How long should a nonprofit fundraising video be?

Quite often a new client who wants to produce a nonprofit fundraising video will come to me and say “I want to make a 3 minute video” or “I want to make a 5 minute video.” I always find this a little backwards. Determining the length for your video is a little like putting the cart before the horse. You should always start with your intended audience and purpose and let that determine length.

One way to evaluate your audience is to think about how wide a net you are casting.

If you are trying to get as many views as possible from as many different people as possible, you better have a video that is short and sweet and leaves them wanting more (90 seconds or less).  If you have a narrow focus and are targeting a very specific niche, then you can have a video that is longer. However, I wouldn’t suggest going longer than 4-5 minutes unless you have really engaging content that will hold interest.

Another way to evaluate audience is to look at how well they know your organization. 
If they don’t know you, keep the video short - again 90 seconds or less. If you have a lot of good content that can’t possibly fit into 90 seconds then you should pick your best video to introduce your organization to new viewers and make it easy for them to follow up and watch additional videos. It’s all about empowering the viewer and letting them make decisions. Ironically, most people won’t watch a 4-5 minute video for an organization they don’t know, but they will watch three 90 second videos if you peak their interest.

And yet another way to think about video length is through a sales cycle perspective.
If you think of the classic sales cycle, you have (1) generating a lead, (2) qualify a lead and then hopefully (3) closing that lead.  At the widest part of the funnel - lead generation - videos should be short - again 90 seconds or less.  At the narrow part of the sales funnel, video length isn’t as much of a concern. I would suggest letting content rule the day for a qualified audience that has the potential to close.

And the last thing to consider when thinking about video length is how the video is going to be delivered.
If people are going to be watching the video on the internet, always ere on the side of having a shorter video. If they are watching it at a live event, then guess what - all bets are off!  You have a captive audience so you can go as long as you like. But make sure it’s entertaining and has heart.  People have very little tolerance for bad videos without emotional appeal.

So remember, figure out your audience and purpose first because they will guide your decisions about video length.


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