How to ensure your nonprofit video is worth the expense.


There was an awesome Minneapolis nonprofit event recently and I wanted to be sure you got to hear about it. Jenna – the digital strategist who founded this blog – and Nick – ArcStone’s video producer – attended the AMA event entitled, “Practical Content Marketing for Nonprofits.” The idea Nick and Jenna contributed was one that many of our nonprofit clients have brought up: How can you produce a more affordable nonprofit video? And better yet, how can we be sure it will last?

Nick has been encouraging nonprofits to produce videos for years. His argument is that if you plan your nonprofit video carefully, you can produce one that will last you for years and will work well in several mediums.

The videos he produces for nonprofits have been filmed so that they can be easily sliced up to several lengths. In this way, the video can work on social media, in email campaigns, on a loop in the background of your website or as the full-length video at your gala.

So what does Nick use when he produces these videos? He shared a few of his secrets below.

Planning stage:

Production stage:

  • EcoMedia: A large organization that helps nonprofits with video
  • Voice Jockeys: Professional, low cost VO work
  • PremiumBeat: High quality and affordable music service

Examples of Nick’s work:

To view the full AMA event with several other nonprofit tips, check out livestream Jenna posted.

How to run a fundraiser gala – ideas from Charity: Water’s recent $3.2 million success


Charity: Water’s CEO, Scott Harrison, knew he was taking a risk with his nonprofit’s fundraiser gala plans. He knew he was, “either going to look very stupid in front of 400 people or maybe make them cry” as he admitted in an interview (Fast Company). When searching for how to run a fundraiser gala, a lot of answers will point to how to organize it all and how to ensure you feed your guests (which is no doubt important). However, Charity: Water’s example highlights the need to take a chance and think outside the box.

Recap of Charity: Water’s gala

According to an article featured in Fast Company, the gala took place in a glass atrium at Temple of Dendur, which was filled with a candlelit glow. At each table was a locked iPad on which a photo and name of a resident from Adi Etot, Ethiopia was displayed – each guest having their own individual from the community.

After dinner, Harrison got on stage to talk about their work and to show a video of life in Adi Etot. Then he instructed attendees to type in the iPad password, “together,” which unlocked more photos of the person they had seen on the lock screen. Once a person donated the suggested $30, the screen above the stage showed the person’s grayed out photo become colored. This was the first way they highlighted the impact each individual donor has.

But Harrison was just getting started. The screen then changed to live footage of Adi Etot, featuring the people the gala’s guests had just seen on their iPads. They were surrounding a drill. Suddenly, the geyser of water was activated, spreading water over all of the people there. Everyone was cheering – those in Adi Etot and those at the gala. Many of them, including Harrison, had tears streaming down their face.

All Harrison said after that was, “I don’t really have much to say. I’m glad that worked,” adding, “You don’t get a handbag or a trip to Telluride. You get nothing out of this except knowing that you can truly, truly impact the lives of people thousands of miles away.”

It worked. By the end of the night they had raised nearly $3.2 million.

How the gala idea came to life

In order to pull of such an act, Charity: Water planned their gala for six months. They had to:

  • Coordinate with Ethiopian government officials and their well-digging partners, REST, to both record the video and get the timing just right for the live stream
  • Visit Adi Etot to film the video, interviewing the community regarding the hardships of life without a well
  • Rent iPads and train volunteers to get these iPads both set up and tested for the gala
  • Match each guest with an Adi Etot community member – pairing gala attendees with someone of the same gender or similar circumstances (mothers with mothers, etc.)
  • Test their live stream to ensure all would function properly
  • Develop their tool for showing the live update of donations throughout the night

What can your nonprofit learn from this for your next gala?

Establish trust

“The biggest problem with charity is that people don’t trust charity,” – Scott Harrison, CEO of Charity: Water

When planning your gala, don’t get too caught up in details like what you’ll eat and how it will all appear. Back up and think about how to resolve the big factor Harrison points to in the above quote. People need to know that their money is being spent wisely. They are willing to donate to an important cause, but they may have been burned in the past:

“Historically, humanitarian aid groups have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly planned or maintained projects that have broken down, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development, a global-sustainability research group.” – FastCompany

With a gala, you have an opportunity to show them where their dollar goes, through a full on experience.

How can you establish trust for your gala attendees? Is it simply by producing a fancy dinner and showing them a video that pulls on their heartstrings? As Charity: Water’s example shows, it’s about more than that. Showing them exactly who their dollar impacts and how direct this is is what engages them.

Relate donor and recipient

Yes, it takes time to go through your attendees list and try to match them with someone of a similar background or identity, but this helped Charity: Water stir up empathy in their audience. When your event attendees can realize they have the power to make an impact on someone they can relate to, it’s more likely they’ll recognize how important that is.

Show them the real situation

Maybe you don’t have the funds to transport your team to the places your nonprofit impacts, but if you can somehow show the communities and situations you impact, focus on that through your gala.

The point where Charity: Water switched the footage from a recorded video to the live stream of the launch of the well was what changed the momentum of the evening. In that moment, the attendees were present with the people of Adi Etot.

For more help with fundraising your upcoming campaigns, reach out to our strategists at ArcStone »

Where should all nonprofit website or marketing projects start?

Looking back before moving forward.

It’s not the most exciting thing to do. However, the results have proven essential to nonprofits as they approach any website project.

Many nonprofits that come to ArcStone for help already have a website. They come to us because their site isn’t doing what they want; it isn’t drawing in donations or volunteers or effectively communicating what they need to say. Knowing this, we look over what they’ve done in the past and attempt to uncover exactly what will make it better in the future. This all is included in what we call a website audit.


What is a website audit?

First, let’s explain what an audit even entails. Essentially, it’s a look at what causes a good versus bad experience for a user on your website. Then it’s looking at how the site is performing technically. We look for issues, errors and missed opportunities so we can better understand where the site is at and where it could go.

What’s covered in a nonprofit site audit?

These very from client to client, based on need, but this is an overview of what all we typically review.

  • Google Analytics (GA) accessibility: Is anyone at your nonprofit reviewing your analytics? How easy is it for them to get to the data that matters to your organization specifically?
  • GA setup and implementation: Is your account set up properly? What tags are you using? Understand some of the basics on Analytics »
  • GA data quality and additions: If it is set up, what’s being tracked within your account? What information do you need to see that you aren’t? Learn about filters and conversions »
  • Metadata: Is your site using metadata? Does it follow best practices?
  • Responsiveness / mobile-friendly design: Is the site responsive? How many users are using mobile devices and is it working for them? More on mobile sites »
  • Site indexing and crawlability: Is your site being indexed and crawled?
  • Site errors: Are there any errors on your site?
  • Site speed: How does your site function in terms of speed? Discover how slow site speed negatively impact SEO »
  • Schema implementation: Do you have schema implemented?
  • Internal linking: Are there links set up within your site?
  • Manual actions from Google: Do you have any manual actions or violations?

So before you dive right in to a redesign, be sure to ask yourself some of these questions. Nonprofits have tight budgets, and you need to be sure you have a solid plan for tackling your biggest priorities efficiently. With an audit, it’ll become far clearer what these are.

If you’re interested in learning more about ArcStone’s website audit services, please contact us.

Not ready for a new nonprofit website design? Start with a landing page instead

Not many nonprofits have the budget for a full-on website redesign, at least not until a lot of grant writing has been done. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for any site tweaks, if prioritized above other expenses. This post highlights the necessity of quality landing pages and why they might be more worth their weight in gold than other digital marketing moves.


Here’s how we know.

A client, Hunger Solutions, was seeking to drive attention to their campaign, Minnesota Food Helpline. They had spent time and effort developing a form and landing page and coupled that with promotion via social media and AdWords. Even with all of this effort, they weren’t seeing the results they thought they could.

When they came to ArcStone we decided the best use of their budget was not in promotional techniques or content marketing, but instead a completely redesigned landing page.

The priorities of this design included:

  • Simplify the language and remove much of the text. We wanted all the users’ attention to go to the call to action.
  • Change the call to action to a very specific direction. It was, “do I qualify for SNAP?” and we switched it to a more active phrase, including a verb, “find out if you qualify for SNAP.”
  • Remove distractions. We took all the unnecessary navigation items and really only kept the link to submit the form.
  • Provide insight through imagery. Although icons aren’t always a bad idea, we noticed they weren’t doing much to inform the user what their action would do.

A few of the results:

  • An increase in conversions of 178% the month after the redesign.
  • 3x as many calls to their helpline.

Where can your nonprofit start when it comes to its site design & landing pages?

1. Talk with your development team and nail down your most important priorities.

For Hunger Solutions, it was helping those in need find their helpline.

Maybe it’s driving donations for a campaign or getting more volunteers at your event. Whatever it may be, try your best to ensure your landing page focuses on a specific audience. If this is keyed into, you’ll better be able to redesign the layout and rewrite the copy with them in mind, making it more likely you’ll capture their interest.

2. Find examples from other similar nonprofits and determine what you do and don’t like.

For example, I admired the landing page below, as it is beautiful and gets right to the point:

Image source: Leadpages

This works well as they state exactly what they want you to do at the get-go. The main information is kept at the top with an elegant design. If the donors want to learn more about where their money is going (which they often do) they can easily look below on how this helps reach the nonprofit’s goal.

3. Audit your current design. Whether you conduct this audit yourself or have an agency’s help, ask questions such as:

  • If you were a new visitor to the page, is it clear what your organization is trying to do?
  • How specific is your call to action? Is it easily found by a new user?
  • How is the page performing currently? Where would you like this conversion rate to be?
  • What’s the bounce rate? Learn about what might be the cause of a high bounce rate here »

We hope this encourages you to take a close look at what we believe is one of the best investments. By having a well thought out landing page, your nonprofit can better achieve its goal: getting people the information they need to make the world a better place.