A few months ago YouTube announced that organizations that are in the YouTube Nonprofit Program would be able to use the overlay advertising feature to create donation links. They call the feature “Call To Action” and said that in their first test of this, Charity:Water raised $10,000 in one day.
At the Nonprofit Technology Conference in March while I was conducting a session about online video distribution, I mentioned to Steve Grove and Ramya Ragahvan—who runs the YouTube Nonprofit Program—that while this feature is nice, it is really limiting. In addition to only appearing in a very limited way on the video, it only works on YouTube and not when you embed the video on other sites. While Charity:Water raised a lot of money, I politely suggested that maybe it had as much to do with the video being featured by YouTube (and therefore getting a large amount of traffic) as with the new functionality.
But I knew they could make it much better.
In front of the NTEN crowd I challenged them: “What would be really amazing would be to allow for outside links in the annotations features.” The annotations feature is available to all YouTube video makers and allows for the user to put an overlay box on any part of any video. YouTube allows links to go in these boxes, but only links to other YouTube videos or YouTube channel pages. Ramya said they started with the overlay because the technology already existed and that they would be working on extending the annotations function.
I must admit that the cynic in me thought, “It’s really in YouTube’s interest to keep people on YouTube and not to allow them to leave.” In other words, I wasn’t holding my breath that they would create more ways that nonprofits could get people off of YouTube and on to engagement.
Imagine my surprise when Ramya sent me this email last week:
I’ve been meaning to drop you a note, because I remember that you mentioned that you would love the ability to externally link from annotations.
Happy to report that for nonprofits that are part of the YT Nonprofit Program, we have this functionality. All they’ll have to do, when creating an annotation, is click the “link” symbol and select “external link”. Then they’ll be able to link to external sites right from the annotation. Better still, these annotations should show up on embedded videos.
Please feel free to share with nonprofits you work with.
Make no mistake, this is a game-changer. If you still aren’t sure what all of this means, it means that nonprofit YouTube videos can have buttons built into the videos that say DONATE NOW or SIGN THE PETITION and these buttons will work—they will link to any site you point them to. You can even go back to all your old videos that are on YouTube and make your logo into a clickable link, add annotations to donate with a link, and otherwise make your video into a center of engagement. This is now, by far, the most important reason to be in the YouTube Nonprofit Program.
People who watch videos on YouTube are very likely to do one thing when they are done…watch another video on YouTube. Not any more. With this new feature, YouTube can become a center for creating effective calls to action and engagement. Major props to Ramya and the entire YouTube team—you rock!
So that you can get see with your own eyes how this all works, we made this video (above) along with our partners at the Case Foundation as part of the Gear Up For Giving program. (Also, thank you to Beth for letting us shout about this news from the rooftop that is Beth’s Blog.)
Michael Hoffman is the CEO of See3 Communications and an expert in online video for nonprofits.