The Sierra Club's Backyard Day campaign relied on user-generated video. Image: Sierra Club video still
October 25, 2018

Think you don’t have time and budget for video? Think again.

For-profit marketers keep saying video is key to a compelling digital campaign, but for so many nonprofits it seems out of reach It seems too expensive, labor-intensive, and requires equipment and skills that nonprofit marketing teams don’t have. But a new suite of tools are helping nonprofits tell their stories in incredible new ways, through the voices of their constituents. Enter: user-generated video, nonprofit style.

The Sierra Club, a national environmental nonprofit, relied on user-generated videos for its Backyard Day campaign, which encouraged participants to sign up for a virtual 5k or 10k activity, right in their own “backyard” – a park, beach or other outdoor space that they love. We talked with the Sierra Club’s Video Content Producer Nick Jones.

Q: What were some organizational challenges you have around video production?

For Sierra Club, our top challenge with video is trying to fill the needs of all of our initiatives and campaigns. Here’s the thing about video: everybody wants it. That extends to your followers, and even further, to potential followers, but it starts right here at home. I’m lucky to work with dozens of passionate people on countless campaigns, but when each one of those important campaigns has their own video requests and needs, it can be tough to meet the demand.

Q: How are you using a tool to get user-generated content?

We’re using the app Gather Voices for a variety of purposes. The tool allows us to reach members and supporters across the U.S., which means that when we tackle local issues, we’re able to raise up the voices of actual locals — without needing to send a video crew. This adds a lot of credibility to our messaging. Furthermore, the application is built so that we’re able to guide participants in formatting their submissions in a way that’s conducive to editing (reminding them to use part of the question in their answer, for instance, so that each request has context.)

Q: What does video do for your organization that other formats can’t do?

Video is an incredible way to generate awareness and build interest in a cause. Given the way social algorithms are currently configured across various platforms, video often has a better reach for a lower cost, allowing organizations to reach more people for less. I think there’s also a level of relatability that comes with video — people like to connect with something real, and there’s something tangible about video that people latch on to.

Q: What’s next for your video strategy?

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge we face with video is having the supply meet demand. In line with that, the next step for our video strategy involves empowering our other staff with the tools and guidance they need to start making their own contributions to our video output. User-generated video will play a big part in democratizing our production process, and I’m excited to see where the developers take it in the coming year.

Watch the Sierra Club’s Backyard Day video:

Nick Jones
Born near Boston, and based in Berkeley, Nick Jones is the Video Content Producer at Sierra Club. When Nick's not creating videos promoting progressive politics, you'll likely find him backpacking somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas.
Lyndal Frazier-Cairns
Lyndal Cairns is committed to building stronger nonprofits as though our very existence depends on them. Because it does. After a decade as a newspaper and online journalist, she devoted her career to marketing for social good organizations working for sustainability, public health, education and technology. Among her proudest moments was receiving the 2015 NTEN Award for services to the nonprofit tech sector; and watching billboard ads for the Queensland AIDS Council being reinstated after a million-strong social media campaign against the homophobic decision to remove them. She and her team are currently working on a membership growth strategy for NTEN, as well as rebranding efforts. When not working, Lyndal can usually be found making mixtapes or digging in her garden.