5 Simple Ways to Capture Stories and Produce Simple Videos for Your Nonprofit


“We’re a small organization. We don’t really have the capacity to do our own videos.”

“I really have no idea what I’m doing! I’m not a professional.”

“I’m not creative! There’s no way I can shoot a video!”

OK so maybe these things are true, or maybe they’re just fears, but either way we’re here to help you take baby steps toward sharing your organization’s stories through video.

Video packs a powerful SEO punch, has the ability to connect with people through multiple sensory input channels and is just about the best, most pure form of original storytelling. Websites are moving away from text and toward visual content and social media favors video content as well. It can be intimidating, but it’s also never been more possible for amateurs to create compelling videos — and most of us have a great camera with us at all times (iPhone anyone?). But where do you start?

Dig into storytelling. Your stories are the heart and soul of your organization, and they are ultimately why people give toward the work you’re doing.1 So begin with creating a culture that values storytelling. No matter your size, you can systematically and purposefully collect your best anecdotes. These can be used in so many ways: from motivating your team internally, to sending out a newsletter, to connecting to people’s hearts during a capital campaign, to producing a compelling video!

Here are five simple ways organizations of ANY size can start capturing stories and producing simple videos:


Start by having conversations with your team about your audience and what they have responded to in the past. One nonprofit, Tiny Hands International, holds a meeting every Monday where they share stories they have heard from the previous week. That’s a lot, but even doing this once a month will give you a great arsenal when you decide to produce a video based on a particular story or theme.


Capture Moments

Some of our favorite stories and videos are what we call “Cinematic Gold”: being in the right place at the right time and simply being ready to pull out your phone or camera to capture a moment as it unfolds. You don’t have to pay particular attention to video quality as long as the moment is engaging. We’ve found that simply “being ready” is key!

Look at viral videos: most of them are shot with smartphones. And on social media, your audience will be more interested in the video’s content and more forgiving with video quality. Coach your team on the importance of recognizing moments as they occur, and don’t be shy in capturing them. You can always ask for permission later, but you can rarely recreate a moment!


Learn Your Smartphone

Learn to use the camera on your phone really well. Here are some simple tips (click here for more!):


Hold it Horizontally

You’ll naturally want to hold your phone straight up and down, but when your viewers watch the video anywhere but on their phones, the majority of the frame is going to be black with only a sliver of actual content in the middle for them to see. Remember, your phone can be held horizontally, but many screens can’t turn vertically.


Hold it with Two Hands

Holding your phone with two hands will stabilize your shot. If you are standing still, feel free to rest your elbows on your stomach. This will prevent fatigue in your arms when capturing a lengthy interview or shot. Conversely, if you’re moving, keep your arms free from your side, so the impact of each step you take isn’t seen on screen with the camera bouncing up and down.


Get Close to the Action

If sound is involved, make sure your audience will be able to hear what is being said. Don’t be afraid to get up close to the action!



Use social media to your advantage. Share moments through video as often as you can, and even boost your favorite videos on Facebook, selecting the audience you think will most be interested. Take note of what people are responding to and adjust your sharing accordingly.


Nonprofit Film School

At Nonprofit Film School we actually created a school designed specifically to help you tackle all things video in the simplest way possible. The school is designed for beginning learners and will teach you how to structure a story, how to use basic equipment and even how to do a simple edit – all the while making sure you can actually apply what you learned. Video is growing in popularity and we want to equip nonprofits who need to be budget conscious to do something that can so greatly impact your bottom line.

We believe in you! Taking steps to be purposeful in your storytelling will truly take your organization to the next level no matter what your size.


This blog post was originally written for Mary Cahalane, Nonprofit Fundraising Consultant with Hands-On Fundraising.



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