VIDEO MAXIMUS Part 1: How Cost-Conscious Nonprofits Can Make the Most of Video

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This is part one in a 7-part series of articles examining how a nonprofit organization with a small staff and limited budget can successfully delve into video, and utilize it in a variety of powerful ways to achieve multiple goals. See if it doesn’t get you thinking about Video Production for your organization.


To appreciate the value of video to a nonprofit organization, it helps to identify two main categories of video content.


I think of the first category of video as “representational,” in that its purpose is to record and represent an event in a straightforward way. This type of video is useful to document events such as:

Press conferences
Panel discussions
Awards ceremonies
Artistic performances

You might wonder why you would need to bother filming something like a press conference or awards ceremony if there are going to be media outlets there. In these cases, it’s important to remember that media will use only a small amount of video (if any) should they choose to report on the event – and they will generally not make their footage available for your use. Also, it’s not unusual for a media outlet to use a clip that you feel does not clearly state your intentions. If you have filmed the event yourself from beginning to end, you then have the ability to make that entire footage available to the public, and to focus on segments that help make your points more clear. There are also many other promotional uses for these kinds of videos, which will be discussed later.

For these types of events, there is a question of whether to “stream” the video live over the internet while the event is happening, or to film the event and present it online after the event is over. Both options offer pros and cons. The main advantage of editing your video and presenting it later is that you have the option of editing the footage, as well as dividing it up and presenting it in a series of linked videos that can each be viewed (and promoted) separately. This affords a tremendous amount of promotional opportunity, which will be discussed later.


The second category of video is “presentational,” in that it is a more sophisticated production consisting of interviews and event footage, edited to create a “documentary” type film – like a TV commercial. This type of video is useful to inform a particular target audience, for example:

To show current or potential donors how their contributions are used
To show a project funder how their grant was used
To inform board members of the organization’s activity
To provide a window into programs that are otherwise closed to the public

Relating to that last example, if your nonprofit runs programs that deal with sensitive issues such as prisoner reentry, domestic violence, child welfare, etc., then you are likely well aware of the challenge you face in informing the public about the program while maintaining the privacy of the program participants. This is where an edited video can be useful, incorporating testimonials from program administrators and volunteers, who are witnesses to the program’s success. It can help people outside the program get some idea of what happens inside.

There are instances where these two types of video coincide – for example, when producing a presentational “year-end review” film for your annual fund-raising gala, you may use clips from several representational program videos you have produced throughout the past year.

In considering these areas where video can be beneficial, its value becomes readily apparent. Video is more powerful than written text. Video helps you reach a wider audience (as it can be viewed by many more people than were in the room at the time). And video can be referenced later, for use in your newsletters, on your website, and all your social media platforms. When you start to fully utilize video, it can very quickly become an indispensable tool for your organization’s outreach and public relations.

Of course, video can be produced by simply contracting an outside source, although that is usually cost prohibitive. So this series of articles is focused on how the nonprofit can directly become the producer of its own video, thereby cutting costs, and taking complete control over the medium, and the message it is used to convey.

As you might imagine, “presentational” video is a more sophisticated filming and editing process that builds upon skills gained while making “representational” videos. So for the purposes of this blog, the focus will be on representational videos – essentially, the filming of press conferences, panel discussions, awards ceremonies and artistic performances. Future blogs will go beyond that to making more commercial-like videos.


My company is called SocialNet Works, LLC, & our motto is “Helping Faith-Related Nonprofits Gear for Growth through Social Media.” We provide all of the video services described in this series, as well as offer training to in-house staff on the same practices.