Make a Nonprofit YouTube Video with Your Smartphone
By Roberto Mighty

Roberto Mighty
Roberto Mighty
Online video continues to be one of the most powerful ways to promote and advertise, and readily available smartphones and desktop computer software means any nonprofit can produce a simple, effective video.

Writing in Google’s Think Insights Column, Jennifer Gross noted, “Over three-quarters of donors agree that online video ads are the most useful online/offline advertisements when deciding whether to donate, and more than half of people who watch an online video make a donation afterwards. What’s more, they take action quickly, as 39% of donors reported that they look up an organization within 24 hours of seeing a video ad.”

Here’s how to do it.


Each video should focus on one, simple message. Choose “We help kids get the education they deserve”, instead of “Our organization’s mission involves assisting underprivileged families with professional educational counseling aimed at improving outcomes for historically disadvantaged youth in formerly thriving mill towns where jobs have been outsourced overseas, creating generations of poverty and reduced opportunities”.


The keys are authenticity and attractiveness. Authenticity is critical to convincing viewers of the sincerity of the person on camera and the rightness of your cause. Photogenic people can be short, tall, thin, heavy, young, or old, but they just have be appealing on camera. Attractiveness, in this sense, is a hard-to-define quality, but most of us know it when we see it. In today’s visual-culture this can’t be overstated.


Some video formats are better than others for shooting with a smartphone. I recommend one of three simple, effective formats:
  • Donor testimonial: One of your top, photogenic, well-known donors looks at the camera and explains, in about one minute, why they donate and why the viewer should, too.

  • Executive monologue: One of your top, photogenic, well-known executives or board members looks at the camera and explains, in about one minute, their personal, passionate commitment to your cause, and why the viewer should support your organization.

  • Direct service testimonial: A photogenic, passionate individual who has benefited from your service and is able to articulate what your organization has meant on a personal level looks at the camera and explains, in about one minute, how their life has been transformed, and why the viewer should support your organization.
Each spot should with your logo, URL, and a call to action.

Smartphone Video Techniques

You should practice the entire filming, editing, and uploading workflow below with a co-worker acting as stand-in prior to bringing in your star talent. Top-of-the-line smartphones have good cameras, but their audio capabilities are limited. Consult your phone’s manual for instructions on how to shoot and save video.

Your best bet is to film your star in a quiet, room that doesn’t produce echoes, with the light falling on their face, making sure they are not backlit, i.e., standing with their back to a window. Compose your photo to take in your subject from the waist or the chest up to just over their head, keeping the camera about an arm’s length away from them. Hold the phone as steady as you can. You could even prop your elbows onto a table if you need to. Your subject needs to look directly into the lens (it’s probably a tiny little opening on the back of the phone, no larger than a shirt button), and he or she needs to speak up without shouting. Practice the monologue many times, then video as many “takes” as necessary to get it right. Don’t forget to press record before each take and “save” (if need be) after each take.


I highly recommend Apple Computer’s “iMovie” video editing software. It works on Apple desktop and laptop computers, and even on the iPad. If you have a PC, you can use the free Windows Movie Maker software. Of course, you could use more sophisticated and expensive applications like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier, but you really don’t have to for this project.

Consult your editing software and your phone’s manual for exactly how to save your raw video onto your computer and import it into your editor. The only graphic you will need is a JPEG photo of your organization’s logo. Save that image directly into your video editor from your desktop.

Follow your video editing software instructions to trim your video down to just the part you need, adding your logo and onscreen text at the end. Your final production should be no more than two minutes. Save your video from your editor to your computer’s desktop. Play it back from your desktop and preview it for your organizations’ decision makers. Once approved, you’re ready to upload to the web.


YouTube has a free program for nonprofits. Follow their instructions to create a channel for your organization. Once created, you will be able to upload your video directly to your channel from your desktop. You can also upload your video directly to Facebook. Ask your webmaster to embed the video into your own nonprofit website.

Video production and uploading may seem daunting, but it’s doable. Go for it.

Roberto Mighty, a television and online video producer and instructor at Boston University and Emerson College, has produced videos that have received nearly half a million views on YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. Contact him at,, or at 617-965-7022. Copyright 2014 Roberto Mighty
March 2014