How organizations can use YouTube to fundraise

YouTube allows fundraisers to speak directly to audiences.
Date Published
04/10/2015

YouTube is a video-sharing site that has become part of the modern vernacular and can connect nonprofit fundraisers with a large audience of donors and volunteers. YouTube began 10​ years ago and now has over 1 billion users. It is a free resource that charitable organizations can capitalize on.

Fundraising tools YouTube provides
YouTube has a program specifically designed for nonprofit organizations to share videos. When the program first began, it was only for U.S. nonprofits, but now it is available to organizations around the world. On average, about 60 percent of YouTube views comes from outside video posters’ home countries. Expanding a nonprofit’s audience is just one benefit video posting can provide.

The nonprofit program has a variety of features to aid users in raising money and awareness. A foundation can post call-to-action overlays or annotations on its video to connect viewers directly to its website. Nonprofit channels can include a “donate now” button that allows the user to collect donations directly through the YouTube page. The site also provides statistics so that organizations can see how effectively its content is reaching its target audience.

How to make video
Posting a video can be an effective tool in your fundraising toolbox. Many charitable organizations already have footage of their campaigns and appearances. Today, most people carry a video camera in their pocket in the form of their cell phone. Volunteers and participants can record live charity events and share this footage. An organization new to YouTube can edit down its existing material into engaging, concise videos or it could create all new content for the medium.

Members of your organization can also post their personal stories. Most nonprofit volunteers and employees are passionate about the project in need of funding. Having them tell their story to donors, so potential benefactors see an actual person’s face rather than a texted message or form letter. It is a simple process to have the spokesperson sit in front of a camera and honestly tell the audience about the importance of their cause and the need for support.

If an organization still feels it does not have the talent or equipment to make an effective video message, it can turn to YouTube Video Volunteers. This resource for nonprofits was launched in 2009 in conjunction with the White House’s “United We Serve Initiative.” A nonprofit may post its video opportunity to a number of participating websites and see if a filmmaker is interested. The filmmaker volunteer will then contact the poster and work with it to create a video that spreads awareness of the cause. Of all the resources that YouTube provides, its people may be the most valuable.

Enlisting the YouTube community
According to Variety, YouTube celebrities are more influential to U.S. teens than movie or TV personalities. If an organization is looking to inspire viewers 13 to 18 years old, it would do well to approach popular YouTube stars to speak on behalf of their cause.

Good Magazine featured the story of how Leo Siegal, co-founder of Prizeo, started enlisting YouTubers as fundraising advocates after working with a video personality. Prizeo is a crowdfunding platform that Tyler Oakley, a YouTube star who shares humorous videos and advice with his followers, used to help raise $525,000 for the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide-prevention organization. Seigal was very impressed with Oakley’s effectiveness and set out to recruit as many YouTubers as possible.

How can organizations enlist a popular channel’s support? First, nonprofits should try to establish a good working relationship with media agencies. Many agencies are signing YouTube talent who are looking for projects.

Duel promotion is another effective strategy for attracting online media partners. The Nonprofit Technology Conference, creator of the annual doGooder Video Awards, has just introduced a special prize for the YouTube personality who makes the best video for a special cause. There are many other festival and websites that reward social cause media with views. 

Finally, Ettore Rossetti, director of social media for Save the Children, who partnered with video game v-logger PewDiePie to raise more than $630,000, told Beth Kanter’s Blog that fundraisers should allow the talent to be creative. Rossetti said that organizations should approach them as a partner, not as a boss. It is important to be open to the new resources Internet stars and YouTube can provide. 

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