Addressing The Obvious  A new plan to help NGO videos get higher ratings on social media

An original idea from Mike Lee, 24 Oct 2017.  The reading and consideration of this Mike Lee proposal does not convey or imply any rights, permissions or commitment by or from Mike Lee regarding its use.  Equally, the reader is under no obligation to enter into any agreement or commitment relating to the proposal, without express and mutual consent.   In other words, this is an idea for consideration.

 Hello.  I’m Mike Lee, former ABC News global correspondent.

Social media video is critical to fundraising.   NGO videos are mostly well made and worthy of our support.  Yet, most NGOs and worthy cause foundations are under exposed on YouTube, Facebook and other video platforms.   By that I mean that these good cause videos deserve to be getting tens or hundreds of thousands of views, instead a few few or a few thousand.    What a waste of good intentions and good money.   Unless something changes. they will be missing out of a huge pile of potential increased donations.    This can and should be changed.  I have a plan to help do that.

I propose a method for increasing social media viewership,  while keeping all of your integrity and mission focus.  I will also give you an individual plan for your project within a few minutes of contacting me face to face on Skype or Facetime.   At no cost.  I’ll explain all of that in a moment.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room that says the missions of NGOs are too serious to compete with entertaining videos that dominate social media.  Actually, as I have experienced first hand in my 40 years of tv reporting around the world, the humanitarian struggles, which you so gallantly confront every day, are in themselves some of the most powerful and engrossing natural dramas any audience could hope to see.   Are you like to increase your viewership to millions?  No, of course not.   But any increase in public support is a good result.   This report gives you ideas on how to increase the odds in your favour.  

My own reporting on those issues had to fit within the tight time frame of a network tv newscast.   I have always been struck, and frustrated, by the natural drama that has been left on the tv network cutting room floor, so to speak.   

I assumed that NGOs and foundations were aware of all that extra storytelling potential and were using those ongoing human stories to attract public support.  I was wrong.   Instead, NGOs were following in the footsteps of the TV networks, by telling one-off stories.   And like us in tv news, NGOs would produce videos that might make an impact, then be more or less shoved to the back of people’s minds, if not forgotten all together.   What a waste.   And why not make it better, for the sake of the increased public support you deserve?

Why aren’t more people watching NGO videos?   After all, most worthy cause videos contain important information about the mission and how to help.  And they are mostly well produced.  But what they usually do not include are compelling reasons for social media users to watch your channel over and over, and to urge others to do the same.  I’m going to explain how to easily change that.     

You might be thinking…’Well, my NGO or charitable foundation, spends a lot of money telling our story.  Who we are, what we’re about, what we do, who we help, and how to help us help them.  And the production values are very high‘  

Yes, great.  But that may not be not enough.    It might get you some donations.  But, as you know, giving is more about personal feelings than it is about the simple logic of helping those in need.  A single video, let’s say a really powerful video, might well generate strong feeling and some donations.  But if you want substantially more donors, to have them continue to support you, and to bring their friends to the project, you will need to provide videos that allow feelings to grow into long term bonding.  That can seldom be done with a single video.  

Just ask any successful advertising executive.  Multiple exposure to a product, or in your case, your worthy project, is essential.   Advertisers can get away with running the single video commercial over and over again because they have a captive audience.  People have to sit through their commercials if they want to see the rest of the show.  You can do the same, if you want to pay big bucks for a tv commerical.   But chances are you would rather spend that kind of money on your mission.   That means you have no captive audience.    

So how do YOU get donors to watch that single very strong video of yours, over and over until they bond with your characters or your message?   You don’t.  You can’t.  People don’t want to watch the same video over and over, unless it is spectacular.  And if you do have a spectacular viral video, you don’t need my advice.  At least not until the novelty wears off, as it eventually does with even the most sensational single video.

How DO we generate that ongoing viewer loyalty that is a key to donor growth?   Let me give an example.   Today I watched a video produced by an NGO that is a household name.  I’m not going to name names because I’m not out to embarrass anyone.  The video was a 10 minute  piece about ‘a day in the life of a health worker in a conflict zone.‘  The video was posted on Youtube three years ago, and has a respectable, not great, but respectable 60 thousand views.   But most of those 60 thousand views will have happened in the first days and weeks of the video being posted.  That’s the common pattern of online videos.  I don’t know how many, if any, donations came from that one.  But just imagine how much more there is to harvest from that same story location.  If only one day of drama in a refugee camp can get you 60 thousand views, it stands to reason that another day, and another day and another, for an extended period, each day with new dramas, will stand a far greater chance of magnifying public attraction to that location or project of yours.  

It it is called Serial Storytelling.  It is the oldest and most successful storytelling method on earth.  Why is that?   You have several powerful tools with serial, or episodic, storytelling.   Here they are.

1. Suspense.  What will happen from day to day to people you are watching in the series?  Have YOU ever been drawn into a serial drama on TV?  Then you have experienced the pulling power of episodes.   REALITY serial dramas have the same kind of power.   For instance, will that refugee patient survive until tomorrow?   Will the health worker have to decide who gets life saving drugs and who does not?   Tomorrow we’ll know.  

2.  The second super tool of serials is Habit.  This a good kind of addition.  Serials, posted in real or near near time, and propelled by syspense….promote regular viewing…or habit.   You want to own the viewing habits out there because they are the key to…

3. Bonding   The more you watch a reality serial, the better who get to know the real-life characters.   The more you know them and become emotional connected in their stories…the more likely you are to bond with them.  And bonding promotes…

4. Involvement   That’s the point at which your viewers start investing in the outcome of your reality drama.   They become involved because you have given them the suspense that can them keep coming back for new episodes…That Habit helps Bond them to your real life characters.   Those bonds, or emotional investments, help viewers want to be involved.   And the way they can easily get involved is to…

5.  Donate.  Not just once, but on an ongoing basis.   For example, for serial video watchers, pledging to donate a small amount each month becomes easier to consider because they now expect to be keeping up with your project as time goes by.  

So let’s just compare the single video approach, like that one day in the life of a health worker I referred to earlier: compare that to my proposed episodic storytelling approach.  Here goes. 

A single video might get you…

      -an Initial uptick in viewers

       -a Short spike in donations

followed by

       -a drop off in viewership and donations because there is nothing else to watch that is related to that story.  It may be a great video….but it will inevitably become a great dead end video…like an oil well that eventually runs dry.

But if you produce a daily, weekly, or even monthly serial about that same health worker…or at least the ongoing dramas in that same refugee health center…what you now get is…


-Habit viewing


-And Emotional Investment in the success of the project…all of which gives you a far better chance of…

-more Donations.   

Can a serial last forever?  Of course not.   But if you use episodic storytelling, you will be able to offer new serials as needed.

Can you do this on a limited budget.  Yes, absolutely.

Here’s the plan.   Speak to me face to face on Skype or Facetime, and I will tell you right  then and there…in that same call…how you can turn your specific project into a real life serial drama that features all of those powerful tools that increase the potential for donations.   There will be no formula.  I will listen to your unique situation and give you my unique suggestions for your potential serial story.  You might be skeptical about the costs of serial storytelling, or the logistics, or both.  I will give you my best estimate and best judgment.   There is no charge or obligation for that consultation.   In fact I will even tell you how to use your own specific resources for serial storytelling without further involvement with me.  

Why would I do that?  Because I want you to know I’m out here.  I want you to see and hear me face to face and judge for yourself my expertise (that I know what I’m talking about), my passion and ability.   I also want to see and hear if you are a serious player.   I believe that some of you may want to work directly with me.  And those who do not will still come away with news ideas.

To sum this up….Serial storytelling is a powerful tool for fund raising.  It provides suspense, habit viewing, involvement, and emotional investment.  It encourages viewer commitment and ongoing donations.  

If you are an NGO or worthy cause, the people who need you deserve the best possible fundraising tools.  Serial storytelling can be a valuable addition to your approach.

If you are a corporation or charitable foundation, your NGOs partners, who depend upon your grants and other support, deserve your gift of the best fundraising tools available.  Serial storytelling is worthy of consideration.

Finally, separate from my serial storytelling offer, and in some ways this an even bigger headline, I have come up with a bold new plan for covering breaking news around the world on behalf of NGOs and worthy causes.   TV networks are pathetic at covering humanitarian stories.  It’s time to bring more of these important news stories to the public.  I know how, and will share that plan with interested and serious parties in the near future.   

Contact me at    We will meet meet on Skype or Facetime.

Let’s talk.  Something good will happen.  

Thank you.  

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