Communicating the Heart of Your Nonprofit

How to Use Video Storytelling

Nonprofit videos are an incredible way to inspire and motivate, critical elements of support for an organization. I spent seven years working in the Development Department of Maryland Public Television, producing over 90 hours of live-television fundraising a year. One of the most important things I learned was that people give financial support for emotional reasons. For example, a nature program showing a baby elephant taking its first steps in life might invoke heartfelt emotions, whereas an ant colony’s interworking might not.

The Communication Funnel

So how do you apply successful storytelling to your nonprofit? Think about approaching storytelling as though it’s a funnel.

Communication Funnel starts with the Target Audience, then Platform, Message, and ends with Call to Action.

Target Audience — Who are you talking to? What are the demographics? The more precise your audience is in your mind, the more successful you will be in communicating with them.

Platform — The platform is where you’ll find your audience online. How does your audience prefer to be communicated with? Popular platforms include YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. For example, Facebook is a more casual and personal platform than LinkedIn, which is focused on professional business communication.

Message — A message that will resonate with your audience is a critical piece of the funnel. This is your opportunity to make a heartfelt connection with your audience.

Call-to-Action — The CTA is where the rubber meets the road. Asking your audience to support your organization financially or with an action is often not capitalized on. Make it easy for your audience to click on a link to donate, sign up, or make a difference. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive it.

The Elements of Heartfelt Storytelling

The story is the “message” and “call-to-action” elements in the Communication Funnel. Successful nonprofit stories are tightly crafted, even when they are not scripted word for word.

I recommend scripting or storyboarding your video before you videotape to ensure that you don’t miss any elements. Being prepared will enable you to take advantage of the emotional moments as they materialize.

I typically divide the story into four parts:


Fish swimming up to a fishing hook.

Hook (Tease)

This is where you grab your audience’s attention. Today’s online visitors need to be grabbed in seconds! as fast as you can.

Worm on a hook.

Bait (Facts)

Here is your opportunity to Win Minds! Use content that supports your hook and answers a fundamental question like, “What makes your nonprofit different?”

Fish taking a small bite out of the worm on the hook.

Bite (Emotion)

This is the emotional part of the story, where you Win Hearts, and should conclude just before the call-to-action.

Fish on the hook.

Catch (Ask)

Time for the call-to-action! Make it clear and straightforward. “Go to our website to volunteer/support/know more” The emotion may not last, so you want to strike while the iron heart is hot!

Here’s a video created for a museum that captures the heart and spirit of growing up in a small town.


You May Also Like…