By Terry Graves and Chris Weiss

Videos are influential tools for telling the story of your faith-based organization — and for raising funds. If done right, videos can create powerful bonds between your organization and your donors, an effect that reading emails or printed pieces simply can’t accomplish. But before you take the leap into this communication channel, consider these six keys for effective preparation.

1. First and foremost, have a plan.

It sounds so basic and obvious, but it is important to create a plan for your video. The plan needs to be written down. Organizational gurus maintain that written plans are more likely to be followed. Think about your fundraising goal or goals. What is your main reason driving the decision to produce a video? How you can measure its success?

Also, plan what will you do with video once it is done. Should you post it on your website, show it at events, display it in your reception area, or post it on YouTube? These decisions will have an effect on the length of the video. Think about the context in which people will view your video. Will they be sitting down at a gala, standing up at an event, staring at a screen on their smartphone, or sitting at their laptop?

There are several smart reasons to produce a video — beginning with the fact that Google ranks video and audio files higher in its search results. That means your audience will find you faster if you post video on your website. Video also has a 41 percent higher click-through rate than plain text — meaning people are more likely to engage with you if you first capture their attention with video. In addition, many people prefer watching a video to reading text. And for some people with disabilities, video can be much more accessible than a text-based format.

2. Know your audience and your message.

Depending on your faith-based organization, your audience may range from a very specific niche to a very broad span of people. Make sure you know whom you want to reach and engage. Take time to make a list of all of the message points you would like to cover in your video. The first draft of your list will probably be long. That’s okay — just get all the ideas down, and then go back later and edit out all but three or four key message points. Consider how much time a viewer may dedicate to watching the video, and remember that the more information you include, the longer your video will run.

In general, the goal of the video should not be to simply educate and to make your supporters aware of your cause. More importantly, the goal is to get people to care about your cause. Caring about something triggers donors’ generosity and charity quicker than merely knowing about it — and that makes it a far more effective strategy for raising funds.

3. Find a style and technique that fits.

How do you identify a good creative approach that appeals to you and your audience? You may have some ideas about what you would like the video to look and sound like, but it may be difficult to articulate your vision to the other members of your communications team. Do some research on the Internet and put together a list of videos whose approaches you think would work for your audience and message. It’s all right if you end up with several very different examples that range from simple to complex. This is the time to dream big! Matching style with your budget will come later.

4. Set a budget based on reality.

There is no getting around the fact that producing a good fundraising video can be expensive. You may be able to get by with a homegrown “video chat” for some things, but when it comes to inspiring your donors to give, you need a professional hand. And just as you would with any other communication tools in your campaign, you need to make sure the quality level reflects positively on your faith-based organization. This video is a reflection of your organization and should be done in a style and tone that matches your mission and cause.

And speaking of cost, good video production doesn’t have to exhaust your entire promotion budget … but it usually isn’t cheap. It can be difficult to determine how much you should allocate for video production if you have little experience working in this medium. Do your research. Talk with your colleagues and friends about their video budgets. Start with a figure that’s doable and then use it as a launching point for discussion when you are interviewing production companies. Keep in mind that the video is going to play an important role in carrying the branding of your organization. If you find that you don’t have the budget to produce a quality video, then consider rolling the cost into planning for next year’s budget.

5. Schedule appropriate time.

Knowing when you need to unveil your video will help you and your production company set a schedule that works for everyone. Be realistic about how quickly you and your internal team will be able to review and comment on various phases of the production. For example, during the editing portion of a project, you will typically need to review and comment on a first, second and third cut of the video. Think about how long will it take to review each version, gather feedback and send it back to the production team.

After you have decided on the major deadline of the video, set up a detailed schedule that has responsibilities for all parties involved … and then check it daily and weekly to stay on track.

6. Pick a reputable production company.

Referrals from colleagues and contacting the companies you found during your research for style ideas are both good places to start your search for a video partner. If you use the Internet to search “video production” and possibly your geographic region, you will more than likely find a long list of options. Any company worth considering will have a good set of past projects posted on its site for your review.

An ineffective way to find a production company is to send out an RFP to 10 or 20 firms requesting a written response. You are looking for an effective working relationship. You are looking for a good partner — someone who’s a good fit for your work style and personality. You can’t find that by reading a long proposal describing in words what they can do for you. You need to talk with potential partners on the phone or meet them in person to see who will be a good match for your needs. And be upfront about the budget you have to spend. This way, your partner can give you an appropriate solution for that budget. 

As a side note, people remember 25 percent of what they hear, 43 percent of what they see, and 67 percent of what they experience. Making the information memorable comes down to how well you present your story. A good storyteller knows that people, not numbers, have the greatest impact on an audience. Connecting emotionally and instilling a sense of urgency in the video is critical to engaging the audience in a memorable experience.

Video is a powerful medium. Craft it well, and it can provide dramatic results and be one of the most precise, powerful calls-to-action in your fundraising toolkit.