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Nonprofit Video Experts Share Tips & Tools: #501TechNYC (Part 1)

It’s so challenging for nonprofits to get video right, especially with limited budgets and bandwidth. That’s why I so appreciate the practical guidance shared by NYC’s 501 Tech Club presenters Cathe Neukum, Executive Producer at International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Lane Beauchamp, Manager of Marketing and Media at Broadway Cares. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned:

Know Before You Go

  • Why us and why now? Ensure that the video is designed to advance priority goals, and is one of the best methods of doing so. Don’t just do it to do it. (Lane)
  • Powerful videos require planning, lots and lots of planning. Know what you’re getting into before showtime. (Cathe)
  • Make your video shareable. It’s not enough for people to like it, they need to share it. (Lane)
  • Earmark some of your video budget for paid distribution; social is a pay-to-play world at this point. (Cathe)

The Greatest Challenge in Producing High-Impact Video

  • Broadway Cares’ greatest challenge is balancing both stories—the razzle-dazzle of the Broadway community it serves (and who support it), and its less glamorous but vital mission, fighting HIV/AIDS.
  • IRC’s greatest video production challenge is streamlining staff participation. Cathe warns that having too many “cooks in the kitchen” will seriously slow your video production process, and slay your vision.

#1 Success Factor
“A creative mind is more important than the equipment you use. Someone on staff must have a clear vision of content that will play well on video, and help bring it to life,” says Cathe.

Who Does What?
Lane is part of an eight-member communications team at Broadway Cares that produces (from concept to design) and distributes all videos. Broadways Cares brings in additional help (typically volunteers from the Broadway community—lucky them!) when needed.

IRC takes a different approach, with Cathe serving as the one-woman in-house video shop. She was hired to launch the video program (showing IRC’s investment in the medium and channel), and outsources video production and distribution help.”It’s vital to have the creative expertise in-house to direct the production team, at the very least. Your organization will gain more control by doing it all in-house, but the potential downside is that things can get stale” says Cathe.

Read Part Two, featuring planning, process, people, and distribution guidance.

What’s your organization’s #1 success factor for effective videos? Your greatest challenge? 

Get More Video Views & Shares: #501TechNYC (Part 2)


Read Part One

Thanks to NYC’s 501 Tech Club for inviting knowledgeable nonprofit video makers from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and International Rescue Committee (IRC) to share tips, tools, and case studies with us video expert wannabees. Here’s more of what I learned from them:

What’s Happening with Video at
International Rescue Committee (IRC) & Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Cathe Neukum is Executive Producer for IRC, where she’s responsible for all video content. In her two-and-a-half year tenure, she’s increased the organization’s visibility on Facebook and YouTube by over 800%.

Cathe’s latest video (at top) features actor and activist Mandy Patinkin standing with IRC aid workers in Greece to welcome families fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries for a better life. This video has been viewed 5 million times on Facebook.

Lane Beauchamp is Manager of Marketing and Media for Broadway Cares. Since he joined the team in 2010, the organization has shifted its marketing focus to digital engagement, particularly through video. Broadway Cares was one of the first nonprofits to film in the studios of YouTube Space NY, to broadcast live on Periscope, to use video on Instagram, and to leverage video on Facebook.

In-House Creative Guidance a Must
Lane and Cathe agree that in-house creative guidance is a must for producing a video that gets viewed and shared. They stress that it’s tough—if not impossible—for an outside creative to shape video that addresses your organization’s goals and is relevant to your target audiences. There’s just too much complexity and nuance involved.

“The right creative mind is more important than the equipment you use,” says Cathe.

Keep Your In-House Team Small and Focused
You know how challenging it is to work with colleagues on concept, review, and approval of narrative communications content. Well, that increases tenfold with videos. Folks typically don’t know what they like or don’t like, until they see it.

  • Streamline! Nonprofit videomakers have no problem getting (unsolicited) feedback from colleagues. Otherwise, your vision will be butchered, and the production process will take forever! Limit that by restricting the team of internal players to those who have something valuable to contribute to the process. (Cathe)
  • Be crystal clear on roles and responsibilities for your video team. (Lane)
  • If you have an outside creative (videomaker or consultant) driving the video creation process, make sure she has a strong ally within your organization. That’s the only way you’ll protect the value of that expertise and sanctity of her creative process. (Cathe)
  • Our departmental team develops a baseline plan for each video before bringing more folks into the process. Giving something concrete for them to respond too makes it easier for all of us to make the right decisions. (Lane)

Production Priorities

  • “Your audio quality is more important that your video component.You can shoot scrappy videos that look scrappy; you just don’t want them to sound that way,” says Cathe.
  • A good microphone, mid-range DSLR camera, and a basic lighting kit make a great video starter pack. (Lane)
  • The iPhone 6 shoots 4K video. If you use a quality mic (Sennheiser is a reliable brand), viewers won’t have a clue that you shot the video with your mobile phone. If you’re capturing ambient sound, use a road mic clipped to your phone. (Cathe)
  • Adobe Premiere editing software is great—provides enough tools without being overwhelming. (Cathe)

Distribution & Promotion Checklist

  • Embed videos directly within Facebook (vs. posting the link to the YouTube version) to generate far more views and shares. (Lane)
  • Many nonprofit organizations use YouTube as a repository for videos rather than as social channel. That approach is a barrier to generating views and shares. Instead, review your YouTube channel regularly, and clean it up if necessary. (Lane)
  • Don’t sit back and wait for your video to “go viral.” It won’t. (James Porter, session facilitator)
  • Social is a pay to play game now. Without investing in promotion (focus on Facebook and YouTube ads, and Twitter clips), it’s almost impossible to grow views. (Cathe)
  • When you have clear targets in mind, experiment with paid promotion, earmarking $500-$1,000 for promoting your video. (Cathe)
  • What your ads will buy (Cathe)
    • YouTube: A $1,000 YouTube ad spend will generate about 50,000 views plus engagement. Without it, you’ll get about 5,000 views.
    • Facebook: $500 goes a long way on Facebook, but only when a video is already starting to gain traction. It’ll help you generate about 200,000 views and 10,000 shares.

Thanks so much, Cathe and Lane. There’s nothing more valuable than learning from those who are doing it right.