Notes from NTC: The Age of YouTube: Using Video Online to Reach the Masses

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Daniel Alpert, Exec. Producer, See3 Communications
Michael Hoffman, CEO, See3 Communications

Susan Rosenburg, Director of Communications, American Jewish World Service
Link to the AJWS YouTube channel.
Tim Fullerton, eAdvocacy Coordinator, Oxfam America
Link to Oxfam America YouTube channel.
Steve Daigneault, Director of Internet Communications, Amnesty International USA
Link to Amnesty International YouTube Channel

(I am paraphrasing what people said. Only if it is in quotes is it exactly what they said).

Hoffman: When nonprofits think about video, they think about the video they spend thousands of dollars to produce for a gala event. Stop thinking of video as project. Document what you do as an organization all the time. Documentation doesn't have to be professional. Create a library of content that you use and repurpose for lots of different purposes. We have outlets now for video that never existed before. You want to create something that will have more than one viewing and then sit on the shelf.

Everything you do with video doesn't have to be THE big video project.

It is very hard to predict what will be "viral." If you say, "We are going to make a ‘viral' video", good luck. On the other hand if you create and distribute a lot of material, your chances of something taking off are a lot greater.

"It is not just about how many people see something, it is about who are they and are they who you are trying to reach."

If you stick something on YouTube and you don't work to bring viewers there, you can potentially have no viewers. You need to figure out how do we get the communities who care about your organization to carry your message.

Rosenberg: We wanted to tell the stories of the real lives of people we are affecting. We had one gala dinner video that we made 6 years ago, spent a lot of money on and showed 3 times. We were having another gala dinner and we needed a new video, felt it was crazy to spend a lot of money to make a "gala video".

Working with See3 we started a project in November. We went to 3 continents in 8 weeks. We filmed 8 groups in India, 4 in El Salvador and 9 in Uganda. After filming, we decided to create grantee profiles of every group that we went to. We realized that these groups could use the videos for their own benefit.

We made pieces for the web that were 1-3 minutes long that showed the voices of the people being served and volunteers. We also made some direct response fundraising pieces which we sent to our list and embedded in the donation form. It is a first for us and we don't know the result yet. We will need to educate our mailing list.

Whether we raise a lot of money from first videos is not our measure of success. We are hoping it will be an engagment tools to talk with supporters more directly and bring our work much closer to home. We are going to train our staff in video as well, and want to build a digital archive of video and audio to go with our archive of digital images.

Hoffman: When we embedded the video in the donation form, we wanted to have the video as close to the donation button as possible.

Fullerton: Starbucks can charge $26/lb for coffee, but Ethiopian coffee farmers only get 3 cents per cup. We want Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement with the Ethiopian farmers for more money for the farmers.

We did a day of action with several Oxfams around the world protesting at Starbucks (

Part of the overall strategy was to raise awareness. First we sent an email to our activist list to email Starbucks and ask them to sign the licensing agreement. Second, we moved people into a higher ask. We asked them to call Starbucks. Third, we did a protest.

We contacted supporters in Seattle who were interested in the campaign, as well members of the Ethiopian community, and asked them to show up at the protest and we decided to film it. We sent the footage to a producer in Boston and put the video on YouTube.

One of the campaigners was working with Ethiopian bloggers and asked them to embed the video on their sites, and they did. Then we sent an email to our supporters and asked them to look at the video and comment. We got 15-20,000 views. Starbucks responded with their own video with their side of the story, which raised Oxfam's profile and the story because the Oxfam video sat up at the top along with Starbucks' video. Then Slashdot talked about it, and the number of views doubled in a week or two so we had 50,000 views. This kept the issue in the spotlight for a couple more weeks and helped to get more people involved in the campaign in the US.

We also did a Flickr petition where we asked people to take and post a photo of themselves with a sign that says, "I support Ethiopian coffee farmers". We have been satisfied with the outcome of the YouTube campaign. It was a cheap and effective way to reach a larger audience.

Daigneault: Last Fall we knew that Congress would be taking up the Military Commissions Act. Bush decided to ask Congress to legalize things like indefinite detention, no right to see a lawyer, and "alternative" interrogation techniques. We did an experiment with videos to highlight the issue by doing person on the street videos and asking people things like, "What is 'extraordinary rendition.'" You can see the videos here. 3 pieces came out of 1 day of interviews. We ended up making a funny video about torture.

We tried to set expectations about the number of views. It wasn't going to get as many views as the videos of a guy putting a Mentos in a Coke. We are using video to help people understand what extraordinary rendition is, raise public awareness and grow our list. We sent it out to supporters and embedded the video on the Amnesty site with with a tell-a-friend functionality. The month we sent it out, September, was a record breaking month in terms of list growth, people who took action, and fundraising. We also promoted it to bloggers. Next time we will ask supporters to post it on their own web site or blog, as well.

YouTube Tips
*make sure your logo is shown at the beginning and end of the video
* upload .mov file for the best quality
* keep it to two minutes max
* put your organization's name in both the description and the tags
• add as many relevant tags as possible.