Nonprofit YouTube contest promotes navel-gazing

I’m sorry, but the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards got 12 big red thumbs down from me.

In case you’ve somehow missed it, the DoGooder Award is an annual contest on YouTube. This year, some 750 videos were submitted by nonprofits. That has been whittled down by a panel of experts to 16 finalists. Now voting is open to the public for a winner. The winners get all kinds of spiffy prizes. Voting closes on April 7.

What a disappointing crop of finalists. All of them are well produced. All are visually powerful. But most of them (12 of the 16, in my judgment) are utterly self-indulgent exercises in nonprofit navel-gazing. Me! Me! Me! Look at me! I’m so cool! That’s not how you motivate people to join you in changing the world.

It appears the judges chose finalists based on quality, creative, and innovation of video technique — rather than likelihood of moving people to action. They have every right to create whatever criteria they want, but what’s the point of that one? It doesn’t matter how innovative a nonprofit video is if it’s not going to have a great impact. We exist to change the world, not to look cool.

A lot of truly impactful videos are a little rough around the edges. Because production values not only don’t make that much difference — they can actually get in the way of meaningful messaging.

I’d rather see the winners of a contest that’s about actual impact, not the opinions of experts. I know there are many nonprofit videos out there quietly doing the job of moving people to make donations, volunteer, and take other actions. Those ones are already the real winners, because what they’re accomplishing is worth many times more than the prizes and accolades the DoGooder winners are in for.

For my money, the best DoGooder finalist is this video by the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s not about how cool the Cancer Society is — it’s about people wanting to stop cancer. That’s what charitable giving is about. Let’s see more like this one next year.

(Or watch it here at YouTube.)


Comments

2 responses to “Nonprofit YouTube contest promotes navel-gazing”

  1. While I agree that the videos in YouTube’s contest are underwhelming, I disagree that production values don’t matter. In my experience working for a nonprofit video production company, I’ve found that the videos with the highest response are those with excellent production value AND great messaging. One or the other just doesn’t seem to go over as well.
    I wish there was more data on what moves people as far as video is concerned, because right now it seems like it’s so much conjecture and personal opinion. I think what we’ll find is that video, like other media, probably needs to be targeted because people from different generations or genders or socio-economic backgrounds aren’t going to be moved to action by the same kinds of videos.
    Case in point, I watched all the videos and I didn’t really like the one above (my favorite was The Last Measle by American Red Cross). And I lost my mom to cancer a few years ago – her third battle with it! – so that’s a subject I care deeply and passionately about. But I was annoyed by that video, and had to force myself to watch beyond the first 30 seconds.

  2. While I agree that the videos in YouTube’s contest are underwhelming, I disagree that production values don’t matter. In my experience working for a nonprofit video production company, I’ve found that the videos with the highest response are those with excellent production value AND great messaging. One or the other just doesn’t seem to go over as well.
    I wish there was more data on what moves people as far as video is concerned, because right now it seems like it’s so much conjecture and personal opinion. I think what we’ll find is that video, like other media, probably needs to be targeted because people from different generations or genders or socio-economic backgrounds aren’t going to be moved to action by the same kinds of videos.
    Case in point, I watched all the videos and I didn’t really like the one above (my favorite was The Last Measle by American Red Cross). And I lost my mom to cancer a few years ago – her third battle with it! – so that’s a subject I care deeply and passionately about. But I was annoyed by that video, and had to force myself to watch beyond the first 30 seconds.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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