Going Visual: The Power of a Video Thank You

Nonprofits don’t need to be reminded of the power of acknowledging a donor’s gift. In fundraising, a simple “thank you” not only helps cement a donor’s continuing loyalty, but over the life of a donor, it can result in more frequent giving and higher average gifts.

Increasingly, nonprofits rely on email, Facebook, Twitter and other electronic means to acknowledge donors’ gifts, instead of or in addition to traditional direct mail. But Heather Mansfield, writing for the blog Nonprofit Tech 2.0, thinks “text-based ‘Thank You’ messages are often unread and overlooked,” and that “a video can often communicate your appreciation better than the written word…”

Mansfield offers eight specific examples of “Thank You” videos that nonprofits created as a means of inspiring other organizations to create one of their own. I’ve previously written about how nonprofits can leverage videos, but I was struck by the way these different videos each helps to appropriately position the nonprofit brand and make the donor feel good about being involved.

Animals Go to the Heart of the Matter

Animal causes may have an unfair advantage when it comes to visual potency because they can always depict the engaging faces of cats and dogs. Still, just parading photos isn’t enough. The ASPCA’s “Happy Holidays” video combines adorable animals in an appropriate holiday setting. Instead of a voiceover, the donor hears a recognizable selection from “The Nutcracker” as these few words appear: “This holiday season, thousands of animals are able to deck the halls thanks to you. Happy Holidays from the ASPCA.”

Best Friends, the largest no-kill shelter in the U.S., does national outreach and sponsors numerous programs on behalf of helping homeless pets. The organization knows its donors feast on individual animal stories, and that’s what they get in a video called, “This is a story of second chances.” More than seven minutes long, the video highlights story after story and ends with the message, “For every life you have saved or have yet to save, thank you!”

Helping Children Across the World

A video thank you can do something else unique: it can offer donors a person-to-person view of how their dollars are affecting real people, no matter where they live in the world. Like animals, children can have a strong visual impact on a donor. Doctors Without Borders, Operation Smile, and SOLS 24/7 all take advantage of this fact. While the Doctors Without Borders thank you video is straightforward and understated, it does a good job of incorporating still photos, mostly of children, who were helped by the organization and supports these stills with specific facts.

Operation Smile and SOLS 24/7 take a somewhat lighter approach with their videos. The Operation Smile video  uses an upbeat sound track as individuals from the organization’s staff each thank the donor. The video ends with a group of children who have been helped by the organization spelling out “THANK YOU” with placards. SOLS 24/7 uses their video to show young people in different locations passing around hand-drawn “Thank You” signs. A stop-action photography technique is used to add interest to the video, while the children sing in the background.

Environmental Thank Yous

The last three videos selected by Mansfield demonstrate different ways of thanking donors for their support of environmental causes.

The Nature Conservancy uses their conservation and science staff to thank donors for each of the specific environmental projects they helped to fund. The staff members stand against outdoor backgrounds that make it clear just what’s at stake.

Ocean Conservancy relies on images depicting simple acts of kindness from one person to another, with the recipient saying “Thank you.” While the video is short on specifics, it certainly serves to make a donor feel appreciated.

The Natural Resources Defense Council employs spokesman Robert Redford in a twist to the traditional thank you. Redford thanks President Obama for making the “tough decision” to block the Keystone XL pipeline and, in so doing, reinforces the NRDC’s environmental stand to its donors.

These organizations have proven there is nothing more powerful than a visual thank you – a good takeaway for other nonprofits looking for ways to break through the online clutter.

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