Five top tips for using YouTube for charity videos

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We recently hosted a YouTube for charities training workshop, organised by Social Misfits Media, with Jessica Mason – former lead at YouTube for Good who is now a Marshall Scholar studying in the UK. The afternoon was spent dispelling myths about YouTube (it’s not just for teenagers – 50% of viewers are over 35 years of age), watching good and bad examples of video and top tips for how charities can make the most of the platform.


Here are Jessica’s top tips:

  1. Enrol in YouTube’s Nonprofits programme

This programme was started in 2007 and offers charities a premium service for free. There are more than 20,000 nonprofits using the programme and hundreds of charities have more than 1 million views to their channel. By enrolling in the programme you will receive free support and tools to help you make the most of the video platform.

  1. Give your Metadata some love

Metadata is essential for search and is made up of your video’s title, description and tags.

Titles:  For video titles, it’s important to include relevant keywords that help describe your video. When writing a title, ask yourself,” Would I click on this?” Keep titles concise and include descriptive and relevant keywords towards  the beginning of the title. Display branding and episode numbers towards the end of the title.

Descriptions: The words you use to describe your video helps audiences and YouTube’s discovery systems understand what your content is about. Only the first few sentences of your video description will appear in search results and on a typical watch page – so make them count!

Try to describe your video in one to three concise sentences and include relevant keywords.

Add links at the bottom, such as subscribe, related videos, playlists, etc. and don’t forget to link to other YouTube videos and channels, as well as external websites.

Take advantage of the ‘metadata defaults’ feature which allows you to create metadata templates that ensure important text or links are always included when uploading new videos.

Tags: These are descriptive keywords that help YouTube’s discovery systems surface your videos to new audiences. Be sure to create unique tags that distil the most important video topics, characters and talent names (for e.g., if you have a celebrity in your video).

Include a set of standard tags that can be applied across all of your videos to help explain what your channel is all about (animal welfare, international aid, disability, children etc.). Use quotation marks to convey multi-word tags (e.g. “medical research”).

Also include a mix of video-specific and more general (but still relevant) tags but only use enough tags to thoroughly and accurately describe your videos.

  1. Edit videos within YouTube

YouTube has its own editing tool where you can combine multiple videos and images you’ve uploaded to create a new video. You can also trim your clips to custom lengths and add music to your video from a library of approved tracks. The tool also has special tools and effects (i.e. slow motion, adding text, colour correcting, face blurring, and more) that you can use to customise your video.

  1. Make your content stand out

Jessica advises that your video should be surprising, original or action-packed. Whatever you do, don’t just sit your CEO down in front of a camera! Content ideas include curating other relevant videos into playlists, collaborating with vloggers as Refuge did with Lauren Luke and using tent poles (major holidays, big sporting events, days of remembrance and more).

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  1. Authenticity over quality

Think your YouTube video needs to be polished or created by an agency? Not so. In fact, Jessica says, “On YouTube we find that authenticity and storytelling tend to be more important than the quality of the video.” Invisible people is a great example of this. So don’t worry too much about the quality and focus more on the people and the story.

[youtube id=”K_VNmAHmuLo” align=”center” mode=”normal”]

Proud of a charity video you’ve created? Share it with us in the comments below.

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Passionate about using digital channels to communicate with and for charities, Kirsty is a freelance digital communications specialist and accredited trainer. A regular blogger for Third Sector and other sector publications, she is always keen to share her experiences and knowledge with others and help them achieve their goals. She has helped hundreds of charity staff hone their social media and digital marketing skills over the years and understand the importance of good content. She is a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition and in 2016 won a CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award.