Cause Video: A First-Ever Survey
The survey's big takeaways? First, nearly all of those polled (91%) say video is important and will get more important over the next three years. Second, most nonprofit leaders (87%) say they intend to produce a lot more video. [No surprise so far: Cisco projects that by 2017, just five years from now, two-thirds of the world's global consumer data traffic will be video.]
But here's the rub. This video enthusiasm is not (yet) being reflected in nonprofit spending—and in a big way. Only 6% of the cause leaders queried say they anticipate a significant increase in their video budgets in the coming year, 24% said they expect only a slight increase, and the rest think allocation of funds will remain about the same as it is today, or even slide. "Only about a quarter of those polled expect some increase in their video budget and 70% do not," says Michael Hoffman, CEO of See3 and one of the founders of the survey. "That's a full two-thirds of organizations who won't be spending more than they do now, and maybe even less. There's definitely an underlying discomfort behind all that video enthusiasm."
So what's driving it? There are four top barriers:
* The biggest barrier cited, by far, are budget restrictions. Nonprofits would make more video if their budgets were bigger, 79% of respondents said. [Annual video expenditures for 66% of the organizations surveyed were $10,000 or less.] According to the survey, a full half of the respondents currently outsource what video projects they have to outside studios rather than try in-house projects which can be just as good, if not better. By tapping volunteers with special expertise or turning to lower-cost equipment, such as smartphones and free editing software, a rising number of organizations are starting to make short, high-quality videos themselves at very low cost. "The excuse that we nonprofits don't have the equipment has gone away," Hoffman says. "It's not just you who has a camera in your pocket. Your constituents do, too." Still, about 20% of organizations said they lack the skillsets needed to make their own videos.
* Staff resources aren't ideal. Slightly more than half of those polled (52%) said the staff lacked the time to focus on video production. People are already overworked and are reluctant to take on more, respondents said, especially if they won't be paid for their efforts. "Trouble is," says Hoffman, "video is here to stay. If you want to reach people with your message in this hyper-connected world, you need to incorporate video into your marketing and fundraising plans, and then assign the necessary personnel to take responsibility for producing it and overseeing it." Better yet? Start building internal capacity for video editing and storytelling with your very next hires in all departments. And meanwhile? Ask volunteers to film or photograph your on-the-ground programs as they occur. Sharing your organization's work in simple videos posted on YouTube is a good way to start.
* Internal departments don't collaborate very well. Nonprofit cultures still tend to be more hierarchical than collaborative. Cultural factors, such as a not-invented-here syndrome, and departmental silos, were cited by nearly 40% of respondents. In many organizations, both large and small, each department has its own budget and task list. "In some cases, we found that the communications department would have a video budget but the fundraising department down the hall didn't have access to that," Hoffman said. "Very few nonprofits are doing joint projects internally with shared budgets and goals—yet."
* Nobody knows how to measure the impact of a video. A large number of respondents said they don't know, and have no way of knowing, if a video works or not against nonprofit objectives. They don't have video metrics, and to be sure, most nonprofits are still struggling with measurement issues across the spectrum of their new media efforts. During the Philanthropy 3.0 Speaker Series we curated and moderated at NYU this spring, both Hoffman and DoSomething.org's top data scientist, Bob Filbin, cited the frustration. "How many views from people does it take to consider a YouTube video a success? Try 1.5 million," Filbin said on one of our NYU panels on the use of Big Data in advocacy. "We got that many views on one of the videos we posted in 2011, and we all thought it was a success, right? But then came the data report. Only eight viewers had signed up to donate equipment, which was what the video was trying to get people to do." So what happened? "We were concerned with the wrong metric," Filbin and colleague Jeff Bladt wrote in the Harvard Business Review on March 13. "...As we learned, there is a difference between numbers and numbers that matter."
Hoffman and other survey founders caution that maybe the sector is looking too hard at conversion rates as a way to measure the impact of a good video. Maybe something is getting overlooked, Hoffman says, suggesting the biggest survey takeaway of all may be this: "Videos provide the emotional framework for the ask," he says. "People respond to a good story more than anything else. Emotion leads to attention leads to support."
Among other survey findings:
* Who's in charge of cause video production at most nonprofits? Not surprisingly, the communications department (58%), followed by digital/social media (32%), fundraising (20%), and volunteers (19%). Outside video producers are contracted for about half of the total videos, though the trend is moving toward more in-house production, says Hoffman.
* Shorter is better. Viewers of all stripes start tuning out after 10-15 seconds. According to Hoffman, if you don't put the ask within the first 15 seconds of your video, you will lose most of your audience.
* 'Thank-you' videos are gaining in popularity, mostly because they can be made in-house, at less expense and by volunteers using their smartphones. These types of short videos can be an important part of your donor relationship management strategy; donors love to see themselves in a video or to be personally and publicly thanked in one. Here's one made by charity:water.org.
* What are the top social media channels used to distribute cause video? YouTube ranked No. 1 with 81% of respondents, followed by Facebook (78%), Twitter (55%), Vimeo (16%), Google+ (10%) Pinterest (8%) and private social networks at 5%.
* What's the best way to get your videos viewed? Send your videos to known supporters of your cause and organization rather than to people who have shown no previous interest in your mission. "It is much more effective to get your video to 100 of your organization's most passionate supporters, who will share, promote, and engage with your content," Hoffman says. "These 100 are most likely to work for you, and their friends are more likely to view something that comes from someone they already know."
How is your organization using video? Are you experimenting with Vine? Our cause video news team here at Cause Global would love to hear from you.
-- Marcia Stepanek