Most people carry around video cameras in their pockets these days – in their smartphones. How easy is that? But making a video for your organisation can be intimidating. We understand this feeling, and we wanted to give it a try for National Volunteer Week 2017.

Thanks to our volunteer editors and filmmakers Jack and Dave  and to the many  organisations who supplied us with material: Age Concern (national office), AFS/GoKiwiGo!, Cancer Society, Special Olympics, Presbyterian Support (Otago), Communicare (Auckland), and Volunteer Wellington. We made the video shown here.

Our goal was to try making a video with a group of willing participants who could share photos, existing clips, or mobile phone video with us. We aimed to compile them into a short video montage with background music and captions.

We want to help you start thinking about making a video, too.

Here are video examples to get you thinking, and some tips from an unconference workshop in February on Mobile Phone Video. The tips below are from DK, a speaker on social media and storytelling, and some of the others who attended the workshop.

Video examples

Here are some examples of New Zealand nonprofits using video in different ways to promote volunteering:

Quick and cheap:


Video on the go: Video an event or activity. For example, showing your volunteers in action.

Montage or mashup: A montage is a great way to get feedback from a lot of people — like the Auckland Zoo video – “A big thank you to all volunteers”

And finally, what about professional video?: people often say professional video is out of reach for them. But if you can collaborate with an organisation like Film for Change, a charitable trust doing some great work with New Zealand nonprofits, then professional video might be more affordable than you think. We love the call to action in this St. Vincent De Paul Society video –
If you’re not quite sure what kind of story you have to tell, then this can be a very good option to help focus your thinking with the help of some expert storytellers.

Unconference tips:

Sound, framing, lighting are generally the big problems with videos. If you can get these right, you can create great mobile phone video.

Sound – to record good sound:

  • Ask your interviewee to pause before starting (gives added time to cut and edit later)
  • Give people a time limit to speak — and expect them to double it
  • Test your sound first in a pre-video so you know what you’ll get.
  • If  ‘in the field’ sound is what you need – get a microphone for your video device. You can find them pretty cheaply these days
  • If you don’t need sound from your participants, consider one of the royalty-free audio tracks available online for nonprofits to use.
  • Avoid wind – find a windless space. Create DIY stuff out of styrofoam cups etc to protect from wind (for more tips, Google this)

Framing – keep in mind when holding the camera:

  • Always film in horizontal. — you capture so much more of what you see and is more common for editing purposes, too. If you need to, find the ‘orientation lock’ for your phone to keep it horizontal.
  • Think about the light and get up close – align the person’s eyes at top third of your screen
  • use the Fibonacci circle to make your shot more interesting

Lighting – if shooting outside

  • It’s terrible to shoot in really nice weather! Lends itself to strong shadows.
  • As the video shooter, make sure the sun is behind you – but this can mean it’s in the eyes of person you’re shooting.
  • For these reasons — Grey days are perfect for shooting!

Three more points:

  1. Keep it short! Aim for 30 -90 seconds and ideally no longer than 3 minutes for your first effort.
  2. Get some software to help you edit it -– Some of the great (and easy) tools are iMovie for Mac, Magic Movie Maker for PC and in Apps – iPhone for iMovie.
  3. Give yourself time — one thing we would have liked more of! If you’re involving lots of people, give them lots of time (and deadlines!!)


Laura Allen, VNZ Content Manager.