3 Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from YouTubers

Lessons YouTubers have for Nonprofits

photo: fanpop.com

Are you familiar with the likes of Smosh, The Fine Brothers, and PewDiePie? If you are not, no worries-I’m getting to it— and what valuable tips they have for nonprofits.

Full disclosure: I have two children, ages 14 and 11, who are home for the summer and have given me ample time to consider what nonprofits can learn from YouTubers about gaining awareness, increasing engagement, and fundraising. (Warning: Dear readers, beware that their videos often contain profanity- Coincidentally, I truly do appreciate you refraining from judging my parenting skills.)

Smosh and PewDiePie are two of the most popular new “celebrities” of the day. They are what are known as “YouTubers”, hosts of a video series posted on YouTube. What’s amazing is that they boast incredibly large followings. PewDiePie, for example, has 29,440,080 subscribers!

What is nothing short of fascinating is that they also make millions of dollars a year for producing posts filled with (I’ll say it) sophomoric humor. PewDiePie, the number one in popularity, reportedly makes $7 Million a year and there another 30+ on the list who all make more than $1 Million a year.

Just imagine what impact your organization could have with the support of millions of subscribers, not to mention millions more dollars in donations!

Opinions of their content (and my parenting) aside, it certainly seems that they have figured out how to raise awareness, engage, and raise money. So let’s try and learn something from their amazing successes and apply it to do more good in the world.


3 Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from YouTubers

(and how to use them)

1. Exude Personality:

PewDiePie primarily posts videos of himself playing video games. Yes…that’s right, the viewer watches someone else play a video game. My daughter watches his videos and she doesn’t even play video games. Clearly, there’s something so engaging about his personality that she, and millions of others, connects with. She also knows that his girlfriend is CutiePieMarzia, another YouTuber, who has a one-eyed pug named Puga. But that’s another story. Their personalities are what is engaging the audience.

How nonprofits can use it: Engage with your story! As Andy Goodman said: “Numbers numb, jargon jars, and nobody ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart. If you really want to reach people and change the world, tell them a story. “

And use the powerful platform of YouTube.  It’s the second largest search engine and has more than 1 billion (worldwide) unique visitors a month. has a special program for nonprofits? Click Here  for the tools to create your channel and to apply to Google for Nonprofits




2. Be Where- and When-Your Donors Are:

 “The charitable sector as a whole is failing to address the opportunity to maximise fundraising through mobile devices.”-Charity Digital News

I remember Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid. We used to have to wait an entire week to see shows created for us. We’d walk over to the tv, turn the dial to one of the three channels, and then fix the bunny ear antennae to get a clear picture. Now there’s an entire generation (or two) who are growing up with YouTube videos on-demand, when and where they want to see them.

The YouTubers’ audiences are watching an average of about 8 hours of video per month and 40% of this traffic is coming from mobile devices!  In 2013 the average mobile user watched about 2 hours of video per month and it’s expected to average 20 hours per month by 2018, according to a recent study by Cisco Systems.

Charity Digital News summed it up quite well in a July 2014 story: “The charitable sector as a whole is failing to address the opportunity to maximise fundraising through mobile devices.”

There are 4.1 billion mobile users out there today- expected to increase to 4.9 billion in just five years! Yet the vast majority of nonprofit sites aren’t optimized for mobile visitors. Our partner site, Top Nonprofits, creates a list of the 100 Best Nonprofits on the Web –and only a small number of even those have optimized their sites for a pleasant mobile user experience.

How nonprofits can use it:

Get your site optimized for mobile! According to Pew Research, 60% of adult cell phone owners accessed the internet via their phones (up from 29% in 2009).  And according to

See for yourself how people are seeing your site and have access to donate to your cause. Evaluate the user experience on your site:  Get on your phone and go to your organization’s site. What happens? Open one of your organization’s emails on your phone- what does it look like? Is there a link to your site? Is there a donation button? How easy are you making it for visitors?

What are you waiting for?


3. Be Social and Shareable:

The YouTubers owe their success to the sharing of their fan base. They thank their subscribers and keep in touch with their subscriber community on YouTube.  See how The Piano Guys thanked announced their milestone 1 millionth subscriber –and how they inspired their subscribers to share.

And remember those viewers who want what they want, when they want it? They also like to share what they like. YouTubers know that their audience likes to share on social media and  they like to see what their friends share– and trust their friends’ content.


How nonprofits can use it:

Research has shown that, when it comes to asking for donations, a friend asking for a donation goes over much more successfully than an organization’s ask.  Get your supporters, who already believe in your cause, to share the love with their network of friends.  Peer to peer fundraising is one way to go about it.

Keep in touch with your community of supporters and ask them to get involved by sharing their stories, or sharing your stories.  Answer questions and reply to comments. And have other reasons to email besides asking for donations!

The point is, when it comes to Millennials (see infographic below from Ipsos Millennial Social Influence Study, 2014) User Generated Content is the tops. But, my gut tells me that most of us, regardless of age, also prefer UGC–which is why we turn to reviews before hiring a contractor or seeing a movie or  booking a hotel.

Millennials Heart UGC Infographic
Let us know if you are currently having success with any of these suggestions–or if you have any others to add to the list!

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Finally, what kind of post about YouTube wouldn’t include something with cat videos? Enjoy!