Interesting Uses of Technology: Digital Video

Digital video can help you connect with your community, share knowledge, engage and energize your staff and patrons, and demonstrate value on a personal level. Seeing is believing!

We've watched video evolve through the years to now be a very affordable method and user-friendly way to tell your organization's story. Combine video with social media, and you can expand your reach exponentially. In libraries, having access to, and providing video editing technology is so important to communities nationwide, that the Edge Initiative has included a benchmark dedicated to providing this vital technology.

According to Wikipedia, video recorders sold for $50,000 in the 1950s, and a one-hour reel could cost $300. DVDs were invented in the late 90s which drastically reduced prices. And now, with 50% of Americans owning smart phones, videos are in pockets and purses in every venue. So how is this almost ubiquitous tool being used in interesting ways and how can you harness the power of video for your organization?

Getting started with digital video

Here at TechSoup we always have resources and products on hand to help you get started with just about any technology. And we understand that  telling your organization’s story effectively inspires, motivates, and activates the people who believe in the good work you do. 

Our annual Digital Storytelling Challenge event (TSDigs) helps support nonprofits and libraries in growing your digital storytelling skills by combining instruction and friendly competition into a hands-on media making project. Organizations develop their stories through video or photos for this event that are then used as a vital resource for promoting their work and connecting to their constituents. All year long, TechSoup provides tools and resources to nonprofits and libraries to take their digital storytelling to the next level.

  • Review the educational resources from the 2012 TSDigs event, including webinar recordings and recaps to get started. 
  • Find out which video editing tools are the best, easiest, and most affordable for nonprofits and libraries, including free tools, beginner tools, and advanced tools in Idealware's article, A Few Good Tools for Video Editing.
  • For a handy overview of software for multimedia editing, video sharing, and distribution, read A Quick Guide to Multimedia Software to help you "whip your audio or video files into shape" for public distribution.

Use video to: Connect to Community

Six years ago we profiled Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology (BAYCAT). This  nonprofit is still going strong, teaching life, job, and media skills to youth and adults in a low-income area of San Francisco. By bridging the digital divide, BAYCAT inspires students to stay in school and become lifelong learners, and to use the power of digital media and design to shape their communities and tell their unique stories. BAYCAT uses digital media to help youth positively transform themselves, their communities, and the world. Read more about the BAYCAT model for connecting to their community while making a positive impact.

LibraryYOU is a project by the Escondido Public Library that fosters community connections by sharing local knowledge through videos and podcasts. It consists of a recording studio to help patrons create content, a website to showcase the content, and training classes to help the community learn how to communicate with these popular online multimedia formats. Funded by an LSTA grant, they are receiving a positive reception from both their community and the larger international library community. Read more about LibraryYOU in our spotlight.

Use video to: Share Knowledge

The Bellevue Library in the King County Library System in Bellevue, WA uses video for Queuing Up Learning to share knowledge with their community. Librarian Amber Slaven added content to the library's collection of instructional videos that teach patrons how to use the library catalog, pay finesmodify holds, view checkout history, and create lists of books. The library also answered the need in their community for eBook instruction. The KCLS website now has a dedicated site with videos that detail how to check out books with each eReader, such as the Nook or iPad. The videos are also helpful for staff to refresh their knowledge. They use the online screen capture service Jing Pro to create the instructional videos. It's fairly inexpensive and intuitive, and there's also a free version with limited features. They use Final Cut Pro (Apple's video editing software) for initial editing and re-record the audio in Audacity (a free, open-source, audio editing application) to improve the sound quality. Slaven finishes the videos in Final Cut Pro to give them that slick, polished look.

We've been using digital videos here at TechSoup to provide brief tutorials on our registration and eligibility requirements for product docations. View our three videos, available on the TechSoup YouTube page:

Use video to: Engage and Energize

In a recent episode of Nonprofits Live we examined the current field of social video with the help of production experts who provided tips on how to create videos with impact. Social video includes the sharing of videos and the incorporation of tools that allow for collaboration and engagement across networks and channels. You can use social video for informal meetings, training workshops, or collaboration sessions. Read the full blog post and find out more about connecting and collaborating with video. Some of the tools shared that encourage collaboration using video and other media content:

  • Watchitoo - allows for video meetings with 25 guest speakers, whiteboards, and social media
  • Adobe Connect - integrates many types of media into a shared workspace with robust tools
  • Stroome - provides video editing in collaboration and ad hoc project collaboration
  • Google+ with Skype/Facebook integration now includes group chat functions and "hangouts" that include video webcam conversations

In the last fiscal year, Sacramento Public Library increased its public program offerings by 32% over the previous year. Despite tough economic times they have been able to increase programming thanks to a great idea: boxed programs shared among the library branches. They created a Flip video box in particular to provide library programs that go beyond simple, passive, entertainment. By providing their patrons with a basic video camera and some instruction, the library inspires children and teens to explore their ability to tell stories in a way many of them never have before. Whether they storyboard to create a monster movie or spend hours creating a library PSA, young people using these devices are getting a chance to see their creations validated, and valued by the library.  Lori Easterwood, Programming Supervisor shares how this program has fostered engagement in her community: 

The most important thing we’ve learned from providing programs such as this, is that our staff and the people (of all ages) who use our libraries are marvelously inventive and limited only by their access to the tools which allow them to express that creativity."

Use video to: Advocate and Demonstrate Impact

Digital video is a powerful tool for advocacy as it allows you to tell the story of the impact of your organization on your community members. Research has shown that while elected officials and votes may support the work of libraries, funding them may not be a priority because they don't realize that libraries transform lives. Testimonials captured in a video format puts a true face on the people that are being helped. Here are few examples of how videos can be used for advocacy.

Voters who see the library as a 'transformational' force as opposed to an 'informational' source are more likely to increase taxes in its support. -- From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created a library advocacy video that is an excellent example of how video and testimonials can be used to advocate by demonstrating the transformational work of libraries. And, because this particular video is available publicly, libraries can use it to advocate for their own communities.

Last year's theme for National Library Week was "Create your own story @ your library." There were many events to raise awareness about libraries and library services that included video, such as the Why I Need My Library teen video contest. Public libraries across the country came up with innovative ideas to incorporate the theme in their celebrations, including:

  • The Huntley (IL) Area Public Library enabled community members to share their own library stories by participating in a "What's Your Story?" program, that included story collection and a one day filming event with interviews to celebrate "Snapshot of a Day in the Life of a Library".
  • Warrenville (IL) Public Library District cardholders had a chance to win daily prizes and two grand prizes of Flip video cameras so they could create their own stories and share them online.

Watch this video created by a patron of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library  that showcases the library media dispenser. This was true patron-driven advocacy as the creator, John, voluntarily taped it as part of a series on why he loves Topeka. John shares, "Why spend money...when you can get new DVD releases, Blu-ray discs and video games from the media dispenser at the Topeka and Shawnee County Library for FREE? Go to to reserve your items and then pick them up at the library."

Find Tools to Create Videos on

Public libraries and nonprofits can request donated brand-new software and hardware from at savings of 80-90% that help you tell your library and your community's stories through the use of video. These stories are helpful to share for advocacy efforts, grant writing, building partnerships, and involving your patrons (plus it's fun!).

Use the following donated products for your videos:

  • Create and edit video with the help of numerous donated Adobe products such as Audition, Creative Suite, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Flash. 
  • Share stories and short videos online using Flickr Pro
  • Host online storytimes, deliver staff training, and share information with any community by offering webinars using GoToWebinar or ReadyTalk. These platforms both allow you to record and share these types of videos at any time. 
  • Use SlideRocket, a cloud-based tool for creating, managing, and sharing visual presentations. Similar to a beefed-up PowerPoint, SlideRocket lets you build multimedia slideshows that can be shown in person, presented live, or embeded into your own site so anyone can watch at any time.