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10 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Next Fundraising Video

Posted by on April 7th, 2021
Posted in Blog, Digital, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Fundraising, Videos   

Whether you’re considering a video for your capital campaign, annual fund, ongoing fundraising campaign or a special anniversary fund drive, avoiding these pitfalls will ensure your video leads to fundraising success.

Mistake #1: Thinking your video can do it all and say it all. 

You’re investing a lot in a video, so you might be tempted to try to make it as versatile as possible so you can use it in many ways. But focusing on the fundraising need while also trying to summarize your strategic plan, recruit volunteers, and/or offer a general overview of your organization won’t work. If you try to say too much, you’ll end up saying nothing at all. Your fundraising video has one audience (donors) and one goal (making them want to give.)

Mistake #2: Talking all about you and not about me. 

If I’m your donor watching your video I don’t want to hear only about your mission, vision, and goals. Just like that bad date who spends the whole time regaling you with stories about themself, your video should not focus exclusively on your organization. Invite me into the conversation. Help me see how I fit in and how, as a donor, I matter to you. It’s not just about what you need; your video should signal to your donors how they fit into your story.

Mistake #3: Failing to define what you want the viewer to do. 

Like mistake #2, failing to keep the donor front and center will dilute the power of your video. Tell your donors exactly what you need from them and why. The last thing you want is a video that shares your nonprofit’s vision without putting your donor in the center of the image. That kind of video is likely to receive polite smiles, a “So what?” response, and little generosity.

Mistake #4: Making an informational video that doesn’t illuminate the problem your donors’ money can help you solve

Engage your donors emotionally so they want to help. If your video is all facts, i.e., “The construction costs are $4.5 million so we’ve launched a campaign to raise the money for our new building”, you’ve failed to include urgency and emotion in your campaign — the two most important factors in your success.

Mistake #5: Focusing on features. 

Speaking of buildings, (see Mistake #4) whether you’re erecting one or not, your fundraising campaign is not about the building. To excite and engage donors, your video should focus on what the building will make possible for your community and how the building will help you better fulfill your mission.  Fundraising for a new library? Which would your donors rather donate to, a place where people of all ages can expand possibilities and achieve their dreams, or a building that houses books?

Mistake #6: Focusing on the just facts without the right mix of urgency and emotion. 

Our formula for a successful fundraising campaign is that all donor communications must include the right balance of rationale (the reality of why you need the money, which tends to be factual and therefore dry) + the urgency (why should a donor get excited and give now?) + emotion (what can you help your donor feel that makes her heart want to give such that she can use your rationale to justify it?) You don’t have to be sappy, but unless you get your donor connected emotionally to your campaign they’re not likely to support it. Read more about how to do that here.

Mistake #7: Not knowing what makes your donors tick. 

Whatever will most inspire your donors to want to give is probably linked to a value you share with them. Ideally, your mission, and therefore your fundraising campaign, taps into how the donor sees herself. Does she view herself as a donor who is visionary, empathetic, humble, or radical? Digging deep to uncover what emotion your donors most want to feel, and tapping the emotion of video to help them feel it, will help secure your relationship, and their gift.

Mistake #8: Not having a plan for how you’ll use your video. 

Will your fundraising video be used in one-on-one donor meetings, with groups, on social media, or some other way? Be clear about its use so the video you produce meets the real need. A captive audience at an event might be moved by a 5-minute video, but a donor receiving it via email or on social media probably won’t stick around for the whole time, so consider its length on other platforms. There are opportunities to take key soundbites from these longer videos and make them 20-30 second shorts on social media. Being clear about how and when your audience will view your video ensures you can shape the right message, tone, length and style to engage donors.

Mistake #9: Investing too little. 

Your fundraising goal is large and your donor communications budget should match it. Your video can be the single most powerful tool of your campaign if it’s done well, because there is nothing like video to stoke emotion, connection, and commitment to your work. Don’t cut corners. While it’s true that anyone with a phone can make a video these days, your campaign deserves the expertise, production values, and skill that only a professional storyteller with deep roots in nonprofit fundraising communications can deliver.

Mistake #10: Leaving the fundraising to your video. 

(What? I thought this was a blog post about how to create a video that would raise money?! ) Yes and no. We’ve met plenty of fundraising professionals and volunteers who would rather do anything than ask for the gift. They hope the video will tell the story, talk about the need, and that donations will magically pour in. It doesn’t work like that. The job of your video is to engage your donors emotionally and make them want to give. But you still have to ask for the gift. The best practices of fundraising (cultivation, donor stewardship, calculating the right gift request, and asking for the gift) still need to happen. And with a fabulous fundraising video that job gets easier and easier.

Reach out to Mission Minded if you would like more information about how to create a fundraising video that will prime your donors to want to give generously for your organization!


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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