Nonprofit Video Index

The Nonprofit Video Index™ is a study of how 778 nonprofit organizations use video on social media. Our team analyzed one year of data to establish benchmarks, identify trends, and uncover insights to help nonprofits create better videos.

Introduction

What’s a respectable number of likes, shares and comments for a video on Facebook or Twitter? What are the most important stats to measure? How many videos a year should we create? Should we be on Instagram? How do we grow our audience? Why do some videos do well on social, and others don’t? Is there a formula for creating great videos?

If you’ve asked any of those questions, you’re not alone. Hi, we’re Tectonic, and we’ve been making videos for nonprofits for almost a decade. Our clients have asked us those exact questions, and we needed better answers.

We had our own hunches and theories, but they were based on anecdotal evidence or on small studies that lacked rigor. What we needed was big data from the social media accounts of hundreds of diverse nonprofits. We needed research with sound methodology that compared “apples to apples.” We needed analysis that yielded actionable insights. But after an extensive search online and offline, we came up empty.

We knew that if we were going to get the answers we needed, we’d have to conduct our own research and produce our own study.

So, we got to work. Over the past year we consulted with experts, spent hundreds of hours compiling and analyzing data, and we invested thousands of dollars to create the Nonprofit Video Index™.

We now have answers.

We know what types of videos are most engaging and which factors correlate to audience growth. We know which channels nonprofits should focus on and what benchmarks they should measure themselves against. We know how to help nonprofits make better videos, and we’re excited to share what we’ve learned.

Methodology

We began by compiling a database of 10,000+ nonprofit organizations through publicly available sources. We referenced Charity Navigator and the Philanthropy Classification System to assign each nonprofit a Category and Cause Area (i.e. sub-category), and then we randomly selected organizations to include in the Index.

Each nonprofit included in the Nonprofit Video Index™:

  • was verified as an active 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in good standing with the IRS
  • had posted a video to their Facebook account in 2019
  • had posted a video on one or more other social media channels (Instagram and Twitter) in 2019

We then captured video post data from each nonprofit’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019 to create our data set.

We focused on measuring engagement (i.e. reactions, shares and comments) for two reasons:

  1. Nonprofits want to create videos that their followers watch, react to, comment on and share with their friends and followers, i.e. videos that are engaging. This type of data is publicly available and possible to analyze.
  2. Computer algorithms determine which content is prioritized in social media users’ feeds. Although each channel’s algorithm is different, and their exact ranking factors are secret, each channel says that their algorithm values engagement over everything else. The more engaging your videos are, the more likely they will be distributed to more of your followers who will share it with their friends and so on, providing you with the opportunity to reach millions of prospective fans, donors and partners without additional cost or effort.

To better quantify engagement we evaluated video post engagement and organization engagement.

Video post engagement is the amount of likes, shares and comments per video post, divided by the nonprofit’s audience size at the time of the post.

Organization engagement is a bit more complicated. We started by identifying all known ranking factors for each channel. We then developed formulas and algorithms for each channel that weighted various actions in accordance with that channel’s known value system (for instance, Facebook values comments between friends more than shares and likes). Scores for all organizations were converted on a scale of 1-100 per channel with the highest ranking nonprofits scoring 100, the lowest ranking nonprofits scoring 1, and the rest scoring somewhere in between. This score per channel is a nonprofit’s Video Engagement Quotient (VEQ). Using VEQ allows organizations to quickly gauge where they rank against their peers and within their cause area. We use VEQ to illustrate a number of key findings in the Nonprofit Video Index™. 

Notes
1. Posts with looping GIFs were not included.
2. Videos uploaded as Instagram Stories were not counted.
3. A minimum threshold of video posts and followers were determined per channel.

Data Set

The Nonprofit Video Index™ is a cross-section of nonprofits from diverse categories, cause areas, annual revenue and follower size.

View Categories

  • Animals
  • Arts, Culture, Humanities
  • Community Development
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Human Services
  • International
  • Human and Civil Rights
  • Research & Public Policy

Visit Charity Navigator to identify your category.

778

Nonprofits included in the Index

78M

Total followers of nonprofits in the Index

Jan 1 – Dec 31 2019

One year of video post data

Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

We analyzed the three most important channels for nonprofits

45k+

Total video posts analyzed

10 Categories

Nonprofits were placed into Categories and Cause Areas

Breakdown of Nonprofits in the Index

Annual Budget

Index Budget Size Data Graph

Follower Size

Index Follower Size Data Graph

*Total accounts from each channel by follower size

Key Findings

After spending months analyzing thousands of data points, we’ve uncovered 8 Key Findings to help you create better videos.

1. Facebook is the dominant channel for nonprofit video

Facebook is the largest social media channel with 2.5B active monthly users globally, and 250M active monthly users in the US & Canada. Our research shows that Facebook is also the leading channel for nonprofit video. It is the clear leader in audience size, video post frequency, and total engagement.

Cumulative Audience Size of Index Nonprofits (fig. 1)

Index Total Audience Size by Channel Chart

Audience = FB Page Likes, IG Followers, TW Followers

Total Video Posts of Index Nonprofits (fig. 2)

Index Total Video Posts Channel Graph

Note: Video posts are not necessarily unique videos

Total Engagement of Index Nonprofits (fig. 3)

Index Total Engagement Graph

Engagement = FB–Reactions, Shares, Comments | IG–Likes, Comments | TW–Likes, Retweets Comments

If a nonprofit posts an engaging video on Facebook, it has the opportunity to reach tens of thousands of prospective fans, volunteers and donors. However, competition is fierce and people’s news feeds are overflowing with content. For your content to rise to the top, it must generate engagement.

Takeaway:  Nonprofits looking to reach the largest audience should focus on Facebook. Create videos that drive engagement to reach prospective fans, volunteers and donors.

2. Instagram is the fastest growing channel for nonprofit video

Instagram is the newest of the big three social media channels. Because of this there are fewer nonprofits competing for users’ attention, and there are greater opportunities for growth. Instagram users are younger than Facebook and Twitter, providing nonprofits with the chance to cultivate relationships that will grow over time.

Audience Growth by Channel (fig. 4)

Index Audience Growth Graph
Takeaway: Nonprofits who develop a strong presence on Instagram will likely see rapid growth and connect with younger audiences.

3. Instagram has the highest average engagement per video post

Not only is Instagram the fastest growing social media channel, it also has the highest average engagement per video post. We speculate this is due to a combination of factors including Instagram’s focus on photos and videos, its streamlined user experience, and limited video length (60 seconds max).

3.2x

vs.

6.8x

vs.

As expected, Twitter’s video engagement rates are much lower than Facebook and Instagram. We speculate that since Twitter is a leading source for breaking news and social commentary, and most nonprofits don’t have the expertise nor the resources to produce that type of content, Twitter users don’t seek out and engage with nonprofit video. However, nonprofits don’t have to relinquish the Twittersphere to news organizations and entertainment networks. Some savvy nonprofits have found a way to create engaging video content on Twitter by repurposing existing video footage of their work and re-appropriating it to comment on the current news cycle or zeitgeist with powerful effect.

Takeaway: Nonprofit videos are exceptionally engaging on Instagram for a number of factors. Since high engagement ultimately leads to audience growth, nonprofits should produce content for Instagram to capitalize on this quickly growing channel.

4. One third of nonprofits have no Instagram and/or Twitter account or no video posts

We were surprised to discover how few nonprofits are active on all three social media channels.

Nonprofits In Index Without Instagram and/or Twitter Account or No Video Posts (fig. 5)

Index Nonprofits Not Instagram Twitter Graph

Being absent from a channel isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unless a nonprofit has the time, energy and money to invest in creating engaging content for a social media channel, it’s unlikely to see much success. It’s better for a nonprofit to be absent from a channel than to make a half-hearted attempt that yields limited results and wastes precious resources.

However, being absent on Instagram or Twitter is still a missed opportunity. Video is the most efficient, engaging, and preferred form of brand communication. How many prospective fans, volunteers and donors are unreached because nonprofits aren’t creating engaging videos for those channels?

Takeaway: It’s better for a nonprofit to be absent from a channel than waste time, energy and money on a half-hearted attempt to create engaging video content. Yet, the decision to not invest in a channel has a high opportunity cost in lost fans, volunteers and donors.

5. Some content is intrinsically more engaging than other content

An assumption we wanted to test was our hunch that some categories of nonprofits are  intrinsically more engaging that other categories. Afterall, it certainly seems like baby animals rule the internet.

To determine which categories were most engaging, we took the average VEQ (Video Engagement Quotient) of all nonprofits in the Index by category, and then ranked categories from #1 – #10. Turns out, we were right: animal videos are more engaging than anything else.

Highest Avg VEQ by Category

  • 1. Animals
  • 2. Human and Civil Rights
  • 3. Arts, Culture, Humanities
  • 4. Research & Public Policy
  • 5. Human Services
  • 6. Environment
  • 7. Education
  • 8. Community Development
  • 9. International
  • 10. Health

Beyond categories, we wanted to learn if there were types of content that were especially effective. We analyzed the Top 100 Most Engaging Videos Per Channel and discovered that the following content types were consistently the most engaging.

Top Content Types

1. Animals

Especially baby animals or rescued animals

2. Emotional reactions captured in real time

From jubilant celebrations to tears of joy

3. Political / controversial topics

Specifically human rights, the environment, or hot button topics like reproductive rights

4. Emotional stories of beneficiaries

Individuals whose lives have been transformed by your work sharing their story

5. Timely, topical videos

Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, Throwback Thursdays, Anniversaries, etc.

Can you capture an emotional reaction from a staff member in real time? Can you tell an emotional story of a beneficiary? Can you put a baby animal in one of your videos:) Cycle through these Top Content Types throughout the year to increase engagement and improve your VEQ.

Takeaway: Some categories of nonprofits are intrinsically more engaging than others. Focus on the Top Content Types to increase engagement and raise your VEQ.

6. Production value does not correlate with engagement

Another question we needed to answer was the relationship between engagement and production value. Do nonprofits need to put a lot of money into video production to produce engaging content? We again analyzed the Top 100 Most Engaging Video Posts Per Channel and scored them on their level of production value (i.e. use of professional video cameras, lighting equipment, sophisticated graphics, sound design).

It quickly became apparent that high production value does not correlate with engagement. If anything, the opposite is true. The majority of the Top 100 had minimal production value, with many of the top videos captured on iPhones or “prosumer” video equipment without professional lighting or sound. This should encourage resource-constrained nonprofits to focus on content and storytelling, and not view resource limitations as a barrier to producing engaging content.

Examples of Top Engaging Videos

Takeaway: Nonprofits don’t need to invest in professional video production to create engaging videos for social media. Just grab a phone or prosumer video camera and capture engaging content (see Key Finding #5 for Top Content Types).

7. Videos with the highest engagement are short (often less than 1 minute)

It was rare to find a video much longer than one minute in the Top 100 Most Engaging Videos for any channel. There were a few exceptions, but 54% of videos on the Facebook list, 100% of videos on the Instagram list (because length is limited to 60 seconds), and 70% of videos on the Twitter list were less than a minute. In fact, 33% of the Top 100 on Twitter were shorter than 30 seconds!

Average Length of Top 100 Most Engaging Videos

69

Seconds on Facebook

52

Seconds on Twitter
Takeaway: Videos 1-minute or less are more engaging on social media than longer videos.

8. Nonprofits who produce more videos with higher VEQ have larger audiences

This key finding is one of the most important. We were keenly interested in understanding the relationship between audience size, frequency, engagement and growth.

When we initially compiled the list of nonprofits in the Index, we focused on equal representation in each cause area and category. Only after pulling the data from each nonprofit did we look at their audience size. What we found was surprising.

Nonprofits with large audiences (100k+ on Facebook and Twitter, 50k+ on Instagram) were evenly distributed across all revenue sizes. A nonprofit with an annual budget of less than $5M was as likely to have a large audience as a nonprofit with the annual budget of $50M-$100M.

Breakdown of Nonprofits in Index with Large Audiences (fig. 6)

Index Followers Large by Budget Facebook Graph

*Large audience size = FB 100k+, IG 50k+, TW 100k+; Dollar amounts are annual revenue per nonprofit

Next we wanted to find out if frequency (number of annual video posts) had any bearing on audience size. We found that nonprofits with large audiences posted significantly more videos per channel than those with smaller audiences.

Avg Video Posts Per Nonprofit by Audience Size (fig. 7)

Index Average Posts by Follower Size by Platform

*Large audience = FB 100k+, IG 50k+, TW 100k+

Next, we looked at average VEQ for nonprofits. We discovered that nonprofits with large audiences had dramatically higher VEQ than those with small audiences.

Avg VEQ of Nonprofits by Audience Size (fig. 8)

Index Avg VEQ by Channel Graph

*Large audience = FB 100k+, IG 50k+, TW 100k+

Lastly, we looked at audience growth rate. Nonprofits with large audiences grew only slightly faster than nonprofits with small audiences. Yet, because of the massive size of their audiences, nonprofits with large audiences added tens of thousands more followers than nonprofits with small audiences.

Avg Annual Growth by Audience Size (fig. 9)

Index Avg Audience Increase Graph

*Large audience = FB 100k+, IG 50k+, TW 100k+

When you take into consideration how many “friends” those new followers likely have, a nonprofit with a large audience will have access to millions of new prospective audience members each year.

Takeaway: There is a strong correlation between large audience size, high frequency and highly engaging content. No matter your annual revenue, it’s possible for your nonprofit to have a large audience.

Conclusion

Creating engaging videos is not relegated to huge nonprofits with huge budgets. In fact, small nonprofits using an iPhone can create videos that are as engaging as big nonprofits with professional video staff. The Nonprofit Video Index™ proves that creating engaging video has more to do with content type, category, length and frequency than budget or production value.

If you want to learn where your nonprofit ranks on The Nonprofit Video Index™, and how you compare to your peers, our Video Strategy service is designed for you. We benchmark you against your peers, analyze your audiences, share additional insights from The Nonprofit Video Index™ and create a step-by-step road map for your nonprofit to create better videos.

Interested in our Video Strategy service?

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