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Three Tips for Taking Better Nonprofit Selfie Videos


The selfie video is a wonderfully personal and popular way for fundraising professionals to reach their supporters. Nonprofit Selfie videos help to put a face to the great work you are doing. Video, in general, is more gripping, more eye-catching than a still image. Nonprofit selfie videos, unlike a ‘normal’ video, feels like you’re bringing your audience into your world by giving a sneak peek behind the scenes. It’s one of the main modes of video when live streaming.  It’s powerful, and ultimately, pretty easy.

Yet, there are some simple things you can do to make your nonprofit selfie video something worth watching.

Be Crystal Clear
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You may draw supporters in with your winning smile and overall excitement, but you’ll lose most of them if your audio is bad. In almost any video, if the audio is bad, people stop watching. If the video is bad, but the audio is still good, people are more likely to continue watching. Don’t discount the audio!

Listen to your location. Take a minute, close your eyes and reach out with your ears. Do you hear the fan from your computer? How about the clock ticking on the wall? Maybe you hear the leaf blower a few houses down, the construction or even traffic. Now, with your eyes still closed, try talking. Do you hear your voice bouncing off the walls because you’re hiding in the bathroom or an empty room? All these things can and will be amplified when you record.

If you’re in the quietest location available and your voice bounces, get some pillows, towels, blankets or anything soft to absorb the reflection. Yes, you can get fancier, but it’s a selfie video and getting professional with it is not a requirement.

However, you should use the best microphone possible. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a studio session mic, but the one in your laptop probably isn’t best. The one in a cell phone is typically pretty good as long as the phone is near your face. If you aren’t holding the phone, then the mic could be on the other side of the room and that’s not great either.

This is the only real expense I would recommend. Find a good lavalier mic that you can attach to your shirt, or a mic you can have close to you, ideally off screen that can provide quality audio. There are some amazing quality microphones available without spending hundreds of dollars.

ProTip: If you can, add captions to your selfie video. Many times, videos are watched with the audio muted, in fact 85% of all Facebook videos are watched without sound. Your donors could be in a meeting at work, stuck in traffic, or taking a break at their desk. It’s best to assume your donor base will be watching your video while surrounded by other distractions, so you’ll need to compete for their attention.

Watch Your Framing
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What are you really showing your audience? I bet you can think of at least one picture or video where there was something funny going on in the background. The chef showing off his beautiful “homemade” dinner but with take out boxes in the trash can behind him. The famous clip of the news reporter from home with her kid running around behind her. The TV playing, pets doing what pets do, the clutter, etc.

Your environment doesn’t have to be perfect, but we also don’t need to see certain things in your space. Take a few selfie pictures and then zoom in to look at every square foot of that shot to see if there’s something you forgot. Be sure to check the edges. While audio may be the most important piece, something weird about your background can be almost as distracting.

Some people will say keep things sparse. If your couch has a busy pattern, throw a blanket over it. While this point isn’t that big of a deal, you might not want to mix a polka dot shirt with a plaid couch in the background. Try dressing in something a little plainer or a solid color.

And always, always shoot in landscape*. That is a universal “rule” that annoys video watchers more than just about anything else you could do. We think of video in landscape and anyone shooting in portrait is someone you generally don’t want to pay attention to because they don’t know this fundamental rule of video.

* Okay, okay. Shoot in landscape except for Instagram, Snapchat and a few other social media platforms. The portrait mode is gaining momentum in an age of video watching on phones. Most articles will mention the landscape “rule” (and it’s generally a valid rule), but emerging trends and tools mean new standards. If you’re doing a video for a primarily portrait based system, then, well, record in portrait. I can now feel the vengeful eyes of videographers boring into me, but it’s true.

Lastly, for framing, try using a tripod. The arm’s length selfie video may be a standard, but it is extremely limiting, can create a shaky-cam effect and you may end up too close. Don’t have time or money for a tripod? Fill an old sock or a baggie with uncooked rice or beans and put it on a shelf, stool or ladder. This can be a little difficult to position but it’s probably something you have around you that will work. And then you can emote with both your hands! Which brings us to…

Subject and Subject Matter for Nonprofit Selfie Videos
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It’s a selfie video. YOU are the subject. Make sure you have good light on your face. Your best option is to be outside or by a window with some nice sunlight. Be sure you are facing the light vs. shooting into the light. Otherwise, make sure you look presentable. Is your hair nice, shirt not too wrinkly? Are you making extra space to allow you to use your hands as you talk? Is the angle of the camera flattering? When you record from your laptop camera, we often end up looking up your nose. Really, who wants that?! Make yourself as presentable as is fitting for your topic.

Don’t read. Please, whatever you do, don’t read!  Sure, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want to say. It’s also good to rehearse a little. Maybe have an outline or talking points, and be sure you really nail the call-to-action and text-to-donate details, but don’t just read an entire speech.

In fact, be sure you make a clear, concise call-to-action. Donors should know within the first few seconds what you are asking from them. Your nonprofit selfie videos don’t have to just ask for donations, but can ask supporters to volunteer, repost your video, sign a petition, purchase event tickets, etc. Be mindful of key elements that will convey your call-to-action effectively.

Selfie videos are almost always supposed to be a little rough around the edges to feel on-the-fly and genuine. You know your topic and the powerful storytelling around your nonprofit. You know what you want to say to supporters, so tell them. Let it go a little long because you’re chatty. That makes it feel real. That personal touch is what will keep people watching and listening.

Pro Tip: Have Fun
That’s right, don’t fret about any of what you’ve just read and have some fun. Selfie videos give your audience insights into who you are and what your organization stands for. You can throw out all the tips and rules and just get good content out there. With blogs, podcasts, vlogs and video selfies content is the most important. Everything else is secondary.

If your first attempt isn’t the absolute best, so what? You will get better. Everyone’s first selfie video (or virtually anything else) will not be perfect, or even good. You will learn to hear more of your surroundings and realize walking on a windy day and talking is not the best idea. You’ll find out that those cool white lights look amazing in your kitchen, but they kind of make you look sickly on a video. You’ll remember to check your teeth for that piece of broccoli from lunch. But always have fun with it.

Share your passion, share this personal side of yourself for your cause and your supporters will surely follow.

Scott Couchman
Training Manager



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