Move over funny cat videos and the double rainbow guy, nonprofits are becoming major players in the YouTube ecosystem! These organizations have amassed over 4.6 billion views since the start of the YouTube for Nonprofits program, and there are now over 25 thousand nonprofit partners using the platform to further their causes and do good in their communities and the world.

Although it can be tough to predict which videos will go unnoticed and which will go viral on the creative platform, there are a few certain fundamentals that we’ve identified as being key to developing ideas and content that resonate with viewers. Consider the following to be fundamentals, but remember that this is not a checklist or a scorecard. You don’t have to do all of these things to be successful on YouTube, but they will definitely point you in the right direction.

cartoon6498.png1. Shareability – Will viewers share these videos?

The three pillars of creating sharable content on YouTube are a video’s ability to be relatable, topical and valuable to the viewer. The content you create should strive to be emotionally engaging and relatable to the viewer’s personal experiences in some way; speak to current trends in your industry, the world, or the news; or provide information that has value to the viewer. All of these aspects will help your video strike a chord with the viewer and will (hopefully) cause them to share it within their network.

As well, when creating your content, try and think about what 10 words people might use to describe it to their network when they share it. Is the video easy to describe? Is there something compelling, surprising or moving about it that people will want to share with others? This, alongside making sure your video is relatable, topical and valuable will help you make sure your video gets maximum shares and views.

2. Conversation – Is there an element of speaking directly to the audience?

One of the most iconic YouTube stars is Jenna Marbles, who succeeded in large part by being conversational. As a character, she breaks the ‘fourth wall’ and speaks directly into the lens. Fans love it.

But what if you don’t want to do this in your YouTube videos? What if you don’t want to add that ‘video blog’ feel to your content? Consider uploading supplemental content, just for the sake of being conversational. As an example, you can create and upload a video just to thank viewers for watching. Something simple like this can create the element of being conversational without needing all your content to feel like a vlog, which will strengthen your connection with the viewer.

3. Interactivity – Is there a way to involve the audience with this idea?

The key to interactivity on YouTube is to think of it as social media or a community, versus simply a video hosting site. Ask your viewers for their opinion – what did they think? What would they like to see next? You can do this by adding hyperlinks to your videos that redirect them to additional landing pages, or ask them to submit their ideas or answers in the comments below the video. If you do ask people for their opinions, make sure you are also reacting/responding to them. This will create a feeling of two-way dialog between the viewer and your organization.


4. Consistency – Are there strong recurring elements to this idea?

One of the most important elements of creating engaging content on YouTube is consistency. Posting only one or two videos is the equivalent of being a one-hit wonder. Sure, it may be fantastic content and bring in a large number of views/leads. But you will only capture these people’s attention one time. To keep viewers coming back for more, you’re going to want to consistently create engaging content, providing value to them every time they visit.

Ways to create consistency in different aspects of your campaign/channel are:

  • Schedule – Tap into people’s personal lives and have them coming back on certain days to check out new content, such as releasing a new video every Wednesday.
  • Personality – Be consistent with the “face” of the channel. This can mean either employing a host who is present in all of your content, or simply making sure that anyone who is in your videos has the same character features (ex. bubbly, sarcastic, sympathetic – whatever works with your campaign/cause).
  • Format – Repeat your well-packaged series on a regular basis. If you create a certain type of content that is popular (ex. interviews, rants, favourite things of the week) then try and turn it into a recurring series. This will bring people back week after week to get the next installment.
  • Voice – Maintain a consistent tone and point of view. If your videos are primarily lighthearted and funny, do not suddenly throw up a somber or serious video. It will throw off the expectations of your viewers.
5. Targeting – Is there a clearly defined audience?

In analyzing successful videos and shows on YouTube, you’ll notice that those that target specific audiences often grow faster than those who go after the masses. Targeting should be done at the video level, the show level, and at the channel level, ensuing that your content is consistent and relevant to your audience from top to bottom. YouTube Analytics is a great way to understand the makeup and preferences of your audience. It is always recommended to routinely take a close look at this data so you can better understand your core audience and then use this information when planning your programming strategy.

6. Sustainability – If the audience loves it, can you make more of it?

The true value of your content isn’t in how many people click and watch, it’s in how many people come back again and again. Do you have the resources, actors, location, or budget to continue over the long-haul? Try to create an easily repeatable series, but don’t think that all your content on the channel has to be light and inexpensive. Big splash videos can drive a lot of traffic to your channel, but it’s often a good idea to back that up with another easier-to-make series that holds viewers’ attention between the bigger efforts.invisible_people.jpg

7. Discoverability – Will the content get found through search or related videos?

YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world, and this blog post is about allowing your content to take advantage of that. Make sure that your title and video tags accurately reflect your content and that you use common words that people are likely to type into a search bar. By understanding the personas of who you’re targeting, you can create better keywords that speak to the kinds of things they will be searching for on the internet.

8. Accessibility – Can every episode be appreciated by a brand new viewer?

When looking at new series ideas, it’s worth considering that a significant percentage of people may end up there through a single episode on a social feed, a search result, or a related video. Therefore, it becomes important to have videos that don’t require a lot of context. Building a narrative over a number of videos is fantastic, but they also need to be able to provide something valuable within themselves.

If your content does require a bit of backstory, use a call-to-action – via annotations or links in the description – to point back to the pilot episode or where they can learn the backstory.

9. Collaboration – Is there a way to feature guest stars?

Hands down, one of the fastest ways to grow subscribers on YouTube is to collaborate with those who already have a strong fan following. Consider going after people/organizations that have audiences that are similar to your own. Also, remember that the point is to get the collaborator to promote the final product. Keeping that in mind, you want to make sure that person is proud of the finished product by playing to their talents and making them look fantastic. When a guest star promotes your video, you’ll be seen by another loyal audience group that already knows how to use YouTube and is likely predisposed to enjoying your content.


10. Inspiration – Is the idea coming from a genuine place of passion?

This point is a must have if you want your videos to be successful. If you love what you do, not only will you have ‘more gas in the tank’ to keep up the channel, but also, viewers will appreciate it. True passion often comes through in the content itself – but a lack of passion does as well. So, #10 is simple. Are you going to love moving forward with this idea week after week? If the answer is yes, then congrats and good luck! If the answer is no, then you might want to spend a little longer honing in on your idea/strategy so that it better reflects you and your organization’s passions.


Want to know how your nonprofit can harness the power of the YouTube for Nonprofits program as a tool to gain an audience for your content and turn those view counts into charitable donations, volunteerism, community, changes in legislation, and more? Download a copy of our webcast where we'll outline how to register for the program and teach you best practices for maximizing your impact.

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