I think that most organizations are a little bit afraid of video. And if they are a little bit afraid of video they are even more afraid of live video.  Video, the conventional wisdom goes, is expensive and hard to produce. Your chances of doing it wrong are higher than of doing it right, and either way the cost and time involved is probably out of reach. Live video, well that is just crazy talk! Anything could happen!

As we all know, the cost of video cameras has come way down, the once much heralded inexpensive Flip camera is now obsolute because of smartphones with high quality video cameras! And editing technology has also become cheaper and easier. For years now every Mac has shipped with iMovie, but today you can edit video with a range of online services including YouTube.

Video engages people. How many times a day do you want a few minutes of video on the web? That clip from the Daily Show, a segment from the local news, something on YouTube (perhaps involving a cute animal) a friend posted to Facebook? Or maybe you were glued to live streaming of the #occupy demonstrations this fall?

How can nonprofit organizations make use of video easily, and without great expense, to connect with their audiences? My, perhaps counter intuitive answer, is through live streaming. Yes, jump in on the deep end.  With live streaming video there is no post production necessary, just a camera and an internet connection. UStream has garnered much press because of the #occupy movements and it is a great platform, scales well, offers some good tools, but it also requires a bit more setup than, say, Google+ Hangouts.  

If you have a Google+ account, you can start a hangout.  And Hangouts have the benefit of being two-way (I know, even scarier!) But the combination of live, plus interactive can be used to get comfortable with the medium by engaging natural allies and providing them with the inside scoop.  How many email messages do you get a day purporting to be from the executive director of a nonprofit organization you support? And how many of those do you read? I might skim 1 in 10, an that is probably being generous (though I realize I'm not exactly average, I'm subscribed to many multiple dozens of email lists).

Video can be used to cut through the noise of mass email messages.  And live video, while it may have a smaller reach, can be far more engaging than a produced video (which can be used effectively but takes much more effort). Imagine a weekly 30 minute hangout during which the executive director talks to donors and supporters about what's happening at the organization, and those supporters can ask questions. Developing such a routine can give a director confidence in the medium, and an organization confidence in using it, with limited exposure. As you get better, you can record these live events and post the videos to your website for others to view. 

I believe this sort of experimentation does need to start at the top, with the director, but then it can filter down through the organization: briefings and Q&A with a policy analyst, or a field organizer, or direct service worker.  Through events like this, supporters can better get to know the staff at an organization and develop a better understanding of where their donations are going, and what results are being achieved.

Think of this kind of video as a natural evolution of the conference call update (which is also used for too infrequently by nonprofits in my opinion, but is often used by political campaigns, and big corporations for media purposes). At CivicActions we use live multi person video conference calls for projects, internal management and full team "calls" about the state of the company. Granted all of these are directed to a limited audience, but they provide an opportunity for us to see each other, present information visually and engage on a level that is far superior to an audio only call, or an email message.

Is your organization using live video to reach your audience? Do you have questions about how to go about doing it?  Leave a comment, we'd love to hear from you!