Best Practices for Nonprofit Video Marketing

Strategic Distribution and Promotion

Video is an effective tool for building engagement and moving people to action. And the Internet has lowered many of the old barriers to distribution.

But you won’t see video’s benefits from simply posting a video on your website and calling it a day. (Natasha Giraudie, writing for the Content Marketing Institute, calls this the “post-and-pray” strategy.) The end of the production phase is only, at best, the halfway point of your video marketing campaign.

Distribute your videos strategically, almost always through more than one platform or medium. Optimize online video for search engines. And promote your video campaign to the audiences you want to reach.

Plan Ahead for Distribution

Though we’re only discussing the details of distribution now, you should be thinking about this from the earliest days of planning your video marketing campaign. Each distribution platform has its own advantages, strengths, technical requirements, and limitations. And you have to prepare for all of these during production.

Footage that plays well on a big, theatrical screen with surround sound and a captive audience isn’t going to have the same impact in an Instagram clip. And a video edited for YouTube won’t work as well on Facebook.

Any quality video production company should be able to help you navigate each platform’s unique needs. And a single-point solution company that handles production, distribution, and promotion should already be thinking about this. But you’ll save yourself a lot of cost and time by starting the distribution conversation early in the planning process.

Use a Multi-Targeted Strategy

Rarely will a single point of distribution be the right choice for your video marketing campaign. You’ll almost always get more value by using a multi-targeted strategy.

Perhaps your main priority is to show an inspiring 5-15 minute video at a major fundraising event, persuading people to give generously to your organization. You’ll get more out of your video marketing investment if you use the same footage to produce:

  • A 3-5 minute version of the video that you post on YouTube and embed on your website.
  • Several short clips that you feature on social media posts promoting the event.
  • A 2-3 minute version of the video that you promote in your email marketing.

By the time donors arrive at the event, they’ll already be invested in the story you’ll tell them more fully as part of your big ask.

Or maybe your main priority is to have people learn about an issue of importance to those you serve. Maybe your main focus is a 15-minute Vimeo video or a full-length Netflix documentary. You can promote the longer video and further the reach of your message if you also produce:

  • Several 15-second Instagram clips that encourage people to watch a trailer.
  • A 90-second trailer, posted on YouTube and Vimeo, and embedded on your site.
  • A 2-3 minute preview that you promote in your email marketing.
  • Half a dozen 5-minute shorts, each excerpted from the documentary, released over time to generate interest before the release of the full-length work.

On their own, longer videos tend to get fewer views and lower completion rates. But with a multi-targeted approach, you can spread your message more broadly and entice people to watch your longer content.

Optimize for Search

We’ve already mentioned some of the ways you can improve the search rankings of your video, such as including closed captions with your videos. While Google, YouTube, and every distribution platform has its own algorithm, several techniques are effective across most:

  • Research high-performing keywords for the topic of your video marketing campaign.
  • Write titles and descriptions for your videos that incorporate those keywords.
  • But more importantly: Write titles and descriptions that spark audience interest, encourage them to view your videos, and accurately reflect what they’ll find if they do.
  • Include closed captions or transcripts to reinforce keyword relevance.
  • Choose an interesting thumbnail preview frame. (Don’t rely on the platform’s automatic choice.)

And most important: create high-quality videos that people choose to watch, watch to completion, and share with their social networks.

There are some additional, more sophisticated techniques you can use to further improve search engine results–schema, video sitemaps, etc.–and all the standard techniques for SEO still apply. If you already have the basics fully optimized, a quality integrated video production and distribution firm can help you with the more advanced techniques.


While your video marketing campaign is, itself, a promotional tool, you’ll get more out of your investment if you promote the videos themselves. More people will watch them, and they’ll better advance your goals. We’ll look at these in the framework of the PESO framework for content marketing media: paid, earned, shared, and owned.

Paid Media

With online distribution, a small paid media budget can go a long way. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, Google, and more all offer options for advertising and sponsored content. Choose the platforms already used by your intended audience, then target your spend to reach the right viewers.

Your video marketing plan should include production of video appropriate for each platform on which you plan to promote.

On the higher end, television advertising remains one of the most effective promotional media in many demographics. It’s typically more expensive than online advertising, but it has greater reach and impact.

Make sure your production values are high for television advertising. This is true for most video marketing, but amateur video production will be particularly noticed and damaging to your reputation on television.

Earned Media

Earned media is coverage your campaign receives from third-party media without paying a fee. News outlets online, in print, and on television and radio. Independent blogs. Unpaid social media influencers. And anyone else who promotes you only because they believe their viewers, readers, listeners, or followers will be interested in experiencing your story.

You have the least control over earned media, which cannot be bought and is not beholden to your needs. However, it’s also some of the most influential promotion you can get for your video marketing campaign. Their audiences know that they are independent and not being paid to promote you, so they’re more likely to trust what they say.

In addition to the standards tools and practices of a good PR campaign–press releases, newswires, direct pitches to editors, etc.–make it easy for earned media to promote your video. During production, create video in the lengths and formats your targeted earned media will need. Offer exclusive cuts to high priority earned media. Help them understand your story and why their audience will be interested.

Shared Media

This includes the relative newcomers of content marketing media: social media and influencer marketing, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. But it also includes nonprofit mainstays such as marketing partnerships with other nonprofits, sponsors, and advocates.

Social media is essentially free to distribute, though you may have to pay to increase visibility. And its viral potential can deliver outsized returns. (Consider the donations and attention the ALS Association received from the Ice Bucket Challenge.)

And partnerships can get your message to well targeted audiences while strengthening your organization’s ties to others with overlapping interests.

Make sure your video marketing plan includes production of videos optimized to each form of shared media you plan to use. And make promotion as easy and rewarding as possible for influencers and partners.

Owned Media

These all have the advantage of being under your direct control, and most are either free or very affordable.

Your video marketing plan should include production for each form of owned media you plan to use. For media that don’t support video, such as direct mail and posters, make sure that graphic design is consistent with the video campaign.

How can video marketing further your mission?

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