It’s the goal of every nonprofit that creates a video – creating a video that has impact. Examining what makes video have an impact was the topic of TechSoup’s recent Digital Storytelling Challenge tweet chat. The deadline for submissions is February 29 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time, so there's still time to take these tips and apply them to your digital story!

Joining the chat were experts behind some memorable nonprofit videos Christina Samala, Director of Online Strategy & Media for The Story of Stuff Project; Kirthi Nath, Media Producer and Filmmaker at Cinemagical Media; and Mike Bonifer, co-founder and CEO of GameChangers, LLC.

During the hour-long chat on Twitter, nonprofit video experts and audience shared thoughts on what makes powerful videos, technical aspects of creating video that leads to action, and techniques to ensure a video gets shared.

Distill the Message and Invite Supporters to Join the Story

Creating a short video that has meaningful impact might seem daunting but isn’t impossible. Effective storytelling requires distilling the message you want to get across without diluting its importance. Stories that make an impact are honest, connect emotionally, and open a dialogue with the viewer.

A story should connect to the organization’s value proposition and invite the viewer to join the organization. The story does not end when the on-screen action comes to a conclusion, instead it continues when the viewer joins the organization. The invitation to join, or call to action, gives viewers a task that involves them in the continuing narrative of the story. A good call to action is simple, feels valuable to the cause, and opens the door for further engagement.

Share Your Concept with Stakeholders

Creating a video with impact requires developing a story concept and turning it into a script. One expert tip offered by Samala is to share your story concept in conversation and note where your listener reacts before committing to a script. A story need not be linear, according to Bonifer, and deviating from a linear structure leaves stories open to be built upon.

There are many ways to tell a story and most organizations already have some of the ingredients at their disposal to get started. Testimonials, for instance, can be immensely powerful, particularly if they employ charismatic volunteers or constituents. Larger stories can be broken down into shorter stories that give the viewer something to come back to.

Add Visuals, Links, and Captions

Once a video is developed it needs to be easy to find on the Internet and connect back to the organization. It’s unfortunate but visual thumbnails, easy-to-find links to the organization’s website, and video descriptions are often overlooked when videos are uploaded. Visual thumbnails matter because they provide some context when users search for video.

Nath advises organizations to add their site’s URL at the top or before the video description so it is not overlooked. Video descriptions also give viewers content and optimize the video for search engines.

It’s also advisable to add captions and annotations to. Captions make video accessible to the hearing impaired or those who speak different languages. YouTube includes captioning tools but, because they’re not always accurate, require verification. Annotations can emphasize and direct viewers to a call to action. Both captions and annotations, like music, can add to the story if they are used judiciously.

Stories can have an impact even without the latest video tools. A well-developed story that’s honest and connects emotionally is what matters. Organizations interested in learning more about creating video can do so by signing up for upcoming Digital Storytelling events or join the TechSoup forums.

Susan Chavez
Online Community & Social Media Team, TechSoup Global
@Susan_Chavez