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Seven components to create the best charity video

When creating a video for a charity campaign, it’s important to consider all the different aspects of the film which will capture the attention of the audience. We all have things we like and dislike about different campaigns, but what exactly makes a great charity video?

By Reason Digital · February 12, 2013

We take a look at the seven components we believe help create the most effective charity videos and feature some campaigns which have used these features to great success.

Understand your audience

Young males are a notoriously difficult market to target when it comes to health campaigns, but the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign has managed to garner more than 3.3 million views on its video, the cleverly titled ‘Rhian touches herself’. The video itself shows lingerie and page 3 model Rhian Sudgen in seductive poses before revealing a pair of fake testicles and encouraging viewers to check their own for lumps. The campaign uses something young males are stereotypically willing to give their attention to – an attractive model – to capture their attention about a serious health message.

Have a strong narrative

Having a consistent voice throughout a film allows for one personal story to be shared. In this video from Scope, a child’s voice is used along with an accompanying animation to tell a relatable story about his dream world where his disabled sister would get all the help she needs. When the young boy finishes telling his story, a voiceover suggests a call to action which encourages viewers to support the campaign to help keep families close.

Make it a good conversation starter

In order to spread your message, you need to be presenting content which viewers want to talk about. Be it word of mouth marketing around a water cooler, or shares on social media, people need to be telling others about your campaign if you’re looking to raise awareness. The First World Problems video from Water is Life played upon a commonly seen Twitter hashtag and made a video that was quickly shared around the web.

Create an emotional connection

It goes without saying that a charity video has got to make people want to support the cause and to do that they’ve got to form a connection with the video’s story. One way of doing this is to feature people who’ve been helped directly by the organisation to tell their story, but Refuge created an emotional connection with video viewers with just a simple animation. In their 1in4women series of interactive films, they pose questions which viewers can answer with a click of a button. Once a question is answered, a new film loads with a voiceover and on-screen text speaking directly to ‘you’ – the video viewer.

Use facts and statistics powerfully

Many charity campaigns are supported by hard-hitting facts and statistics which, when used appropriately, can have a huge impact in videos. WaterAid combined shocking facts with emotive music and personal stories to encourage viewers to support their cause. The statement ‘In Malawi, one in eight children will die before their fifth birthday’ appears on a black screen before positive facts about matched donations and viewers’ support could help the charity reach more people. No voice is ever heard in the video, yet so much is said through the simple use of the words on screen and the accompany clips of people’s lives in Malawi.

Shock the audience

Whether it be a Hollywood blockbuster or a local charity video clip, viewers always react to the unexpected. One of the most powerful examples of an unpredictable twist in a charity advert is in the St John’s Ambulance ‘Helpless’ campaign. The video shows a man being diagnosed with cancer before documenting his struggles telling his family, receiving treatment and then his recovery only to then see him choke to death at a celebratory barbecue. It’s hard-hitting and expertly gets the charity’s message across.

Have a clear call to action

You can tell the most emotive story, include harrowing statistics and make the audience cry, but a charity video will not be successful if it doesn’t include a clear call to action. Videos need to direct viewers to either make a donation, volunteer their time or share the message. Whatever the purpose of your campaign is, it needs to be easy for video viewers to take this next step. If you don’t include a phone number, link to a website or embed a ‘share this video’ link, then how are you going to get the most out of the video? Oxfam’s regular campaign videos directly tell viewers how they can help – be it with a phone number appearing on screen or with a voiceover telling the viewer how to donate – and so the call to action is clear.

New addition: Think outside the box

While all these ingredients help create great video content, you can also make a video stand out by thinking about the technology behind it. The new Brain Awareness Week campaign from the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability has been created with responsive technology which means that a different ending to the film is shown depending on whether it is viewed on a computer, tablet or phone. This device-detecting technology is also used on their donations website meaning that they can track exactly which technology users are donating the most to the charity. Head to their Brain Awareness Week campaign website to see the different endings on a variety of devices.

There are many other reasons charity videos become successful and you can find posts on the use of comedy and music in campaigns in previous posts, but we think these are some of the most important ingredients in creating the perfect charity video.