Nonprofits on YouTube?

As YouTube continues leading the masses into new frontiers of viral, user-generated entertainment, the nonprofit sector seems to be scratching its head and asking, “What does this mean for us? Can we get a piece of the YouTube action?” 

I have seen individuals harness the power of YouTube to humorously or movingly engage others in their causes and beliefs (one of my favorites: the most terrifying video you’ll ever see).  Tonight I set out to do a little research to see if there are nonprofits that have been able to do the same. 

Given that I work at a foundation, I first searched YouTube to see whether any foundations have channels or videos posted. I did find a few with channels – including the Clinton, Kellogg, MacArthur and Skoll foundations. For the most part, their videos seem to be excerpts of speeches or events, and they do not seem to attract tons of viewers or spark particularly heated discussions. 

Then I stumbled on a site called DoGooderTV, which connects audiences to nonprofits through their video and media assets.  DoGooderTV hosted the first annual Nonprofit Video Awards last year. I was moved by the winning video, Avaaz’s “Stop the Clash of Civilizations,” and I’m curious to view this year’s finalists. But I found myself wondering whether videos ultimately inspire people to act.  

Even if a nonprofit creates an entertaining, engaging, moving video, even if it spawns more than a million views on YouTube, does it ultimately help advance an organization’s mission? How do you measure a video’s impact? 

For example, many of the comments on YouTube in response to “Stop the Clash of Civilizations” are not particularly constructive (to put it mildly).  

On one hand, the comments serve as a stark reminder about the range of polarized viewpoints that exist out there. On the other, they make me wonder whether the video was truly able to help break through and foster tolerance in a meaningful way. 

But perhaps impact is more about a video’s ability to seed an idea, a doubt, or a hope in someone’s mind. Perhaps the videos come into play offline as much as online – in conversation, or as a mental touchpoint for an issue.  

I would love to find case studies or stories of nonprofits that have been able to successfully use the power of video online to advance a campaign or cause. I’m sure they’re out there, probably right under my nose. I’ll keep looking, but if the readers who stumble upon this blog have any stories to share, please do!


4 Responses to “Nonprofits on YouTube?”

  1. 1 Michael Hoffman February 20, 2008 at 12:33 am


    Thanks for the mention of DoGooderTV. You are asking the right questions! The goal of nonprofits are not to get views for videos. The goals are to educate or advocate or raise money or change the world.

    I do believe that it is hard to measure what impact specific actions had on long-term cultural change. For example, the world recognizes that there is a climate crisis. How much did Al Gore’s movie make a difference? We intuit that it did, but it is not so easy to measure.

    On the other hand, most of what organizations want to do can be measured more directly. Did I get email sign-ups, did we raise money (or did we raise more money than we would have without this action), did we get the legislation passed.

    We have many case studies of using video for real impact at See3 Communications ( (the firm where I am the CEO and the firm that developed DoGooderTV)

    For example, we did a series of videos for Amnesty International. Including this one
    And they broke their fundraising record for a non-December month and their list building record for any month. But it wasn’t just the video. It was a campaign that included a multifaceted approach with campaign landing page, PR and other activities. The videos made it interesting and made it viral.

    Bottom line for us is that the web and TV are coming together. TV was never available to most nonprofits. Your website is becoming a channel and people expect to be able to see and connect to the work organizations are doing more directly. Organizations should be documenting their work on a regular basis and creating a library of content that they can re-use and re-purpose. They have to change their culture to begin to SHOW and not simply tell.

    All the best,

    Michael Hoffman
    See3 Communications

  2. 2 Claire Baralt February 20, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Michael – Thanks for the thoughtful reply, and for sharing the Amnesty International example. For someone who probably spent too much time last night in front of the screen, your behind-the-scenes perspective about how nonprofits are successfully using videos and measuring their results has been informative.

  1. 1 Voting Begins for Nonprofit Video Awards « Philanthropy Re-Wired Trackback on March 5, 2008 at 9:56 am
  2. 2 Etienne Denis | photos, Montréal, voyages et autres... » Stop the Clash of Civilizations Trackback on March 23, 2008 at 2:04 pm

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