When individuals volunteer with nonprofits like yours, it touches the lives of countless individuals and communities. Whether it's lending a helping hand in disaster-stricken areas, working with marginalized communities, or advocating for important causes, volunteers play an essential role in making the world a better place. 

By harnessing the power of video, you can amplify their voices, shed light on their experiences, and inspire others to get involved

In this guide, we’ll explore four tips for creating nonprofit videos that attract, engage, and mobilize a new wave of volunteers who are eager to support your mission. 

1. Adhere to storytelling best practices

Your video should tell a story that evokes emotion and compels viewers to take action. To achieve this, NXUnite’s guide to video production recommends crafting a compelling narrative with an easily identifiable beginning, middle, and end. 

Follow these steps to create a video storytelling strategy that makes an impact:

  • Set the scene. Decide where your video will take place. Depending on your vision, you could take viewers behind the scenes of your facility, walk them through the communities you serve, or center their attention on the volunteers with a plain backdrop. 
  • Hook viewers from the beginning. Studies show that engagement drops significantly after the first 10 seconds of a video. Take advantage of this short window of opportunity with a strong opening scene. For instance, the narrator might say, "In a world that needs heroes, these are the unsung ones,” before panning to a shot of volunteers interacting with beneficiaries.
  • Introduce a problem and solution. Reveal the challenge that your beneficiaries face. Then, explain how your organization is working to solve that problem through the help of volunteers. Use statistics and specific examples to highlight their tangible impact. 
  • Highlight your main characters. Narrow in on the subjects of your video. Whether you choose to feature a single volunteer, a group of volunteers, or a mix of volunteers and beneficiaries, have them tell their stories and share their experiences with your organization. 

In order to keep prospective volunteers engaged, aim to keep this information under 2 to 3 minutes in length. If you have more stories to share, create a series of videos that highlight different volunteers and stagger their release over a longer period of time. 

2. Interview volunteers

Authenticity is the key to video storytelling. When viewers perceive the content as honest, they are more likely to believe in the message being communicated and develop a sense of trust towards your organization. 

To elicit genuine responses from volunteers and guide the video storytelling process, ask them the following questions: 

  • What motivated you to start volunteering with our organization?
  • What skills or experience do you bring to your volunteer role?
  • What has been your most rewarding experience as a volunteer?
  • How has your volunteer work impacted your life or perspectives?
  • What advice would you give to someone who is interested in volunteering with our organization?

Before filming, ensure that you have the volunteers' consent to record these testimonials and use the footage for promotional purposes. You should also edit their responses thoughtfully in order to maintain the integrity of their stories. 

For instance, let’s say a volunteer mentions the challenges they faced during the onboarding process. Rather than removing this information to paint your organization in a more positive light, ask the volunteer to expand upon their experience and explain how they overcame those challenges. Prospective volunteers will not only appreciate the candor, but they also will know how to work through the same obstacles if they sign up.

3. Promote diversity and inclusivity

When people see individuals who share their identities or backgrounds represented in the video, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and want to get involved. Demonstrate your nonprofit’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by: 

  • Showcasing diversity. Feature volunteers from various backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, genders, and abilities to send a message that your organization values and welcomes all individuals. 
  • Highlighting varied roles. Showcase volunteers engaged in different activities, such as mentoring, event planning, hands-on work, and administrative tasks to emphasize that there are opportunities at your nonprofit that align with a variety of skill sets.
  • Maintaining cultural sensitivity. Avoid stereotypes, cultural appropriation, or tokenism to promote a respectful volunteer environment.

It’s also important to ensure that individuals of all abilities can engage with your video content. Provide subtitles or captions in multiple languages so that the video is accessible to non-native speakers and individuals with hearing impairments. You should also add audio descriptions to accommodate viewers with visual disabilities.

4. Leverage visuals thoughtfully

Well-shot videos convey professionalism and credibility, giving potential volunteers a positive impression of your organization. 

Apply the rule of thirds to center your subjects in the frame and use lighting equipment to set the mood. Then, leverage the following filming techniques to add visual interest to your video: 

  • Close-ups and expressions: Capture close-up shots of volunteers' faces to showcase their emotions and expressions. These shots help viewers connect with volunteers on a personal level while conveying passion and dedication.
  • Action shots: Film volunteers actively engaged in their activities, interacting with beneficiaries, working on projects, and participating in events. Action shots highlight the tangible impact of their efforts and make the story more engaging.
  • B-roll footage: Incorporate relevant B-roll footage that complements the volunteer's narrative and provides greater context for viewers. For instance, if you run a food bank, you might scan the camera over a table of free and nutritious meals that your volunteers helped prepare. 

If you need help capturing this footage, consider partnering with a nonprofit video production company. Expert videographers will film using best-in-class technology and techniques to ensure that your content makes a real impact. Most companies will also handle the entire production process from start to finish, including filming, editing, and post-production to save your team time. 

5. Add a clear call to action

Tectonic Video's guide to marketing suggests adding a call to action to the final scene of your video to provide a clear and immediate next step for viewers who are inspired by the content. 

Encourage viewers to take specific actions, such as visiting your organization's website to explore volunteer opportunities, following you on social media for updates, or sharing the video to spread awareness. Incorporate a sense of urgency or explain the potential impact of their participation to motivate immediate engagement. For example, your call to action could say: “Join us in making a difference! Visit our website to explore open volunteer opportunities and be a part of the change.”

By following the four tips outlined in this guide, you can inspire others to join your volunteer community. Now it’s time to pick up the camera, unleash your creativity, and let the volunteer stories unfold through the power of video!

About the Author:
Doug Scott from Tectonic Video

Doug is the Founder & CEO of Tectonic Video. He has more than 20 years of nonprofit communications experience as a filmmaker, communications director, chief marketing officer and leader of two creative agencies for nonprofits. Doug is a global citizen having traveled to more than 50 countries. He earned his B.A. in Strategic Communications from DePaul University, and he's a frequent guest lecturer at Stanford University on topics related to nonprofit storytelling and storytelling ethics.