In recent years, some charities have begun to acknowledge donors’ gifts with videos. But many of these productions aren’t getting the job done, according to a fund-raising expert who has reviewed dozens of them. He warns nonprofits to keep their thank-you videos clear and simple.
Adrian Allen, a fund raiser at a private school in St. Louis, recently watched 40 thank-you videos from nonprofits. He found them through a pitch he made on an e-mail discussion list maintained by the Association of Donor Recruitment Professionals. Originally, he wanted to write a post about the topic on his blog No Donor Left Behind.
Mr. Allen discovered three common mistakes charities make with thank-you videos.
They’re too long. Too often, Mr. Allen found charities “overestimating the attention span of the viewer.” Viewing one 15-minute video, he says, sapped his desire to watch more after a couple of minutes. “The message wasn’t focused,” he complains.
They don’t explain the gift’s impact. “There were lots of people saying thank you, but never indicating for what,” Mr. Allen says. “That one kind of got on my nerves.”
They’re puzzling. Often the people featured weren’t identified by name or title. Not only did Mr. Allen not know who was speaking but also why this person would be speaking on behalf of the organization. It makes them seem impersonal, he says, and “it loses an opportunity to strengthen the message.”
But some rose above the rest. These were the ones Mr. Allen thought did a good job of staying on message, quickly and directly. Some examples:
Mr. Allen finds this University of South Carolina message to the point and genuine. Viewers know exactly how the donors helped this student. He says this kind of video shows why a script matters. Spontaneity and creativity have their place, he adds, but “I don’t think it’s always the best when using video, especially when you want to get to the point quickly and communicate a specific message.”
The video on behalf of Tilden Community Hospital Foundation, in Nebraska, is appealing and connects to donors quickly, he says. The addition of children, who struggle adorably with word pronunciation, is a nice touch. Although this piece was done with “very high-quality video” equipment, he says, that’s not necessary to create a good impression.
Mr. Allen says this video for Texas Christian University told the stories of two students’ lives and the impact the donors’ gifts had on them. “You can tell this wasn’t a Hollywood production,” he says, but it was good. “It didn’t get too complicated.”
Carleton University, in Canada, used a format known as the “choddy,” in which a bunch of people finish each other’s sentences. Mr. Allen warns not to use this method very often because your organization could end up on StopTheChoddy, which highlights egregious examples of the technique. The format is overused in many charity videos; Mr. Allen calls it the “mullet of advertising.”
Do you have examples of great thank-you videos?