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How to Market Your Nonprofit on YouTube

Video Content Scores With Supporters

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A YouTube video from TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tucson)

There's just something about kids and horses. Here's a YouTube video from TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tucson) that focuses on that connection.

Courtesy of TROT

More and more, video is becoming a powerful communication tool when it comes to creating content online.

New networks, like Vine from Twitter, are popping up left and right. Smartphones now come equipped with video cameras and sometimes video editing software, so videos can be created on the go.

This popularity is only going to increase, so let’s take a look at how nonprofits can be successful on YouTube.

Why YouTube?

You have a lot of choices posting your content online, but when it comes to video, YouTube is king. Over 4 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month. Having this type of audience can be beneficial to your nonprofit. You could reach supporters all over the globe or right next door, all at the same time.

Furthermore, YouTube is owned by Google. This means that YouTube videos come up at the top of Google searches and are easily integrated with other Google properties, such as Google Search and Google+. Having the support of the Google search engine can help your videos be seen by more people.

Finally, YouTube is a place that creates community and offers support to nonprofits. Many YouTube channels have loyal and active supporters who leave comments and share videos. This is just part of the YouTube culture. If your nonprofit creates a channel on YouTube, you can utilize this community to your advantage.

YouTube is very welcoming to nonprofit organizations, especially if you are accepted into the YouTube for Nonprofits Program. Even if your organization does not fit the requirements for that program, you can still use YouTube to post your videos online. Here is a clear set of instructions for nonprofits who are just getting started.

What Content Is Successful on YouTube?

Cat videos and pranks might come to mind when a person thinks of YouTube, but the platform has expanded its presence a lot in the past few years.

There are new forms of video content emerging all the time, from "web series" to entire education channels. You can find videos of puppies to adopt to how to do serious science experiments. So when it comes to creating content for your nonprofit, there really is no limit to what you can do.

One of the beauties of YouTube for nonprofits lies in the ability to share your story through video. For instance, check out this one from TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tucson), narrated by actor Martin Sheen. TROT is a very small organization, but it convinced a famous actor to do the voice over for this video for free. But even without that, the video would have been effective.

Public service announcements or PSAs (basically advertisements for good causes) are also popular content on YouTube. Just consider this tongue in cheek PSA by Matt Damon for Water.org. This PSA is top of the line, but any charity can put one together that gets its message out effectively. PSAs have triple lives really since they are often picked up by TV stations, show up on YouTube, and play a part on the charity's website.

However, there are some other ways in which nonprofits can use YouTube to express their ideas differently than they do in other forms of media. Being able to show a viewer your mission in action can have a greater impact than telling them through words in a blog post. A good example is this video of a young girl who is benefiting from the food distributed by Second Hand Harvest.

For fun, many nonprofits show what it's like behind the scenes at their places. Longwood Gardens shows the antics of a cat the staff adopted as he explores one of their work vehicles. By the way, if your organization works with animals and/or kids, YouTube is a natural.

Some nonprofits do a style of YouTube video called vlogging. This group of YouTube videos from Invisible People, an organization that works on homelessness, has won awards for its impact.

Stories, PSAs, updates from the field, testimonials and vlogging are only a few of the types of content you can share with your YouTube channel audience. You could create a video announcing a special event or new fundraising campaign. You could also make videos to educate your audience on the issues surrounding your mission, or how-to videos on topics that you specialize in. For some ideas, see this gallery of the most watched nonprofit videos in 2012.

One thing that is unique to YouTube is the ability to livestream events. That is, people can watch in real time rather than after the fact. Think of the possibilities, from a debate to an auction to a fundraising gala.

Additionally, you could host a Google+ Hangout to have a discussion with supporters, or conduct an exchange of opinions with experts. YouTube will save a recording of your hangout so it can be referred to later and/or shared on your public YouTube channel.

How to Get People to Watch Your YouTube Videos

Making a video is only half of the battle, now you have to get people to watch it. People will arrive at your YouTube video from a link they found at your own site, on social media, or through their web search. So SEO (search engine optimization) is just as important for this content as for any other. Fortunately, YouTube provides a few tools to help you do that.

First, you want to make sure that you title and tag your videos appropriately. Tags are just keywords or phrases that identify what your video is about. Do not be vague. Being specific can help search engines find your video and suggest it to new viewers.

If you tag your video well, it will come up in the “Suggested Videos” sidebar of another video on a related topic. For instance, if you're watching a video about volunteers, other videos about volunteering will appear.

A great resource for just how to optimize your content on YouTube is YouTube itself. It has a slide show called Playbook Guide: YouTube for Good that provides step-by-step instructions.

Remember, over 4 billion hours of YouTube videos are watched each month, and many people will watch videos one right after another. It's actually pretty addicting once you start. Make sure you take the time to fill out the description to tell people what they are watching and point them to your website and other social media networks.

Second, remember that sharing is caring. YouTube is only one social network. Make sure you are posting your video on all of the other social media outlets connected to your organization. Don’t forget your website and/or blog.

The more places people see your video the better. When supporters or donors see that you are creating this kind of content, they will be more likely to subscribe to your YouTube channel to make sure they do not miss the next video, and they will be more likely share it with their own friends via their social networks. Video is truly "viral."

Finally, another way to make sure people see your YouTube content is to ensure that you are being active on the network itself. This may include leaving responses to other videos, or liking and sharing videos that support your mission. Don’t forget that YouTube is a social network at heart and this means that people will comment on your video.

Committing to being active on YouTube is going to take time, just like any other social media network; but its wide audience, creative expression, and community could make the difference in growing supporters for your nonprofit.

Furthermore, making video is no longer cost prohibitive. Even "home-made" video can get lots of viewers, plus you may be able to find professional videographers or even students who will work for free (pro bono) or for a reduced cost. It never hurts to ask.

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