By concentrating limited resources in the wrong place, you wind up losing out.

People need to get to know you before they can become invested in your cause. It’s one of your most basic marketing needs.

Its versatile

So, the Identity Film sits at the heart and center of who you are. Unless your institutional aims change, this means that it will be applicable in most circumstances, even if it’s not the most specialized option. If you’re only making one video, it makes sense to get one that can be incorporated into your various marketing efforts with a good deal of success.

When this film is featured prominently on your homepage, it draws the eye and serves up an immediate, rousing introduction to what you have to offer. When you’re promoting a current issue or fundraising opportunity across social media, you can use this video to brighten up the blurb as well as to explain the broader context of your work.

When you send out email updates or thank-yous, you can include this video in your signature and revitalize interest by reminding viewers why they got involved with you in the first place.

If you’re giving a live presentation, opening with the video can be a great way to wake up the crowd.

The Identity Film also has a longer shelf life than more narrowly-focused films that are created for specific events or campaigns. Since those films are designed for a single goal, time and/or place, they cease to be relevant very quickly.

If you don’t have the budget to produce a new film every time, it’s great to know that you have a viable attention-getter on the shelf that will be able to spice up your marketing for a good few years.

Its credible

By deciding to invest in video, you took up the leading marketing tool, a medium that involves viewers emotionally in the experience you create for them. Use video to attract attention and then cultivate good feelings towards your brand, and you’ll begin influencing viewers’ decision-making on a deeper level.

When it comes to marketing your nonprofit, the essential emotion to evoke is trust.

Viewers need to believe you that your cause is worth their notice and that your organization is the right choice for their support. This demands more than a simple statement of the facts; you have to present the truth in a way that’s convincing enough, persuasive enough, to serve as the start of a meaningful connection.

Enter the Identity Film, whose interview-based format provides an honest and organic quality that is not easily replicated. Your staff is genuinely passionate and committed; through candid, unscripted conversations on camera, they’ll get the chance to showcase these qualities. Your work is significant to people’s lives; through authentic visuals, you’ll be able to effectively convey this reality.

Even if they don’t realize it, viewers can tell the difference between real people and actors reading lines. They can feel the history in a relevant location rather than a stage that’s been specially built. With the Identity Film, what they see is what they get.

There are other versatile, informative video types, but in this context, I always recommend the Identity Film because of its sincerity.


The Identity Film may not be perfect for every situation, but it’s a smart way to make the most of your resources. If you’re ready to begin with video marketing, it’s the first move I recommend.

I’d like to note that creating the film is a powerful experience for your organization as well. It’s probably been a long time since you had to articulate what’s at the core of your mission. You not only give viewers a reason to contribute – you give your staff an idea to rally behind. We regularly hear from clients that the process of creating an Identity Film has helped them define their identity as an institution or influenced their approach to their jobs.

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 josh@seriofilms.com.