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How to use video to promote your NGO

Content Creator: Video Production

As a Civil Society Organisation or NGO you work to make society better for all. But in order to do more good work and have a greater impact, you need more people to know about your work and support it in some way. How do you spread the word around – let others know? The task can be quite daunting.

A picture is worth a 1000 words. A video, which is pictures in motion, would therefore be worth an entire book! Video is a great way to actually show people what you do and why, and hence support your organisation.

As a journalist and storyteller, I’ve been working with NGOs, helping them tell their stories. Based on my experience with Charities and civil society organisations, here are some ideas on how you could use video to promote the work of your NGO / Charity.

Why use video to promote NGO/Charity work?

Good video production requires thought and skills. Its not as easy as describing your work with text. But it can be a hell of a lot more effective in conveying your message quickly to an information loaded audience. Through a good video film, you can actually show your audience what you do, the ground realities, the impact of your work and what they could do to support your work. Through your film, your audience can experience your work without the need for them to come to you. That’s powerful!

How can you use video for your charity / NGO:

  1. Show what you do
  2. Invite others to participate – funding, volunteers, support
  3. Ask people to spread the word – share on fb, twitter etc
  4. Use video in place of print brochures or in conjunction with print material
  5. Show your films at presentations and road-shows and actually let the audience experience your work
  6. Send out your financial report (annual report) in digital format with embedded video, mixed with text and pictures, instead of plain old printed material.

This is certainly not a definitive list. There can be a lot more uses for video. But its a start.

Types of video to promote your NGO/Charity:

Once you’ve decided to use video actively to promote your NGO, you’ll need to decide what kind of videos you’d make. Here I’ll outline 3 broad categories:

The Scripted Film

Think ad-films here, the kind you see on television everyday. These can be of 5 secs to 30 secs duration. Some meant for online can be longer – upto 1 minute.

In order to produce a scripted film, you’d need – a script (duh!). A writer could come up with the script for your film based on your concept. This concept in turn would be based on what aspect of your Charity you’d like to promote – the work you do, inviting volunteers, asking for funding…

Example of a scripted film (Please Note: This is not my work but used here as an example of a scripted film).

These films are rehearsed and need production support in terms of actors, sets, props. Its staged and rehearsed like a theatrical or film production, so the final execution is flawless. A team is usually involved for scripted films. This would include a writer, director, cinematographer and editor and actors. Depending on the complexity of your scripted ad-film, the team size could vary.

The Journalistic Feature

Today, more and more organizations are opting for the raw-journalistic look for their promotional videos. Why? Perhaps its because people are so used to the stylised scripted ad-films on television, they are looking for authenticity especially when it comes to NGO, Charities and even corporates. That’s why NGOs are opting for journalistic films for their promotion work.

To do a journalistic feature, you could hire a video journalist and give him/her a brief on what aspect of the charity you would like to highlight in the video. It could be a general film on the work of your charity or some specific aspect/project/issue you tackle. It could be to invite volunteers or donors. Whatever it is, make certain you and your videojournalist is clear on the concept.

Journalistic features are typically 1min to 3minutes in duration and can be used offline during presentations, at kiosks (to play in loops) or online on your website and social media sites (more on that later). They could be embedded in your annual reports and other digital brochures.

A journalistic feature produced by a practicing video journalist is typically shot in a documentary format. What this means is the video journalist tells the story of your organisation as he sees it – much like he/she would cover an organisation for a newspaper or TV channel. He would typically share with you his idea of how he’d tell your story. Beyond that, its pretty much visually documenting what he sees in the field, interviewing the various players and coming up with a tight edit that tells the story quickly, clearly and invites the viewer to take the necessary action (volunteer, donate, spread the word etc).

In many ways a journalistic video feature for an NGO could be much cheaper and produced more quickly than a scripted ad-film. A video journalist, being experienced in telling authentic stories can work alone in available settings and lighting. Such stories can be much more authentic and close to the reality of your Charity. Your audience will feel this authenticity in the story told by your video journalist and thus be more connected with your work and more readily come around to taking the action you want them to take.

User-produced videos

These are the rawest form of video content. End users – your staff, the people you help or your volunteers could take simple shots of the stuff happening around them and with little to no editing, could upload these clips to your YouTube channel / website. Since there is no specilised skills involved (most people know how to take a video on their cell phone for instance), you could have many of these little clips uploaded daily to your site.

Here it is simply a matter of numbers. The more the better. Each clip ranging from a few secs to about a minute, no more. Quality does suffer, being nowhere close to a slick ad-film or a journalistic feature. But it is an easy and cheap method of putting your videos online. In many cases, this is the only means to tell your story especially in situations where things are happening quickly. If your own people do not take that video at that moment, its gone and the world would never know.

How do I start?

With so many decisions, the question would be, where do I start?

User-produced content is a good start, especially if you have no budget. Everyone has cellphones capable of taking reasonable video. Have your team shoot little clips and upload immediately to social channels. Consider professional training for the team by a good video journalist. This could be a quick and easy way to start video blogging your work online.

But sooner or later, you would do well to hire a good video journalist to create more professional content. Such content could be small features of 1 to 3minutes on various aspects of your Charity. A good video journalist will be able to further help you come up with angles for new features. Such a process could be in one go, where you produce many features in a month or two or, preferably, few features at a time but continuing over a longer time. For instance – one good feature released every month over a few years will ensure that your story is told in a professional way and stays relevant and fresh.

One final word…

Get a website:

Unless you are hyper local, forget about print brochures and get your NGO a good website. Its super easy these days. You could register your domain and get some webspace for just a few dollars. What you would need is a website that’s attractive and well-designed. Here the key is helping your visitors easily find stuff on your site. No room for guessing games here. Stuff like your contact info, address, who you are, your background and the work you do should be easily found and accessible on your site. Further, visitors should be able to easily find out how they could help. Donations? Volunteering? Spreading the word in their social circles? All of these should be easily accessible on your site.

To do this, you’d do well to use one of the free systems available such as WordPress or Drupal. Where you’d need to spend is on a good web designer who will help you structure the site and design the interface and look. This is crucial so spend as much as you can on a good designer.

I say WordPress or Drupal because these are standards on the web and are meant to handle and manage content. Most importantly, once your site is up and running, updating the content regularly is a breeze with these systems. And having a regularly updated site is the key to success on the web. Here’s where all of those videos you produce will help in keeping your site updated.

Hope this has been helpful. If I could help you in any way, do get in touch. Wish you all the best.

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