Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Fund Your Nonprofit Video

We've had two of three articles on why your small nonprofit should invest in creating a video. This week, I'm sharing an article by another video production company which addresses how you go about funding that video. It's longer than I might usually post here, but there's a lot of ground to cover in funding a video production. 

Our guest blogger John Scaletta is the co-owner of Motion Source, a video production company based in Chicago. John has worked extensively with nonprofits throughout his long career to help create, produce and fund much needed video solutions.

There's no doubt that every nonprofit organization should be utilizing video as part of their marketing and outreach efforts. Video offers a host of benefits, not the least of which is educating interested parties, engaging the emotions of the audience, and inspiring an increase in donations to the organization. However, I understand entirely that non profits often do not possess the marketing spend requisite to have a powerfully effective video professionally produced.

Due to this, many organizations turn to their smartphones, or similar devices, in an earnest attempt to harness the power of video; but, this often results in a production so poorly produced that the end product is more of a detriment than an advantage: poorly produced video will, unequivocally, give the impression that your organization is unprofessional and lacks credibility.

Additionally, your expertise is not in video production, and every hard earned best practice, tip, trick, and technique that goes into creating an emotionally stirring piece. Just as you wouldn’t cut your own hair, you probably shouldn’t produce your own video. The difference between a bad video and a bad haircut is that, at least with a bad haircut, you can still wear a hat to hide the damage.

So with all of this being said, how do you pay for a professionally produced video when your nonprofit’s piggy bank is verging near empty?

Well, we’re going to give you a few ideas...


When you break the cost of a video down to reasonable, and affordable donations, the situation doesn’t seem so bleak.

In example, let’s say that the video is going to cost you $3,000; all you will need is 30 people to pledge $100 toward the project--a very reasonable number and rate. If this still seems daunting, then revise your terms: 60 people at $50 per pledge. These numbers are probably far smaller than you are used to dealing with in a fundraising push, and might just present an easier target. This is precisely the sort of task that a well-orchestrated social media campaign is perfectly suited to.

Now, let’s take this hypothetical one step further; let’s get a bit more creative. For instance, if the video you are seeking to produce will be used to further the mission of your animal rescue, why not let each donor send in a photo of their pet, which can then be included at the end of the video in a quick tribute to their kind contributions? People love seeing their dog or cat pictured, and when your video ends with a montage of furry family members with the words “this video brought to you by these four legged friends… and one cat with 3 legs,” they’ll wish they were a part of it too.

If, as another example, the video is seeking to inspire donations for cancer research, you could do something very similar at the conclusion whereby donors send in a picture of a loved one to be included: “this video was created in the memory of our family member and friend.” Heck, you might even discover that one specific contributor is willing to cover the expense of the entire video as a tribute to a well missed loved one.

Everyday people are looking for ways in which to do something positive in the name of someone they love, so why not give them the opportunity for this, while simultaneously making the world a better place as a whole? How many times have you walked down a path and noticed that each brick has a name inscribed on it? I love those walkways, and guess how much those paver bricks cost the landowner?


If you aren’t already familiar with the concept of crowd funding, it is the practice by which you gain support for your project from people all across the globe. Most of these people find out about what you are doing via dedicated crowd funding websites, and most likely have never come into contact with your organization in the past. This means you are not only receiving donations for the project at hand, but you are integrating a whole new set of interested individuals into your mission.

At the moment, the most well trafficked crowd funding site out there is Kickstarter. If you haven’t been there already, check it out at Kickstarter offers crowd funding opportunities to all sorts of inventors, artists, and organizations. And while, per Kickstarter’s guidelines, “Kickstarter cannot be used to raise money for causes, whether it's the Red Cross or a scholarship, or for "fund my life" projects, like tuition or bills,” this doesn't mean that it cannot be utilized to fund micro-documentary on who your organization is and what they do (translate as “a video”).

Additionally, many organizations set-up crowd funding projects just to gain exposure: even if the project isn’t funded, they now have hundreds of people that know who they are and what they do. Many of these people will become supporters of the nonprofit in some way, shape, or form, as their interest has now been captured. Therefore, funded or not, a crowd funding initiative can be very beneficial to a nonprofit.

One thing you will need to keep in mind is that when supporters fund your project, they must receive “incentives” in return. You will need to weigh the cost of supplying these incentives against the budget that you are seeking to reach, and commit to a dollar amount that can cater to both. However, while some of these incentives surely will entail a cost on your end (e.g. a shirt with the organization’s logo on it), there are others the expense of which is solely time and effort. An incentive at a low dollar amount could be a simple thank you in your newsletter; while a higher level could be the inclusion of a photograph of the supporter’s choice at the end of the video (refer “Ask And You Shall Receive” above for more info on this idea).

Crowd funding is changing the entire landscape of creatively driven innovation. We recently had a dear friend whose first feature film was funded almost entirely via donations on Kickstarter. For a particularly stunning example, check out the story of Studio Neat, whose entire rise is founded upon their initial offerings via the website. These sorts of successes highlight how truly valuable a crowd funding campaign can be to your mission.


Corporations are known to sponsor nonprofit fundraising events, such as golf outings. However, putting a sign up on the 9th hole, only allows them exposure for a single day to a limited audience.  Corporate sponsorship of your organization’s video can serve as valuable advertising for the company involved, as well as a moral boost for their professional image; and, these benefits are active for as long as the video is. Additionally, generally all that is required on the nonprofit’s end is that they include a thanks to the sponsor in question, as well as their logo, at the end of the video.

However, if you take some time to think outside of the box, you may be able to dream up ways to get prospective corporate sponsors further involved in ways that could serve to more successfully solidify their commitment. Perhaps you offer the prospective sponsor not only the inclusion of their name and logo, but an opportunity to plug who they are and what they do.

Take, for example, a video that we worked on for the Rush Hospital Woman’s Board. This video featured a prominent Chicago hair-stylist, and his Michigan Avenue location, for all of the ladies, and gentlemen, in attendance at the event to see. We were able to weave this segment into the video in a fun and creative way that did not take away from the overall message, but rather added a sense of greater community and professional involvement. Now the wheels are probably beginning to turn in your head as you consider all of the corporations, and even local businesses, that would want to take a supporting role in your video. Share the spotlight, and share the cost of the video for a win-win arrangement. As long as the videos meets your goals, and stays true to your mission, there is no shame in the involvement of business.


Professional auctioneers know how to work an audience and inspire donations. Many professional auctioneers will attest that a well produced, emotionally driven video can be their greatest ally in accomplishing this mission.

As the old adage goes you get what you pay for: when you hire a proven pro, and have a good size audience for that pro to engage with, there is an excellent chance that you are going to bring in some big bucks. And, any auctioneer worth their salt is going to direct you to have a professional video to assist them in raising money for your cause. But, here’s where the catch 22 kicks in: you know that you need a video to raise money, but you can’t afford having the video produced in the first place. What’s a nonprofit to do?

Why not ask the auctioneer himself to fund the video? At first blush this might sound absurd, but let’s take a deeper look at this proposition. Let’s say, for instance, that the auctioneer is agreed to take 20% of the proceeds of the auction for their payment; why not inquire as to whether or not they might be interested in taking 30%, while making a larger investment upfront: namely, funding the video. The auctioneer should be keenly aware that a powerful video is going to tug at the audience’s heartstrings, and, equally aware that this increased investment at the initial stages is going to yield a greater financial benefit for them at the end of the day.

If this sounds to you like you’re taking advantage of the donations raised, remember that every nonprofit has their expenses, and if these expenses are not tended to there is absolutely no way that the organization can continue to function with assisting those it serves. The reality is that only a percentage of all donations ever go to the non profit itself, because to secure these donations involves cost. And, the good news is that if you go down this road with having a professionally produced video, said video will last you 2-5 years before it needs to be updated. Think about how many other fundraising events will occur in that timeframe: each being an additional time that you can utilize the video without having to supply the auctioneer with more than the standard rate.


These are just a few ideas for a nonprofit to get a video funded when they don’t have the immediate budget for one. If you take some time to think about all of the organizations and individuals affiliated with your mission, there is an excellent chance that you will dream up a whole collection of additional avenues for funding. For example, if you supply donations to a specific hospital in funding cancer research, why not discuss with them the possibility of funding your video, especially considering that this small investment will yield a much more impressive return? The possibilities go on and on.

Have you ever used a method to fund a video that was not discussed in this article? If so, we would absolutely love to hear about it in the comments below!

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