With the rise of YouTube, affordable video editing software and improved smartphone video quality, more nonprofits are using video to tell their stories or spread awareness of their causes.

For many organizations, a powerful and effective video means an emotional appeal that reaches out to viewers’ empathy to encourage donations, awareness or other forms of support. Triggering the right emotions in viewers can help them connect with your issue on a more personal level. One of the most effective ways to trigger an emotional response in a video is through music.

In this video from Heal the Bay, the music helps drive home the message and connects the viewer to the plight of the seagull caught in the plastic bag. It also helps reinforce the caption–“everything man does affects nature”–in a a negative sense. The music choice helps keep the message of this video simple and direct. They don’t have to explain anything else beyond that one sentence, because the emotional impact fills in the gap.
You have to pay close attention to the music you choose, however. The wrong tempo, the wrong tone, even the wrong associations can drastically alter the message you’re trying to send. What if we changed the music in this video, to something less serious?

Now the video tells a completely different story. Instead of feeling empathy for the poor seagull, we’ve turned its plight into an object of ridicule. It’s good for a cheap laugh–but we’ve lost the message we were trying to convey.
Heal the Bay does great work bringing attention to ocean pollution, and just launched a mobile device app for their Beach Report Card, which lets users access the latest water quality grades for more than 500 beaches on the Pacific Coast.
Feel free to share other examples of nonprofit videos in the comments. We’d love to see what you’re doing out there.