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By Erica Rothman and Carol Thomson

Nonprofits run the risk of being out-marketed by for-profits in getting peoples’ attention, and often rely on their usual communication programs when it’s time for something innovative and potentially more effective.

Videos are one of the most powerful, cutting-edge tools you can use to educate and inspire, and they give viewers a shared experience that printed text can never achieve.

In fundraising, you want your potential donors to get an immediate emotional understanding of your organization.

With a video or DVD you can “show, not just tell.”

One hospice organization we worked with made a documentary-style video interviewing families and staff from their 25-year history.

A substance-abuse treatment program is also making a documentary-style video showing residents at work and in meetings.

Graduates and staff talk about the program’s successes and future needs.

Once you have created a video, here are some ways to use it in fundraising:

  • You can create a DVD or CD-ROM as part of a larger direct-mail campaign. These disks are small enough to fit inside a folder or large envelope that already contains printed materials. The recipients can pop one into their computer and vividly get your message.
  • With the current web technology, your website can handle a short video (up to 10 minutes) created in a documentary style. It makes a powerful introduction to your organization.
  • Many nonprofits are beginning to use DVDs in their funding proposal packets. Again, this is an inexpensive and highly effective way to “show” rather then just “tell.”
  • Instead of having to make the same introductory speech every time you give a public presentation, create a 15-minute promotional video. Audiences love them and it’s guaranteed that you’ll touch their hearts.
  • Using the footage you have shot, you can then edit to create several different projects, such as for your website, in a CD-ROM.
  • Producing videos and DVDs are an investment up front, but then you have it forever. And they are easily and inexpensively duplicated

Erica Rothman is a clinical social worker and free-lance video producer in Chapel Hill. Carol Thomson is a multimedia developer at Topsail Technologies in Durham.

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