How can NGOs and charities reach audiences that don’t care?

25th June 2019

It’s an essential question for international NGOs and charities. How can we extend the conversation beyond people who already get behind their cause? Many of these organisations are already producing great video content that grabs the audience’s attention and encourages their supporters to share and even get involved. Video is the right approach; emotional content has been proven in the lab to promote empathy in viewers so much so that they will donate more money.

However, with competition for the attention economy fierce, non-profits need to reach new audiences who don’t already care. Read on to find out how to engage new audiences to take action at the right time. 

The right content at the right time

A powerful video strategy will use a mix of content types, delivered in the most appropriate context. But where do you start with an NGO content strategy? Google’s Hero, Hub, Help formula is a useful way to create your content plan for the different stages of the supporter journey – awareness, consideration, decision and advocacy. 

Hero content for NGOs

Let’s start with the big-ticket content, which is impact-driven and emotional. Hero videos are at the start of the supporter journey, targeted at a mass audience and typically backed via paid activation. Hero content drives newer audiences to your charity or NGO as well as reinforcing brand values with people who already know about you.

Here is a video for the Girl Effect, which raises awareness about the opportunities for girls and young women worldwide. The animation starts with a ticking clock showing how time is running out to help improve girls’ lives, which adds urgency to the cause. 

The video uses emotion by revealing the shocking stats about poverty, education, child marriage and exploitation, but it also offers solutions so that the viewers can see how their involvement could make a difference.

Hub content for NGOs

Hub content is lower budget, more regular and always-on. This type of video builds a community of followers for your NGO or charity and, ultimately, brand loyalty. Here is part one of a seven-part video series from Charity: water which tells a story and pulls viewers back to see more. 

Help content for NGOs

Help content or how-to videos key into audience intent and give answers to their search queries extending reach and widening your content to new audiences. Here is a video partnership between an influencer and the search engine Ecosia. It taps into people wanting to find out more about reducing plastic waste, which would work well for an environmental NGO. 

As with Hero content, how-to videos can raise awareness as well as convert viewers into supporters at the consideration or decision stages. 


At Hurricane, we add Go content to Google’s formula. These are short videos that drive a specific action, and for NGOs and non-profits, this could be to donate or sign a petition.

What does winning content look like?

The hero pieces will be made less often and will feature the charity’s prominent campaigns, then hub and help pieces will populate more of the content calendar. What content will work most effectively to reach new audiences? Here’s a quick cheat-list:

  • grabs and holds our attention
  • adds values to our lives and society 
  • emotionally engaging 
  • original and relevant
  • on brand 
  • shareable
  • meets messaging goals

Emotional videos for non-profits

We make over 35,000 decisions every day. Therefore we need to make it as easy as possible for people to care enough to click to watch our video, then actually watch the film,  and then take action. How do we beat this decision fatigue? 

Emotional content will help your audience decide whether or not to support your charity. Here’s an emotional campaign that we produced for the charity, Together for Short Lives

To create an engaging video, identifying the emotional drivers of your audience is pivotal. What will encourage them to watch your video and get involved? These drivers can include happy, sad, frightened, surprised, distressed, empathic or generous.

However, the drivers can also be more than these standard emotions; think FOMO, vanity, the need to be seen as an early adopter, career advancement, laziness or even distrust of others.  When I run marketing consultancy workshops, I encourage people to write down all the emotional drivers they can think of, as honestly as possible, and you have your drivers.

Keep things simple

Less really more when it comes to video content. Your script does not need to contain everything about your organisation. Instead, it’s more effective to keep things simple and use your emotional messages to drive the video with vital facts to back it up. My formula for this is: 

Emotion, Fact, Action.

Start with emotion, then back it up with the essential facts and finally end on an emotional call to action. Here’s an example of a clear, well-crafted video to promote the Day of the Girl with a Beyonce soundtrack. 

Content-based around events or stunts

Often hero videos feature a stunt or event. Take this example from Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, which comments on LGBT rights in Poland. The brand recreates a rainbow which was burned down during a homophobic attack in Warsaw, but this time the rainbow is a hologram and so unbreakable. The video does not show people eating ice-cream, but it does align with Ben and Jerry’s brand values and attracted a considerable PR buzz. Watch below:

Video Activation

Now,  your NGO or charity has a killer video that promotes your key messages, how do you ensure that your target audience watches and engages with the content?  This is achieved through video seeding via owned channels (your presence on social media), earned media (through PR), and paid content and influencers. 

Owned media

The first place to share content is via your brand social media accounts. When you’re sharing via owned media, your audience has already bought into your cause to some extent. Don’t be shy about asking your audience to help you spread your message. 

Each social channel has its own style, so ensure that you repurpose content to get maximum value. Ask yourself:

  • Does your video have a catchy, searchable title?
  • Have you chosen the most eye-catching thumbnail?
  • Does your copy add context to your film and encourage people to watch?
  • Have you added the right hashtags and tags?
  • Have you tested posting at different times for maximum impact?

Earned media

Your organisation cannot raise awareness if you only speak to people who know about your cause already, so you need to use search, earned media and paid advertising to extend reach. I work with many brands across sectors, who create amazing content, and then they don’t get the attention they deserve as they are only shared via brand social channels. 

Earned and paid media is essential. Video is taking over content across the internet, and so press offices will be looking for video content. Can you write a press release or pitch articles to accompany your video?


It is likely that you will need to use some paid channels to reach new audiences, whether that’s ads or paid placements via Google, YouTube, or social channels. These paid placements will help you meet your objectives or more volunteers, signatures or donations. Social channels all have extremely granular targeting so that they can show your social videos to the people who are most likely to be interested in your cause.  

If your budget is limited, you can still achieve results through precise targeting and continually testing and improving your creative and targeting. There are options for non-profits too, such as Google Grants for Charities, which can offer 10,000 USD “free” advertising every month. Find out if your not for profit organisation would be eligible here


Influencers can also be a good option to help spread the word about your cause to relevant people, build brand awareness and maintain authenticity. To avoid a PR nightmare, follow good practice and due diligence to ensure they are the right person. It is not necessary for them to have the biggest following ever, a loyal, relevant niche audience could actually be more productive. If it is a paid relationship, ensure that you’re upfront about it too.

Here is an example of an influencer partnership with the charity, Refuge. It’s an early example, but I think it’s still relevant to share. This hard-hitting film is called “How To Look Your Best The Morning After”. It’s a staged video by a “real” beauty blogger, who describes how she covers up her bruises, which have been inflicted on her by her partner. The video has a clear message to encourage people to talk about domestic abuse with the hashtag #dontcoveritup. This beauty influencer had experienced an abusive relationship herself, which adds a powerful resonance to the film.

To conclude, winning content is aimed at the right people, at the right time and place and the content targeted to their emotions and the aims of your brand at each stage of the funnel. Once, you have created your content, review it regularly and ensure that it still meets your brand values and objectives. 

Here are a few questions to kickstart your strategy:

  • Whom are we aiming to communicate with?
  • What do we want to say that will provoke thought and drive action?
  • How do we say it?
  • Where do we find the right people
  • How do we reach them?

There’s no point creating winning content if you’re not reaching audiences that don’t already know about your cause. Use our video strategy, and they will all love you.

We’ve worked with a large number of international NGOs and would love to chat about how we can help your brand too. Get in touch. 

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