Students Save Nonprofits Thousands of Dollars in Video Production Costs

One of the quickest ways for nonprofit organizations to pull at the heartstrings of potential donors is by showing who they are and what they do for the community through videos. However, most small- to medium-size nonprofits may not have a budget for a high-production video that can cost several thousands of dollars. Storyboard artist works with the director to break down the script and identify specific scenes or sequences that must be storyboarded.

To fill that void, Northwest Vista College in San Antonio provides free videos to local nonprofits in exchange for hands-on production experience for students. According to faculty at Northwest Vista College, the Digital Video & Cinema Production program has saved local organizations close to a half million dollars in video production fees.

Nonprofit video views are on the rise with 670 million views generated in 2014, according to Visible Measures. The organization reports an 857 percent increase in nonprofit video views in just six years from 2009 to 2014. Additionally, four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, according to

Thomas M. Taylor, coordinator of Digital Video & Cinema Production (DVCP) program at Northwest Vista College, said once word spread about the professional quality of the student video projects, response from the community has at times been overwhelming.

To date, Taylor said, students have completed more than 100 video projects in the 15-year span since the practice has been in existence. Completed videos range in length from three to five minutes. Taylor estimates that each of these videos, if done by a small or medium-market production agency, would cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.

Taylor said the college gets anywhere from 12 to 15 requests per semester from nonprofit organizations seeking videos and can only fulfill half of them.

“The remarkable take away from the program is the experience the students gain in working and collaborating with clients outside of the classroom on story development from initial treatment, storyboard and script to final production,” Taylor added. “In most cases, these nonprofit agencies are able to immediately use the videos in marketing their programs.”

The value of the program was recognized two years ago as a “Best Practice” among its sister colleges when Northwest Vista College president Dr. Ric Baser spoke about it to the Alamo Colleges District board of trustees. The Alamo College District includes Northwest Vista College, San Antonio College, St. Philip’s College, Northeast Lakeview and Palo Alto College.

Many of the nonprofits who have used the DVCP program to make its videos have seen the immediate impact.

San Antonio-based Daisy Cares emailed their student-made video to its donor database and soon after received donations. The organization’s mission is to help people care for animals by way of pet food, veterinary care, and animal welfare education programs.

Maria Alvarado of Daisy Cares said her organization benefits from having the student video which can be shown during special events.

“The video helps to clarify our message, and how our partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank benefits pets,” said Alvarado. “Before that, we had a lot of individuals who didn’t know how Daisy Cares works and the video helps to tie in the partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank really well. The Food Bank distributes the dog food on our behalf, which is a partnership we started nine years ago.”

Another nonprofit, San Antonio Threads, has a mission to provide a safe and nurturing shopping experience for teens in the San Antonio area. Teens can shop for free, twice a year, selecting clothing, shoes, essentials and toiletries.

Cathy Hamilton, CEO of San Antonio Threads, said having a video is important for a nonprofit organization that tries to spread the news about the work they do.

“The expense of a video is out of our budget and for students to choose our nonprofit and share our message is great,” she said. “When you can tell your story in video, that’s huge, and helps to make an impact.”

Get in touch with us about Northwest Vista College’s Digital Video & Cinema Production program, go to