YouTube Subscriber Strategies for Nonprofits

It doesn’t matter if you’re a for-profit globe-spanning corporation, a humble non-profit, or a geek with a camera who wants to talk tech. All three will succeed or fail at video marketing based on their ability to get YouTube subscribers. Thinking that you can succeed with one great video is false. Subscribers on YouTube are like fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. They’re the sustained audience who follow your story.

As a nonprofit you have compelling stories to tell, and you can tell and distribute them cheaply. A camera, the passion of those you work with, and YouTube is all you need. I’m going to show you some ideas on how you can get the subscribers that will stay with you, as well as alert you to an important tool.

YouTube subscribers for nonprofit companies

The very first thing that you need to be aware of as a nonprofit is a tool that YouTube has made just for you. It’s called, creatively enough, YouTube for Nonprofits. Follow the link to learn the particulars, here’s a video to get you primed:

Video is an incredibly powerful way to tell stories The film industry isn’t worth billions and billions of dollars for the special effects; it’s for the stories told. You may not make as much money as the next Avengers film, but you can greatly expand your reach and funding by specifically using the YouTube for Nonprofits program.

Using a call to action

A feature of the YouTube for Nonprofits program is the video overlays for calls to action. Having it, and knowing how to use it for more YouTube subscribers, are two different things. My recommendation is to have the person hosting or doing your voiceover join in and have a complimentary call to action as your message is displayed as text. An example:

The End the Awkward campaign by the Scope team has the right idea here. During the overlay they urge people to click their buttons while a big fat ‘Subscribe’ button is displayed in their viewer’s face.

Here’s another example where they have a clear call to action that interacts with an overlay:

This isn’t directly impacting their subscribers, but it is getting people to ‘subscribe’ to being a member of their family as a whole.

Using annotations

Youtube Annotations are available to everyone on YouTube. You can use them to tell people information that was forgotten in the video, to highlight certain points, or to use as links. One of the most useful ways it can be used at any time is to help get more subscribers.

Here’s a video which takes it to the next level and has an annotation that stays on the screen the whole time just for subscribers:

See it down there in the bottom lefthand corner? Any time someone thinks ‘Hey, I want to subscribe,’ there’s their chance.

For a more traditional style of Annotation, check out the popup that appears at the very beginning of this video in the upper left hand corner, followed by an additional popup below it at 12 seconds:

Think of Youtube annotations as silent calls to action during your video. You’re also free to use them to push people to your website, a signup page, or anywhere else you want to direct traffic. Don’t forget to have one for subscribers.

Build a community and interact with them

YouTube is actually as much about social media marketing as it is about video marketing. This isn’t like TV where you have a commercial that airs and you sit back as the donations come in. You have the chance to actually thank the people making a difference for your nonprofit as you’re right there with the people who make the donations of money and time.

One way to thank them is by making a video for YouTube that is aimed right at them. Take this video from the WWF as an example:

They created it for YouTube, and included a message in the video description aimed at YouTube viewers. This is your chance to use combine YouTube optimization with community building – a truly powerful YouTube marketing tactic.

If you’re not up for creating a video, the easier route can be responding to comments left below your video. Show people that you’re really there for them on YouTube and they’ll pay you back with shares, and with continued interest in your channel. Remember all of those thank you letters you sent via the post? Save yourself a whole lot on postage!

Not everyone wants to watch a video right now

Some people who may become your subscribers may not find you when they’re ready to watch a video. Some may be surfing on their phone while on break at work, and find a blog post they can read quickly. This doesn’t mean that they can’t also become Youtube subscribers.

YouTube Subscribe Buttons can be embedded anywhere on your website. This gives people the chance to subscribe and watch your videos later while they’re engaging with non-video content. To use them best, put them on your website right after you embed a video of yours. If users don’t want to go to YouTube to subscribe to your channel, bring the Youtube subscription button to them.

Keep in mind that you can use this and your YouTube link along with your other social channels. You don’t have to choose, I recommend using them as often as is tasteful. Check out how Kiva gives their social channels a prominent spot on their homepage:

A final suggestion for getting YouTube subscribers to your nonprofit

This is a tactic used often by YouTube celebrities that I have not yet seen done well by any nonprofit. If you know one, please share.

This tactic comes from two popular YouTube channels working together. The strategy is for them to share their audiences. As I’m sure many of you nonprofits out there are aware of, we can accomplish more when we work together than when we act alone. YouTube collaborations can be a perfect example of this.

Here’s an example of YouTubers teaming up to bring great content to both of their audiences, and share some growth. I know that neither a nonprofit, but I can’t find an example of it amongst that industry.

Offensive Language Warning on this video:

That was a video by Epic Rap Battles of History. Hosted by Epic Lloyd and Nice Peter, they brought on Mary Doodles, Chris Alvararo, and KRNFX to round out the cast for this video. Each of those contributors had some traffic sent their way, while they in turn sent their audience to Epic Rap Battles.

Everybody won, and I got a video I’ve watched way too many times. Taking this concept and applying it to your nonprofit’s Youtube subscriber strategy may just be the next step in video marketing amongst the industry.

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.