December 16, 2011

YouTube’s viral stars: The new nonprofit ambassadors

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“It’s Time,” a nonprofit viral video from Australia, shows the power of YouTube for raising awareness.

Project 4 Awesome on YouTube: 5 years of online community organizing

Target audience: Nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises, cause organizations, NGOs, brands, businesses, Web publishers, educators, journalists, general public.

Guest post by Hunter Walk
Director, Product Management, YouTube

Hunter-WalkIn 2007, YouTube stars John and Hank Green, known online as the VlogBrothers, asked everyone on YouTube to upload videos for their favorite causes and charities on Dec. 17. This YouTube community driven movement became known as Project for Awesome — so many people participated that the videos actually took over the YouTube homepage in a “flurry of awesomeness.”

Last year Project for Awesome generated 10 million video views, raised hundreds of thousand dollars, and was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter for 36 hours.

Now celebrating its fifth year, P4A is a shining example of how YouTube can help nonprofits of all shapes and sizes raise awareness, funds, and friends.

Leveraging the YouTube community to do good

Kevin Wu has been using YouTube to help raise awareness and build a middle school in Kenya with The Supply, a nonprofit supporting education

At YouTube, we have 800 million unique visitors a month. That is a big, engaged audience wanting to be inspired, informed, and entertained. As seen with Project for Awesome, when you talk to the YouTube community, they talk back to you and to each other. As in any community, the YouTube community has celebrated figures leading trends and movements. Savvy nonprofits are figuring out how to interact with YouTube stars to reach a new generation of supporters.

For example, YouTube comedian Kevin Wu, aka KevJumba, has been using YouTube to help raise awareness and build a middle school in Kenya with The Supply, a nonprofit supporting education. Through his second channel on YouTube, JumbaFund, Kevin donates 100% of the ad revenue to charity. The JumbaFund channel, currently at over 43 million total views, is solely dedicated to supporting the school.

Turning views into action, regardless of budget

While there are 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., only 12,000 are enrolled in the YouTube nonprofit program

YouTube is giving small grassroots organizations the same marketing and fundraising opportunities as large organizations. In a matter of days a grassroots Australian organization can gain international attention with a viral video. A man with a camera can travel through the developing world and reach millions with the message of ending extreme poverty. A simple video message can start a campaign joined by political leaders, athletes and celebrities.

While there are 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone, only around 12,000 organizations are enrolled in the YouTube nonprofit program. Video conveys messages and stories in a powerful way. Make sure you are using video to further your cause. Enroll your organization in YouTube’s nonprofit program to access special tools. At YouTube we’re committed to helping turn view counts into donations, volunteerism, policy change, lives saved and other social action. We work to help nonprofits connect and change the world through video.

Your organization can start today with some tips to help grow your YouTube channel:

  • Reach out. Post videos that get YouTube viewers talking, and then stay in the conversation with comments and video responses.
  • Partner up. Find other organizations on YouTube that complement your mission, and work together to promote each other.
  • Keep it fresh. Put up new videos regularly and keep them short — ideally under 5 minutes.
  • Spread your message. Share links and the embed code for your videos with supporters so they can help get the word out.
  • Be genuine. We have a wide demographic, so high view counts come from content that’s compelling rather than what’s “hip.”

Start with Project for Awesome. Saturday, beginning at noon ET (9 am PT), you and your supporters can upload a short video highlighting the cause you care about. Use this thumbnail for the video, and tag it with “p4a2011.” Encourage your supporters to participate and help you connect and change the world through video.

Hunter Walk is director of product management for YouTube. Follow him on Twitter at @hunterwalk.

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