We know videos allow organizations to combine their dynamic story with emotion to create a connection with their audience that words and photos cannot build. However, the use of high-quality videos has historically been by “For Profit” companies with large marketing teams and budgets, seemingly out of reach for most non-profit organizations.

We find that ideology has changed. The use of video for non-profits has now become a vital component to the communications mix and is within reach of most budgets of non-profits. Videos are everywhere. Non-profit organizations need to be there, and I have found that supporters are being trained to expect a video for fundraising activities.

We recently completed a project for The Southern California Mountains Foundation (SCMF) (mountainsfoundation.org). The project demonstrates how non-profits can work in conjunction with The National Forest Service. SCMF has multiple objectives including fundraising and education.


First a little background on SCMF. For almost 25 years, The Southern California Mountains Foundation has worked to protect public lands. Through conservation initiatives, innovative environmental education, and the operation of the largest discovery center and local conservation corps serving the Inland Empire, they empower people to learn and protect the San Bernardino National Forest.

Develop the Strategy

The key to a strong video strategy is to develop a thorough video roadmap. For the SCMF project we developed a 3 step roadmap; EngageContribute and Explore.

Explore– In this section, we show the incredible efforts SCMF performs. Annually, SCMF coordinates more than 750 individual volunteer and 2,000 episodic volunteers for projects and programs benefiting National Forest Lands. Annually volunteer programs contribute over 70,000 volunteer service hours valued at over $2.1M in services towards public lands.

Contribute — Showing contribution outside of donations is always challenging, however, we wanted to focus on a unique event to spotlight the power of the community contributing to the SCMF cause. The Music in the Mountains concert series is one of the most successful programs of inviting people to contribute to the work of the SCMF and the National Forest Service. For thirteen years, the SCFM has offered a fantastic lineup of great music and curated environments that invite people into the mountains to enjoy community and music while also contributing to the ongoing work.

Explore– The final step in the video roadmap was to spark interest in individuals that are seeking opportunities to invest in the outdoors. This section asked the simple question “If you enjoy public outreach, can volunteer?” We wanted to answer the question with whatever your interest in your public lands. Ultimately, we need to engage you and get you invested in SCMF. A video is a powerful way to reach people who have not engage with SCMF but are looking for opportunities to participate, without a blatant sales pitch.

Compelling, Concise Story Telling

Based on the roadmap, it is clear that the video strategy for SCFM project is built around telling a story in an incredible, touching and, personal way about the beauty of the Southern California Mountains. In order to relay this message, it requires a story.

Through storytelling, SCMF harnessed the power of emotion to make a connection with donors that inspires action. This video allowed SCMF to bring this story to life in a way that words or even pictures can’t mirror.

I find that it is important to have to have a very clear story and a very clear ask. Video project can have all kinds of interesting items in the script, but if it’s not very clear what you want people to do, you’ll lose people. The biggest mistake I have found in nonprofit storytelling is that they misunderstand who the hero of the story is supposed to be. Most organizations make videos about themselves, how great they are and the great work they’re doing. We wanted to show in this video that the volunteers and contributors are the heroes. We showed the success of SCMF is largely due to the outcomes of people supporting the organization.

Not done yet

While launching the final video project is exciting, it does not come without work. The idea that a great video will explode simply because it’s great couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s still an engagement and sharing aspect that must be undertaken. And that’s what’s so great about a nonprofit video — it’s shareable and can be a living, breathing piece of content if it’s put in front of the right people in the right places. You still have to put in the time and be active in person-to-person communications. It’s a medium that needs to be nurtured.

The following are the basic steps to promote your non-profit video:

  1. Place the video on your organization’s website in key places that draw attention, especially where your organization talks about its work, why donors should sponsor activities and how a donor can do that.
  2. Reuses video footage in pre-roll ads on YouTube, on blogs and anywhere else it makes sense to deliver content in an engaging, accessible way.
  3. Utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) to expand the reach and audience of your video.
  4. Finally, word of mouth! Talk about it, show it, and be proud of your efforts and it will go a long way!

I hope this gives you an outline and example of how the use of high-quality video is completely within reach for non-profit organizations. It is a process full of trial and error — and you must be willing to try new things and not be afraid to do something different. Being true to your brand and showing your organization’s personality are all important.

Videos take work, but it’s worth the investment.

Get involve and become a member at SCMF!

If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to this great organization please click on the link below. http://mountainsfoundation.org/get-involved/join