Unleash the power of storytelling
A great story can change the world. You have the power to transform your casual followers to become passionate supporters. Find out how you can create stories for your nonprofit to raise awareness and inspire action on YouTube.
Master the fundamentals of storytelling
Stories can be memorable, more so than a list of facts and data points. Memorable stories are those that move people emotionally and get them to act. Nonprofits have great stories to share—why their movement is important and how it’s helped a real-world cause.
Here are a few steps you can take to lay out a story for your video.
Make your point. What do you want to communicate about your movement? Try explaining how your organization can accomplish its mission.
Cast your character. Who can represent your point effectively? Showing someone whom your audience can relate to and care about can be helpful.
Set your approach. What emotion is tied to your cause? Try using a technique and tone that elicit the appropriate feelings from viewers.
Determine the ask. Why is it critical for the audience to do something now? Try making one clear ask in your video to bring about change.
Did you know?
- The “It Gets Better” project started with a YouTube video that ignited a worldwide phenomenon.
See it in action
The Story of ChangeThe Story of Stuff urges viewers to start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just, and fulfilling world.
Muslim Parents' Open Letter to Their ChildrenJubilee asks Muslim parents to speak to their children about their racial and religious identity as well as responding to prejudice.
Future of StoryTelling (FoST)FoST is a community of people from media, technology, and communications who are exploring how storytelling is evolving in the digital age.
Appeal to your viewers’ hearts and minds
Take a moment to think about a video that you shared recently with family, friends, or colleagues. How did the video make you feel? What emotions were expressed in other viewers’ comments?
A highly shared video could elicit hope or despair. After watching, viewers may smile or cry. There’s no formula for which emotional buttons are right. Use the approach that resonates with your brand and audience.
Videos can trigger emotions not only through the stories themselves, but also through the creative treatment. Certain types of visual shots—the framing or lighting—may deliver a more dramatic effect. And music can make a key moment more meaningful or further enhance the actions in your story.
The goal here is to apply the principles of great storytelling to build a sustained audience and motivate action instead of looking for a one-time viral video.
- Consider what words people would use to describe your videos on social media.
- Document voice and tone guidelines that can help you infuse emotion into your videos.
See it in action
SYRIA: 6 years onA doctor in a besieged zone in Damascus, Syria explains with his own voice how he’s struggling to treat the patients that keep pouring in. (Médecins Sans Frontières)
Mandy Patinkin visits Lesbos, GreeceActor Mandy Patinkin witnesses first-hand the situation in Greece, where many thousands of refugees have been arriving to escape life from war-torn countries. (International Rescue Committee)
Keep it simple and relatable
The most powerful stories are often those that are the most simple. When selecting your stories, try to focus on individual people and issues people can relate to, rather than surveying a complex idea or range of issues.
Unlike a grant application, which may contain a lot of data points, a video tends to be relatable when it presents facts through authentic stories. Instead of talking about the thousands of people who need help, many successful videos zoom in on one person, show the journey about his or her challenge, and show what specific thing can be done to improve his or her life.
You might consider using YouTube creators or celebrities as your onscreen talent to reach a larger audience. But remember, YouTube viewers usually want an authentic, personal story of courage and conviction—so try keeping things realistic.
Try to draw your viewers into the scene, even from many miles away. By building a virtual bridge to your characters, your audience will likely feel connected to your cause—and moved to act.
- Think carefully about video length—sometimes, shorter is better.
- Start a conversation with potential collaborators who can help promote your video.
See it in action
Made with Code: Brittany WengerMade with Code interviews a 19-year-old university student who shares her unique perspective about getting involved with cancer research.
Put it all into practice
Ready to tell your story? If you’re new to YouTube, don’t worry. You can build a community by staying true to your cause and planning your next steps.
Plan a strategy for your storytelling with this checklist:
𝤿 Define your goal. This could be building awareness, mobilizing supporters, or raising funds. Focus on a primary goal, so you don’t dilute your message.
𝤿 Know your audience. You can make better creative decisions when you consider audience demographics—age, gender, and geography—and what they care about most.
As you implement your strategy, keep these points in mind:
𝤿 Manage your resources. You don’t need a huge budget to create your first video. In fact, many YouTube creators record, edit, and upload videos directly from their smartphones.
𝤿 Keep up your pace. Similarly, you may not be able to upload a video every day. That’s okay. Find a cadence that works for your team and stick with it to entice viewers back.
After you’ve published a few videos, remember to experiment and evolve. You probably won’t have all the answers upfront. Use YouTube Analytics to find out which videos resonate with your audience, then adjust your strategy when you see success.
Did you know?
- The Google for Nonprofits program offers access to discounted and free Google products.
- Eligible nonprofits may apply to shoot and edit at YouTube Spaces' production studios around the world.
See it in action
Ishmael Beah's Story (UNICEF)Watch the story of Ishmael Beah, who went from child soldier to renowned author and human rights activist.