Paypal vs Integrated Donation form

Effective Nonprofit Commercials and PSAs to Supercharge Your Nonprofit Marketing

When it comes to nonprofit marketing, television commercials and public service announcements (PSAs) can grab audience attention and create a powerful emotional response in a short period of time.

If done right, they’ll do two things: help your target audience remember the message and the nonprofit behind it.

The Difference Between the Two

Before getting into how to produce an effective nonprofit commercial or PSA, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

A commercial is an advertisement that airs for a specific amount of time and is paid for by a company or nonprofit. It is that company’s intention to invest in the ad to entice people to buy or, in the case of nonprofit marketing, donate. 

Public Service Announcements or PSAs, on the other hand, are run on TV usually for free. A PSA sponsor (nonprofit marketing professional) requests a time-slot from a TV network and, in some cases, a fee is charged when that station agrees to play the PSA in a specific time slot.

There are restrictions on the type of content that can be included in a PSA. For instance, a PSA can’t be used in an effort to raise money for a cause, or recruit volunteers.

Since most of us have been inundated with commercials, we’ll give an example of a PSA, so you have a sense of the difference.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to establishing one-to-one friendships, employment opportunities, and leadership development for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. They’ve produced a number of PSAs to support their nonprofit marketing efforts. Here’s one example:

Producing Effective Ads

So how do you make an effective commercial or PSA? While the content will naturally depend on the nature of your nonprofit, there are certain storytelling techniques that are proven to be highly effective.

Consider the following tips if you’re thinking about adding a commercial or PSA to your nonprofit marketing efforts to promote your cause:

  • Create a story – If you think about it, the best commercials and PSA’s don’t just sell something, they tell a story. Your nonprofit story could be humorous or heart-wrenching, but it needs to be something that the audience can relate to.
  • Think simple – You should keep your storyline simple since you only have 30-60 seconds to get your message across.
  • Use inspiring music – The right music along with visuals can inspire an audience to act.
  • Be clear – Use both visual and verbal cues, as well as your nonprofit name and logo throughout the commercial or PSA. Using clear language is also important.
  • Involve real people – Nothing will be more impactful than featuring the people who are affected by a real-life issue your nonprofit is trying to resolve. See if the people you are trying to serve want to be involved in your commercial or PSA.
  • Include impact metrics – You want people watching to understand the impact of your nonprofits, so pull some stats from your nonprofit CRM dashboard on how much good you’ve achieved, and include that.

If you’re looking for more marketing advice, check out: The Science Behind What Motivates People To Donate To Nonprofits.

Examples of Effective Nonprofit Commercials and PSAs


1. Feeding South Dakota

Feeding South Dakota produced this commercial that covers many of the points we outline above. They used a relatable subject, as well as a straightforward script and simple props to relay an important message about hunger.

2. RED

While few nonprofits have the power and money that RED does, the charity formed by mega star Bono did an outstanding job with the following commercial, which was first shown at a rock concert in 2014. It’s brilliant nonprofit marketing, and it takes story-telling to a whole new level, while still being clear.

3. Big Brothers and Sisters

The PSA below, created by Big Brothers and Sisters in 2011, uses music to make it uplifting, inspiring, and memorable without spending big nonprofit marketing bucks.

Each of these examples is different, yet potent. While some people may be saying to themselves: ‘My organization can’t possibly afford a fancy commercial or PSA”, the reality is that you don’t have to employ expensive graphics or editing techniques.

If you don’t have a big marketing budget, you can look for real people helped by your organization in your nonprofit CRM and take a simple approach, and still make it very impactful.

Take for instance, the Kids Cancer Project in Australia. A number of years ago they used real patients, not actors, to produce a commercial that asked for help in eradicating kids cancer. It was smart nonprofit marketing. Creative production companies say this remains a viable technique today.

1,2,3,4,5

GET MORE CONTENT LIKE THIS DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX!

Sign up for our newsletter packed full of nonprofit help!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Scroll to Top

Wait, don't go away empty handed.

Join 50,000 other nonprofits in getting the BEST nonprofit tips, tools, and how-to guides delivered right to your inbox!

Subscribe to our newsletter: