Every(Re)Action | 5 Takeaways from Tectonic’s Report on Nonprofits, the Pandemic, and Video

May 24, 2021 | Grace Duginski
Every(Re)Action | Tectonic Report on Nonprofits, the Pandemic, and Video Shows how Nonprofits can Engage Supporters with Video Now and In the Future

Tectonic, a video agency specializing in nonprofits, has released a report detailing how organizations—including EveryAction clients like Rock the Vote, Human Rights Watch, National Audubon Society, and the UN Foundation—have successfully used video during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these findings will shape nonprofit video strategy in years to come.

The data set analyzed in this report included 778 registered 501(c)3 nonprofits, chosen at random from a total of 10,000 organizations working across issue areas. Tectonic’s report measures engagement above all else, and they did this by “adding together likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares, and reactions per video post, and dividing by audience size.”

When it comes to video content, the engagement rate is important for three reasons:

  1. Nonprofits want to create content their followers and fans enjoy.
  2. Social platforms’ algorithms love engagement.
  3. Focusing on engagement rates helps measure across different audience sizes on different platforms.

The five key takeaways in this report included:

Nonprofit video takeaway #1: The number of video posts and amount of audience engagement increased dramatically during the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic set in nation-wide, nonprofits began posting more video across platforms—”irrespective of operating budget, audience size, or production capabilities.” Between 2019 and 2020, total video posts nearly doubled on Facebook, and they also increased to a lesser extent on Twitter and Instagram.

The report notes that these increases in video posts didn’t correlate with “significant audience growth”—meaning there was an audience size increase, but nothing explosive. (This seems to make sense when we think back to the 2021 M+R Benchmarks’ findings about nonprofits’ post reach on social media: “Each organic Facebook post only reached 4% of a nonprofit page’s fans. Meanwhile, 29% of the audience reached by a given post was not already following the nonprofit.”)

However, Tectonic’s report found that “audience engagement”—that’s the most important metric in this report—”did increase significantly from the previous year.” From 2019 to 2020, total engagements increased year over year on Instagram by 1 million, on Twitter by about 2 million, and on Facebook by over 6 million.

Clearly, even if audience size increases weren’t huge, engagement rates indicate people were responding to video on social media, and any channel where your supporters are responding can become a valuable piece of your multi-channel strategy.

Nonprofit video takeaway #2: Livestreaming has transformed the nonprofit video landscape.

Especially on Facebook, nonprofits found success in livestreaming video content. According to Tectonic’s report, ”of the top 100 most engaging video posts on Facebook, 51 were livestreams.” The four reasons Tectonic gave for nonprofits’ success with livestreaming were:

  • Nonprofits are uniquely positioned to convene people on social media. A nonprofit’s clients, staff, volunteers and donors have deep relationships with each other, and when they were unable to gather in person because of social distancing, nonprofits exercised their convening power to bring these individuals together through livestreamed events on social media.
  • When nonprofits were forced to cease in-person operations due to social distancing protocols, some programmatic, marketing and development staffers had newfound capacity to pivot their responsibilities and create videos for social media. Livestreaming requires no special equipment or technical expertise, providing an opportunity for various nonprofit staffers to create livestream videos.
  • Livestreaming is a communications medium that can be utilized for numerous purposes, and nonprofits invented ways to livestream program delivery, marketing, advocacy and fundraising.
  • Facebook’s algorithm favors livestreaming, pushing live content higher in news feeds, attracting viewers and engagement. When nonprofits began experimenting with livestreaming and saw how effective it was, they were spurred on to livestream more.

Nonprofit video takeaway #3: Program delivery and fundraising events were reimagined as video content.

“Nonprofits made a remarkable shift in 2020 to translate their programs and fundraising events into video content distributed on social media,” Tectonic’s report notes. This shift wasn’t limited to just one program area, either: nonprofits created fundraising events, behind-the-scenes tours, and interactive content like quizzes and trivia. They held staged performances that would otherwise have been live and in person, and they even hosted storytime and virtual camp experiences for children.

In short, there’s no limit to the list of ways nonprofits can use video to engage with a wide range of audiences and interests, and the report notes that this format’s versatility means nonprofits can continue to “expand the reach of their programs and attract potential donors.” We agree: video’s lack of geographic limitations could mean yet another way for nonprofits to conduct donor acquisition and stewarding across regions.

Nonprofit video takeaway #4: Top-performing content shifted in response to the pandemic.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that “animals do indeed rule the internet,” says Tectonic’s report. However, nonprofits who don’t have cute puppy or kitten clips to share shouldn’t worry: the top six content types Tectonic identified were:

  1. Livestreaming — any content broadcast live.
  2. Animals + cuteness — especially baby animals or cute kids.
  3. Emotional reactions captured in real time — jubilant celebrations, tears of joy.
  4. Timely/topical — COVID-related, holidays, current events.
  5. Political topics — including protests and the election.
  6. Silly/TikTok-style — brief choreographed dances, singing, etc.

Many nonprofits will find that at least one of these content categories fits into their strategy for getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Knowing which video categories perform well can help inform nonprofits’ work to meet that goal—just ask EveryAction client Rock the Vote, who made video a meaningful part of their 2020 strategy and as a result, more than doubled their Instagram following, registered about 2 million voters, and helped about 4 million voters check their registration status.

Nonprofit video takeaway #5: Production value does not correlate with engagement – even more so than in pre-pandemic times.

For any nonprofits worried that leaning into video creation means expensive equipment or hours spent on editing, Tectonic has great news: it was “exceedingly rare to find any video content with high production value among the Top 100 Most Engaging Nonprofit Videos per Channel.” This makes sense given how well livestream content performed: “the overwhelming majority of the most engaging videos,” says the report, “were first person, unscripted, single take videos.”

Our take:

The data makes it clear that video is another great strategy nonprofits can use to engage more supporters across channels—and with the right platform, built especially for nonprofits, adding another opportunity for engagement like this doesn’t need to mean adding more work hours or more staff. Instead, nonprofits can focus on getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time. (And if that right message, in the right channel, at the right time happens to be a video involving cute animals, well, who are we to stand in the way?)