By Julia Campbell, a social media and storytelling consultant for nonprofits and author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits. She regularly provides useful tips and resources to the nonprofit sector through her blog, #501SocialBlog. Also, on February 19 in collaboration with Nonprofit Tech for Good, she’ll be presenting a free webinar about how nonprofits can use social media to raise money online.


Chances are that if you are online, you’ve watched a YouTube video. YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world, with 73% of U.S. adults actively using the site on a regular basis. The site just reached 1.8 billion monthly registered users – almost a third of all people on the planet!

It’s also the top platform for 18 to 24-year-olds, with 85% of this age group on the platform (compared to just 51% for Facebook).   

While it is true that many users go to YouTube to find out how to make home improvements, how to cook a specific recipe, or just to zone out and watch cute animal videos, the popular platform can prove useful to nonprofits.   

Pew Internet reported that over half of YouTube users say that the platform is at least “somewhat important for helping them understand things that are happening in the world.”

So how can nonprofits use this powerful tool to build their movements, advance their causes, and raise money for their organizations?  

1) Sign up for Google for Nonprofits.

The very first thing your nonprofit needs to do is register officially with YouTube, which is owned by Google.

To do this, you will need:

  • A Google for Nonprofits account (free). Simply go to google.com/nonprofits and click on the “Get Started” button.
  • A YouTube channel and ID. You can learn how to create a channel and find your channel ID here.

The main benefit of registering for your free Google for Nonprofits account is that eligible nonprofits will soon be able to raise money directly within the YouTube platform, without sending donors to an outside website.  

In August 2018, Erin Turner, Product Manager for YouTube Giving, announced that they are rolling out a new suite of fundraising tools for nonprofits, including:

  • Fundraisers
  • Community fundraisers
  • Campaign matching
  • Super Chat for Good

Bonus: Google will cover all of the processing fees so that registered nonprofits receive 100% of all funds raised!

Fundraisers will look a lot like Facebook Fundraisers, with a Donate button and am embedded fundraising campaign page right next to a video or live stream.

Community Fundraisers will enable multiple YouTube “Creators” to raise money for the same fundraiser on multiple YouTube channels and videos, all updated at the same time.

Campaign matching will display matching pledges from brands or other creators directly inside the Fundraiser or Community Fundraiser.

Super Chat for Good is for those who already use Super Chat in their live streams and Premiere videos on YouTube. Super Chats enable YouTube users to pay to get their messages highlighted within a live chat that has a huge number of participants.

While still in beta, YouTube Giving tools are being made available to a select number of YouTube creators in the U.S. and Canada before the international rollout.

2) Share compelling fundraising videos.

A fundraising video can be very different from a marketing video.

A great marketing video is designed to capture the eyeballs of strangers, pique their interest, and entice them to learn more.

An effective fundraising video makes me feel an emotion so strongly that I have an overwhelming desire to help and to participate. It also clearly and succinctly asks me for money and gives me a link or a way to donate immediately.

Here are some examples of fundraising videos that tell great stories, elicit an emotional response from the viewer, and feature a clear call-to-action at the end asking for your donation.

Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund: Meet Bobbie and Ia

Hear this inspiring story of Bobbie, a homeless woman who was helped by the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund to become more empowered and more hopeful. Also meet Ia, a regular person who does not have a lot of money, but still gives, and she tells you why. I get chills watching this simple video.

Slaying Childhood Cancer: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Told from the perspective of her father, this video is a story of childhood cancer hero Jordan Vincent – named the Cancer Slayer. More than a story about what she has endured, it’s a story about how she wants to help others.

Meet Chuna: Empowering women in rural Nepal – a READ Global video

Filmed in Nepal, this story is told by the woman it features – Chuna – and her experiences being a girl in a traditional culture that would not let her get an education. But she still wanted to learn, and the READ center helped her. Now she wants to give back and help other illiterate woman in her community.

Eunice’s Dream: A Poem from Kibera School for Girls

This video does not have a direct fundraising call to action at the end of it, because it is part of a bigger documentary. The call to action is to watch the documentary on PBS. However, it inspired me to search online for a way to give to the Kibera School for Girls – a cause I still support today!

3. Add Donation Cards to your fundraising videos.

If you don’t have access to YouTube Giving tools just yet, don’t fear – you can still add Donation Cards to your fundraising videos!

YouTube has a helpful FAQ and troubleshooting page for Donation Cards, to help you raise the most money using this tool.

Your supporters can make a donation right inside YouTube (similar to Facebook donations) when they watch your video, so you don’t have to lose potential donors by sending them away to another website.

The best part is that any individual or business that uploads a video to YouTube can raise money for your nonprofit directly on their videos by using Donation Cards.

Tips to make the most out of Donation Cards on YouTube:

  • Only have one card per video – avoid confusing your viewers.
  • Let views know to click on the information icon.
  • Make the text interesting and click-worthy – what will entice attention now that a person has watched your video?
  • Ensure that the language on the Donation Card makes sense and is relevant to the video attached to it.  
  • Don’t wait until the end of the video to show the Donation Card – strategically place it at the 30-second or 1-minute mark, wherever you find you get the biggest drop off in viewership.

Note: In order to receive donations through Donation Cards, your nonprofit will have to opt into receiving money from Network for Good through GuideStar. Just like YouTube Giving tools, Google doesn’t charge any fees, so all the proceeds go to your organization.

4. Activate your network.

If your network of supporters doesn’t know that Donation Cards are a viable and easy fundraising option, it’s likely that they won’t seek out that information on their own.

Write up a short email or social media post encouraging your tribe to make fundraising videos on your behalf. Or just to simply add your nonprofit Donation Card to their existing videos.

YouTube has provided a downloadable Outreach Toolkit with email templates for you to adapt, cut, paste, and use to send to your network.

5. Optimize your YouTube Channel to get more subscribers.

The more subscribers you get on YouTube, the more people will see your video. YouTube also uses the subscriber metric to determine when and where to suggest videos to other viewers.

A perfect way to do this is with your channel trailer – the first video people see when they come to your channel.

An example of how to do this is the PBS Idea Channel – their trailer is pinned to the top of their page, auto-plays when new people enter, and gives them a warm welcome and explanation of what to expect when they subscribe.

They also have colorful, eye-catching YouTube cover art, something that you can easily design yourself using free graphic design tools like Canva or Adobe Spark.

For more information on how to grow your YouTube channel to reach more potential donors, visit the YouTube Creators Academy website, full of case studies, tips, and guided lessons.


Guest Blogger Bio: Julia Campbell has run her digital marketing consulting business for almost a decade, focused exclusively on mission-driven organizations. A mom of 2 and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, she is the author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, a call-to-action for nonprofits to use stories to accomplish their missions. Her passion is to get nonprofits of all sizes to stop spinning their wheels on social media and to start getting real results using digital tools. You can check out her website at: jcsocialmarketing.com/blog.