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Video Marketing for Nonprofits: Podcast with Well Said Media

Listen to Episode Three – The Importance of Video Marketing for Nonprofits


Video marketing has been the highlight of advertising and viral communication for many years now, and it’s quickly picking up steam within the nonprofit community! 

With the advent of YouTube and the ability of anyone and everyone to capture and share videos from their smartphones, it leaves many wondering how they can still make an impact through video creation when it’s become so commonplace.

In our 3rd Giving Circle podcast, we interviewed a couple of our friends from Well Said Media, located in Ithaca, NY, on the subject of the importance of effective video marketing for nonprofits.

Video Marketing

Well Said Media is a production company specializing in video, motion graphics, and promotional strategy.  Created back in 2007 when the founders were still attending Ithaca College, Well Said Media has now produced over 300 videos!

They’ve worked with almost every business in Ithaca in some form or another and they’re looking to expand into other markets outside the area.  You can learn more about them by visiting their website,  

For our podcast, we interviewed Hilary Shaw, Co-owner of Well Said Media and Devan Johnson, Producer and Studio Manager, on the importance of nonprofits using video to promote their missions.

Well Said Podcast
Hilary Shaw, Co-owner, and Devan Johnson, Managing Producer

Approach to Creating an Impactful Video

Hilary:  Our approach generally to doing videos with any of our clients is to start with a creative vision in mind first. We really like to approach them with an open mind and try our best to adopt the culture of the organization that we’re working with.  

That consultation, for us, is the most important part.  It’s not so much a concern starting with their budget or their timeline, as much as figuring out the message they’re trying to convey and some creative ideas for how we can do that.  And then we start to delve into more of the nuts and bolts of the project.  

One of the organizations we’ve been working with very closely the last couple of years is the Franziska Racker Centers that works in 3 counties throughout the southern tier.  They focus on serving individuals with a variety of needs.

Video Production for Racker Centers

Hilary:  We did several videos for Franziska Racker Centers last year and we just started a new round of them for this year.  Last year we produced 3 profile pieces on different people that they serve in the community.  One of them was somebody who lives in one of the residential homes, one was a child who had gone through their early intervention services, and we interviewed the parents and the people who had worked with them.  

Devan:  We were able to get to know the families and these people they had worked with and get really in depth into their stories so that people could really see the work that Racker Centers does, not just in a broad sense, but on a person-by-person basis.

Hilary:  The video allows viewers to get to know the impact that this organization is making in the community on an individual basis and on a broad scale.  What that means for Racker Centers is that they have recruitment tools to help them hire more people to be a part of this work that they’re doing.  They wanted to show what this work looks like and how it impacts people.

Initial Goals Vs. the Final Product

Devan:  What Racker Centers was initially going to do was different from what we ended up doing.  Initially, they were going to do different videos for each of their different departments or programs and then that ended up changing shape halfway through into these recipient profiles . . . that was an idea that we kind of came to together just over the process of trying to figure out how we were going to produce these and what was going to go into them.  We started including some personal stories and then ran with that idea!

Delivering a Compelling Story

Devan:  Another video that we worked on was with CPEP, the Cornell Prison Education Program.  This is an education program where volunteers from Cornell teach classes at Auburn Correctional Facility, which is one of the oldest maximum security prisons in the country.  

They hired us to film their graduation there in December of 2014, where they were graduating 13 or 14 students from the program.  We went up there and interviewed all of the guys who were graduating from the program.

A lot of them were in prison for life or had really long sentences.  That was a really interesting project to work on because we got to know all of their personal stories.  As you can see, this is the theme with us; getting really invested in personal stories.  

We got to hear about all the different places and backgrounds these people had come from, and their reasons for wanting to complete a college degree while in prison serving very long or life sentences.  

That was a piece that the Cornell Prison Education Program wanted to use for funding.  They needed a piece to help with fundraising for the program.  And afterward, we had gotten really great feedback from them that they got a lot of donations after their video came out.  They said that some people told them they were kind of considering donating to the program, but then after they saw the video, they were definitely on board.  That was really great to hear!  

Particularly when it’s a population like the prison population where the story is about somebody that you normally wouldn’t be in contact with or ever hear about, the video is really your only window into that perspective.  

Video Production Costs

Hilary:  The old adage is really true that you get what you pay for.  So although we’re willing to work with projects that are on the smaller side, we definitely need to know what kind of budget someone is working with. When we know what they’re willing to spend, then we can really think creatively about the best way to allocate those resources.

That definitely involves a little bit of trust, which is why getting to know our clients is so important to us.  But I think once they take that leap, it makes a lot more sense in a practical application of knowing how we’re going to construct this video in a way that makes sense for them.  

So, there really is no straight answer.  If you have a $1,000 budget, that could be allocated in different directions.  It depends on what you’re filming.  For instance, you may want to film 3 interviews and supply a bunch of old historic still shots that you may have taken over the years.  Or, you may have a 3-hour event and it’s in 3 different rooms and you need 4 cameras for that amount of time . . . So it’s almost like a puzzle – you have to fit together all these pieces  – and it’s going to be customized based on the needs of each client and what they’re trying to promote or the message that they have.  

Consultation, Budget & Production Value

Devan:  That’s why the initial consultation is so important.  It’s important to know in the beginning what the client’s budget is.  We have some people who come in with 1-3 thousand dollars and sometimes people come in with 10-15 thousand that they can spend on a video, and that really just determines what we’re able to do and how much production we’re able to put in for them.  

Hilary:  And that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the length of the video.  Sometimes – for anybody who has seen a Super Bowl commercial – they’re 30 seconds long but have huge production value, versus a 10-minute short film that has really low production value.  

So length isn’t necessarily one of the factors that go into cost, but there is editing that goes on behind the scenes and most people don’t see the hours that go into that.  Certainly filming hours and all the pre-production that goes into it, but there are a lot of other things that people don’t necessarily see that happens behind the scenes, which contributes to production cost.  

Nonprofit Video on a Low Budget

Hilary:  There are lots of creative ways of navigating the world of getting your video out there and one of the things that’s a great resource that’s kind of new is crowdfunding.  GiveGab is a great example of putting something together that can later become your way of funding your video.  We really believe in our work, so if you’re willing to put in a little up front toward a deposit amount, then maybe your video can have higher production value through a crowdfunding platform.  

Also, a lot of organizations, even if they can’t afford a video, will take a lot of stills through the years and use those historic stills in a video.  

Devan:  We also do trade agreements once in a while, particularly with nonprofits if they’re an organization we can really get behind and we really want to help out.  If they don’t have the funds to do a whole production, a lot of times we’ll work out a trade agreement with them either for advertising or sponsorship, so they’ll put our logo on a banner at an event they have or we’ll trade for services if we’re interested in something they have to offer. 
Hilary:  And that goes back to our approach of partnering with our clients, adopting the culture of their organizations, legitimately caring about the work that we do, and believing that the videos that we make are going to help those organizations succeed.  Trading with them is just an extension of that or figuring out a way where they might have some marketing visibility they can offer us.  

Before You Produce a Video . . .

Devan:  Definitely some of the things you should be thinking about before getting to this point are:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are your goals for the video?
  • What is your messaging going to be?  

Having a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish with a video is really important.  If that’s something you need help coming up with, we’re always willing to talk through those things with you.  Every project we do starts with a consultation process.  

People come in and we talk through those things and help them figure it out.  If they don’t know where to start, we’ll help them figure out what they’re trying to say, what’s going to make their video the most useful for their organization, how they’re going to get the most benefit from it, and then go from there.  

As we mentioned earlier, nailing down a budget is important to start out with as well, just so we know what we’re working with as a starting point.  But really, getting that messaging nailed down and knowing what we’re trying to accomplish with your budget is key in figuring out how we’re going to make that go the farthest that we can.  

Free Initial Consultation

Hilary:  Our current philosophy is not to charge at all for initial consultations.  We like to approach it with an open mind and put creativity first, especially when clients are in our local community that we’re interested in serving. We think, why not take the time to hear them out?  Even if we’re busy, these are great networks to create and conversations to be had regardless.  

But I have to say most of those conversations do turn into active projects, in which case, yes, we do charge that initial consultation back in when we factor all the costs, but it’s a very minimal fee. People are usually really excited, interested in doing it, and it’s customized enough that it’s not like we’re giving them tips on how they can do something on their smartphone because we don’t necessarily think that would even do them justice! 

Why is Video Important for Nonprofits?

Devan:  I think the most powerful thing about video and what we love most about it is that storytelling component and being able to get people really invested in personal stories, like the examples I shared with you earlier with some of the videos we’ve worked on.  

Being able to talk to real people and tell their stories is really something that video does in a way that is difficult to do in any other medium.  People are a lot more likely to share a video I think than maybe an article or something like that, so it’s got some credibility.  

It has a marketing component behind it.  They’re great for social media, websites, and things like that.  People generally like watching videos. I think a big part of that is being able to get people really invested in those personal stories.  

Hilary:   And for the sake of a nonprofit, they really rely on people donating to their cause, and I think this is a way for them to not only gain new people to come on board, but it also shows people who have already donated to their cause — it shows a wider audience — that their money is going toward something meaningful and is making an impact.  That’s a big component for nonprofits to show.    

The Final Takeaway . . . 

Hilary:  If you don’t know a lot about video, it can seem overwhelming, but it really doesn’t have to be and it’s supposed to be a fun process, at least as far as we’re concerned!  So, approach it with some level of creativity and fun and don’t hesitate to reach out to make that first step.  Because once you do that, it’ll be a lot easier to wrap your head around whatever project you have in mind and be able to speak to the people that you want to support your cause.