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How to Make a Compelling Fundraising Video

Published:  10/13/2017
filming session


When it comes to fundraising communications, there’s nothing quite like a video. It’s an immediate window into your organization and its people. Done well, a video can be a compelling motive to donate. But in a world where you can skip a YouTube ad after five seconds, how do you get viewers to really pay attention?

Your peers in fundraising have developed videos that do just that. Click through to watch some amazing examples.


Tell a story

Find a spokesperson who can represent your brand. What that means differs for each organization, but above all else, storytelling is critical to a foundation’s toolbox.

Dignity Health’s video “Meet Josie - Human Trafficking Response Program 2017” introduces the story of a victim of human trafficking. Josie’s first-person narration of her own story begins the video, giving the audience a clear, powerful description of why Dignity’s services were so important to her. Josie is a confident spokesperson for the value of training provided to physicians through donor efforts.



Know your audience

Remember Aristotle’s modes of persuasion from Speech 101? Not everyone is going to be moved by pathos. There’s a reason the Sarah McLaughlin “Arms of an Angel” sad-eyed puppy commercials have become a punch line for various comedians. Instead, you’ll have to think about who your donors are and how they make decisions.

For example, you might make the business case for charity. “Coming Home: Reducing the Cost of Homelessness” from Adventist Health’s White Memorial Medical Center very powerfully makes the financial case for philanthropy. The FUSE Project, funded by the UniHealth Foundation, brought both donations and a connection to health services to a local homeless population. The focus of the video is on how philanthropy actually reduced the overall cost of health care to this population.

cost of caring



Or perhaps you know your audience is jaded by maudlin videos and needs to see something different. “SickKids VS: Undeniable” both exhilarates and energizes. I’m not saying I didn’t tear up during this one, but the overwhelming feelings in this video are strength and determination. Set to a song that goes against the grain for messages about children with chronic and terminal diseases, the mood of this video is electrifying.


Likewise, “Women for Women's 2016: What does aging well mean to you?” manages to be both poignant and empowering. The comments by interviewees make you think, question, and want to learn more. Most importantly for a video creator, the subjects have been asked just the right questions to tease out information critical to the video’s message.



Make us cry

I know I just said you don't have to make your audience cry, but sometimes the emotional argument is effective. Of course, don’t just make us cry because you can, because potential donors might resent the feeling of being emotionally manipulated. But with creativity and thoughtfulness, you can convey sadness in a way that’s respectful to both your donors and your patients.

Take the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Foundation’s video “Give a gift that matters.” The holiday theme is tied in elegantly with the narration of the poem “A Visit from Nicholas.” The video clips are connected to the poem’s lines. It’s especially heartbreaking when “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” is paired with a child sneaking across an empty hospital hall and “down the chimney St. Nicholas came with bound” is read over a clip of a doctor sitting down at a child’s bedside.



Show their faces

Pictures of equipment and facilities are helpful but might not necessarily inspire. The people who have used or will use the equipment, and their stories, are what could move audiences to their next donation, as well as help them understand the benefit of their previous donation.

“Emily’s Story,” a video by Bluewater Health Foundation, shows a patient getting a “sneak peak” of the hospital’s new CT suite. Not only does the video showcase the equipment to donors, providing concrete proof of the effectiveness of their donations, but it humanizes the dollars they’ve donated.


Say thank you

Make your video an opportunity to say thank you to your hospital’s physicians and clinicians. We’ve seen an intensified focus on grateful patient giving in recent years. One way to encourage this type of giving is to demonstrate to patients how rewarding it is to say thank you. This format, shown in two videos below, takes grateful patient giving to the next level.

In “Infinite Tears of Gratitude” from Providence Health & Services – Oregon Region, caregivers read an anonymous thank-you note and are then surprised by a visit from the letter writer, a former patient or family member. Grab a tissue.

providence oregon


City of Hope’s “Nurses Read Mean(ingful) Tweets” is a fantastic take on Jimmy Kimmel Live’s segment of celebrities reading mean tweets. Instead of mean tweets, though, nurses read comments from patients recalling a special memory of one of their nurses going above and beyond to make them feel comfortable. It’s a creative way to leverage pop culture and connect with multiple audiences.

city of hope




Be creative

You don’t have time to laie around and wait for an apple to hit you over the head and drop an idea. So instead, tell those gripping patient stories—but find a new lens to look through.

“120 Years of Can: Hailey’s Story” from Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare turns the expected script of a grateful patient spotlight on its ear by using a framing device of the family speaking directly to the patient.


Meanwhile, the BIG Outside Campaign shows very sick children, but instead of just telling their story, it gives them the ownership of the video. They’re the ones with banners asking the interview questions and shaping their request for a healing garden and playground.

banner childrens


There are many, many effective healthcare fundraising videos out there. They certainly take time and resources, but they also help drive results.



NEWS  /08/07/14
an Wood, president of Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation and chief development officer of Anne Arundel Health System
NEWS  /06/02/17
Of all the tools in a fundraiser’s toolbox, a compelling story can be the most important. Here's how to write a page turner.
NEWS  /04/27/21
Five proven email marketing tactics to better engage with your donors.

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