Posted by Lisa Thompson

You may not have a big budget for video, but videos can still make a big splash in your marketing efforts. These numbers don’t lie:

There’s no doubt that your supporters and prospects love video. The good news is, anyone can produce quality videos these days using a little thought, ingenuity and their smartphone (and perhaps a good editing tool).

Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Be prepared before you shoot. Before you begin recording, make sure you have all the gear, props, scripts, people and locations ready to go. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to stop the recording process for little logistics. Also, make sure your phone is charged and that you have enough storage space. High-def video files can get large and will drain a battery quickly.
  2. Have good lighting. Daylight is best for shooting video, so if you can record outdoors, do that. If you have to shoot indoors, turn on all the lights and try to use warm lights as opposed to LED lights. Proper lighting has a huge impact on smartphone cameras because they have smaller image sensors and lenses.
  3. Hold steady. If you don’t want your video to come out distorted, blurred or affected by “rolling shutter,” keep your phone very steady while recording. Use both hands and hold your smartphone as close as possible to your body as you record the video—extending your arms will make you shakier. You can also use a stabilizer or tripod.
  4. Get close to your subject. This ensures better image quality, less digital noise and better focus in your videos since most smartphones use a digital zoom rather than optical zoom.
  5. Hold your smartphone horizontally. Too many people make the mistake of holding their phones vertically while recording, which will give you two black bars on the sides of your video. Hold your phone horizontally so that videos played back on other screens will still look great.
  6. Pay attention to audio quality. Unfortunately, the built-in microphone in most smartphones is both low quality and unsuitably placed. It’s common to catch wind and other background noise while shooting outside, so try to wait for good weather in a quiet location. If you’re indoors, record in a quiet spot but avoid empty rooms—you’ll get too much echo in the recording. Try to choose a room with carpeting or furniture to absorb ambient sound. Another tip: Keep your camera close to your subject and even ask them to speak a little louder than normal.

    To get great quality audio, you could use an external recording device or at least a directional microphone that will work with your smartphone.
  7. Improve your videos with mobile apps. Some third party apps are very intuitive with great features for those new to developing video content. iMovie for iOS and PowerDirector for Android are two good options. You’ll find several free video editing apps, but investing even a little bit of money for a good editing app can pay big dividends when it comes to finalizing your finished product.
  8. Keep it short. Under a minute is great; under two is a must. Studies have shown that if you have not fully engaged your audience after the first 30 seconds of an online video, you’ve likely lost 33% of viewers. After one minute, 45% of viewers have stopped watching. For sharing on social media, keep this in mind: Facebook’s auto-playback feature makes 30- to 45-second videos optimal, while Vine and Instagram have whet people’s appetite for micro videos that are 15 seconds or less.

And once your video is ready to rock, you’ll need a great website where you can share your story and drive engagement with supporters. At Firespring, we build beautiful websites with all the nonprofit essentials built right in. Learn more by calling 877.447.8941 or email