Last updated on 14th November 2023
Nonprofit organisations rely solely on donations from the public in order to function and continue to do the work that benefits their cause(s). So you could say that nonprofits depend more on great marketing campaigns than any other industry.
Videos are a cost-effective way to reach a large audience and increase awareness of your company. For this reason, nonprofit companies use video marketing a lot. Nonprofits use video to tell their story and inspire people to take action – and guess what:
So can you!
When it comes to explainer videos, nonprofits use a couple of different tactics to connect with viewers, some use humour, others tug on our heartstrings. In this article, we’re going to look at 20 of the best nonprofit explainer videos to see what we can learn from them!
Tug on the heartstrings
Human beings are driven by emotions, so tugging on the heartstrings is a favoured tactic of nonprofits and profitable companies alike. Some publications have referred to this process of creating an emotional response in viewers as ‘sadvertising. But evoking negative emotions in viewers, such as sadness, can create a positive response for brands, particularly nonprofits, as these strong emotions push people to take action.
1. The Girl Effect
This simple animated explainer video evokes strong emotions in the viewer using only text and stick figure illustrations. And the fast-pacing of the animation requires viewers to concentrate, allowing people to fall deeper into the story.
As well as tugging on your heartstrings, this video completely turns around at the midway point. The music becomes more upbeat and we see what could be possible for young girls in developing countries through the efforts of The Girl Effect.
2. Bliss Baby Charity
This video hooks you in with a fun storyline and quirky colours. The friendly and familiar voiceover by Norman Lovett also lures you into a false sense of security. But then…
You’re punched in the gut by the real reason behind the campaign. Bliss Baby Charity champions the right for every baby born premature or sick to receive the best care. Nonprofit organisations have a reputation for using shock tactics to provoke a reaction in viewers and it is definitely effective, especially when dealing with sensitive issues that tug at the heartstrings.
This video is on the long side for an explainer – we usually recommend keeping your videos under two minutes – however, sometimes, if you have something important to say and you present it in an engaging way, longer videos can work very well.
In their video, Family Changes the Situation, Love146 uses a mix of animation, kinetic typography and live-action footage to tell their story. This inspirational story comes straight from the mouth of their founder, and this kind of personal approach can work well for any brand. It sparks a connection between the viewer and the brand and encourages trust and loyalty.
4. Alternatives 4 Children
This video uses psychedelic animation and an adorable child voiceover to suck you in and spike your attention. There’s something particularly powerful about a child saying harsh words, like:
The metaphor of children as plants is a touching approach and it adds to the emotional nature of the appeal. This metaphor extends past the storyline and is heavily utilised within the imagery of the video. We see a dying plant in a small plant pot and then we see an unhappy child in a small space. Not only does this pull on the heartstrings, it provokes thought.
5. Water is Life
This video instantly transports the viewer to Amboseli, Kenya, not only through sight, but through sound. The video becomes even more immersive when the protagonist, 4 year old Nkaitole, appears on screen and we hear his story through his own voice, in his own language.
We all know that there are places in this world where clean water is not available. But what’s special about this video is that Water is Life thinks outside the box to present this hardship to us in a unique way. It really does tug at the heartstrings to see a child completing his bucket list and doing things a lot of his peers will never do, especially when he sees the ocean for the first time.
Make it relatable
In order to raise donations, charities need to explain exactly what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who it will benefit. In order to do this, some nonprofit organisations choose to make their videos relatable to potential donators. In this section, we’ll take a look at the best examples of this.
6. Alzheimer’s Society UK
Generosity and the act of giving are the lifeblood of charities. So Alzheimer’s Research UK chose the very holiday that is synonymous with these things as the perfect time to ask for donations: Christmas.
By using Christmas and the story of Santa Clause as a device to make Alzheimer’s more relatable for viewers, Alzheimer’s Society UK created a touching video that feels almost like a Christmas movie in it’s own right, with the fairytale narration and beautiful animated characters.
7. Cystic Fibrosis Trust
By showing a couple doing activities you would expect them to do throughout their life: date, get married, have a baby, this video is relatable to a majority of audience members. The video then gives viewers the experience of what it would be like for everything in your life to change because of cystic fibrosis.
By showing the reality of what it is like for parents caring for a child with cystic fibrosis, the video ends with a very empowering message.
This video by Childline relates directly to their target audience. We see a young person walking past a lot of situations that young people might see as normal, then neon style writing appears with the thoughts and feelings of the characters, showing that these circumstances aren’t ordinary at all.
The music in the video also made a big impression among viewers. A lot of young viewers requested to download the track and it subsequently became available, with the initial video clocking up almost 1.5 million views on YouTube. This shows that all elements of your video are important, not just the visuals!
9. Macmillan Cancer Support
This short video is spoken from the voice of a real cancer sufferer and shows settings that will be familiar to most: the park, the living room, a coffee shop.
The video is simple. It gets straight to the point and speaks directly to the people that may need to use the Macmillan Cancer Support service.
10. Smile Train
The first ten seconds of this colourful video would probably make any parent laugh. The situation is very relatable for anyone who has weaned a child: food being thrown about, followed by nervous giggles.
Then the statistic appears along with the information about babies with unrepaired clefts, presenting the real reason behind the Smile Train charity, provoking thought and action in the viewer.
Inspire and inform
Inspiration is a powerful feeling. It is what pushes us to achieve something and make a change, whether that be to our own life or to another’s. Inspiration can be a very useful tool in marketing as it can make your brand more memorable.
Inspiration is pretty useless without the information to back it up. When you truly inspire someone to do something, whether that is to donate to your charity, or purchase your product, it is because you have given them all of the necessary information to do so.
11. Education and Employers
This video by Education and Employers for their #redrawthebalance campaign shows what appears to be three female primary school teachers asking children to draw different professional characters: a surgeon, a fighter pilot, and a firefighter. The children innocently draw these characters as men, so it is a shock to them (and viewers) when the women, who aren’t their teachers at all, re-enter the room and tell the children that they are a surgeon, a fighter pilot, and a firefighter.
This shock tactic is a very inspiring way to empower viewers to eradicate gender stereotypes.
12. First Descents
This video begins with a statistic informing viewers that a young adult is diagnosed with cancer every 8 minutes. Then an inspirational soundtrack kicks in and we see footage of these cancer sufferers doing amazing things: kayaking, rock climbing, surfing. This charity video, and the charity itself – First Descents, empowers these people who may often be referred to as victims.
The video shows real people, including sufferers and the founder of the charity, interacting with each other in candid shots that create a real sense of community.
13. Charity: Water
This video starts off as very informative. It uses statistics and explanations to show people exactly what it is like for a real family to live without clean drinking water. By showing a typical family (mum, dad & 2.5 kids) it helps viewers to relate to the situation of the people in need.
Charity: Water then takes the video in a different direction to inspire viewers. They do this by detailing just how much can be made possible through a simple donation.
14. The Scout Association
This video shows the diversity of The Scout Association by combining interviews with four different members who work with different charities through the Scouts.
Hearing each cause through the mouth of the young person who is out there making a difference is very moving, and can inspire viewers to do more for others in their daily life.
This video is the longest on the list…by FAR. At almost ten minutes in length, it is very long for an explainer video in general. But due to the sensitive (and also complicated!) nature of the subject, UNESCO made the correct decision to extend the length in order to give a thorough explanation of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Even if you are marketing a serious product or cause, it’s okay to inject a little bit of humour every now and then. In fact, it can be highly beneficial! Humorous videos are said to be more memorable, and, according to this study, “making people laugh” was identified as the top personal motivator for sharing content. So if you want to increase brand awareness and maybe even go viral(!) this tactic is for you.
16. Prostate Cancer UK
This explainer video flips a situation that we all know too well – the old ‘birds and the bees‘ talk – to create a humorous scenario. The role reversal of the father and son gets a serious message across in a light-hearted way. The video is even shot like a sitcom, which can encourage viewers to sit up and pay attention.
Prostate Cancer UK needed a way to get people talking about something that makes most men uncomfortable, and so they used humour to create an “ice-breaker” and help people address this issue. The tagline at the end of the video seriously addresses the issue: It’s time to grow up.
17. Mama Hope
This video, starring and written by real African men, points fun at Hollywood stereotypes of African men. It shows us clips from famous movies that we know, and allows us to see them from a different perspective.
This video by Mama Hope, a charity that supports global entrepreneurship, has a great feel-good vibe because it shows real friends trying to make light of stereotypes that can be damaging. The video ends by showing us who these men really are and it also encourages viewers to donate in order to watch the blooper reel.
18. Rainforest Alliance
This video talks directly to the viewer, appealing to the thoughts and feelings that many of us have. The humour comes from the ridiculous journey that the character goes on to ‘save the rainforest’. It puts us in his shoes and it mocks the cliché idea that one Western man can save the entire rainforest.
Just when you think you can’t laugh at this hopeless character any more, the video ends with a simple way that he can save the rainforest without leaving his hometown: buying Rainforest Alliance certified products.
This video, with its many different locations, would’ve cost a lot to film. But don’t go thinking you can’t achieve this on a smaller budget, because you can, with the magic of animation. With animation you can take your characters anywhere and the price will remain the same!
19. Wheels for Wishes
This short animated video is told to us completely from a child’s point of view. This gives it a fantastical feel and adds humour to a subject that could be upsetting. A kid with cancer becomes a rockstar!
Wheels for Wishes further uses the child’s POV to increase humour because the young voiceover artist doesn’t fully understand the charity, but viewers do. It’s a perfect example of how a great script can make a video more impactful.
20. Scope – About Disability
This video features different disabled people, including Warwick Davis, telling their awkward stories about discrimination. Obviously discrimination is no laughing matter, but by explaining their experiences in a light-hearted manner and laughing at the people who discriminated against them, the people in this video #EndTheAwkward which is what Scope set out to do in this campaign.
If studying the best nonprofit explainer videos we could find has taught us anything, it’s that there are SO MANY different directions you can take your video in. In order to make your video great, you need to find what works best for your brand and the message you are trying to get across.
To recap, here are the four different approaches taken by the nonprofit companies in this article:
- Tug at the heartstrings
- Make it relatable
- Inspire and inform
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
Looking for even more inspiration? Here are another 60+ awesome explainer video examples from a range of industries.