For many nonprofits, developing videos, infographics and other visual content can seem like an extravagance. Very few of these organizations have the time, resources, or budgets available to invest in one-off marketing initiatives because the risk of a potential flop is too high. But groups like The National Forest Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the USDA Forest Service, are realizing how visual content can help them achieve their mission.


“We use visual content a lot throughout our communications, says Hannah Ettema, communications and development associate at The National Forest Foundation. “We’re essentially trying to sell the national forests to the public. Trying to get more people engaged, out in the forest, and wanting to support these beautiful places.What better way to do that than to flood them with beautiful imagery of spots that they often haven’t been to, seen, or even heard of?”


For Ettema and her team, this process requires a balancing act. Congress created the National Forest Foundation around the ideals of conservation and education—a space where resources are spread thin by definition. The organization needs to make the most out of its budget but also needs creative ways to break through the noise and educate the general public. Ettema’s strategy of choice? Invest in fewer, more impactful resources. Here are the lessons she’s learned along the way:

Extend your content’s value and shelf life

Many corporations wouldn’t blink an eye at the thought of spending several thousand dollars on a marketing campaign. When the National Forest Foundation decided to produce an animated video, however, Ettema realized that she would need to maximize her investment. She tackled this goal in three ways: she decided to create a video that would be valuable to multiple audiences, planned a campaign strategy that extended an already-successful initiative, and crafted a concept that would be relevant for years to come.

She also chose to leverage existing collateral (static infographics) to reinforce branding and build on prior successes

“We often work with corporations, wanting them to get involved with stewarding their public lands, and they often don’t know very much about the national forest system,” says Ettema. Her team worked with Visually to develop a video that was designed to be included in emails, pitches and other forms of communication. It’s a quick one-minute overview that includes the challenges that the national forest system faces and the work that we do. We also wanted to promote the video through social media.”

The video has become a staple for the National Forest Foundation, with Ettema sharing it regularly. It’s featured on their YouTube and Vimeo channels, on their homepage, and across custom campaigns.

“It has 27,000 views, which is incredible for us,” Ettema says. “It continues to perform well as we keep sharing it. It’s a great piece of filler content for days when I don’t have anything else to say. We’ll even ask our corporate partners to share it too. We see the view counts continuing to trickle up.”

Collaborate with a trusted creative partner


With an eye for quality, but a limited budget, Ettema needed a creative team that could customize exactly what she needed. Her marketing goal was an ambitious one that built upon a previous, already-successful campaign concept. After a careful vetting process, she chose Visually for the company’s unique combination of strengths: patience, agility, efficiency and quality.

“Visually gave us a quote in late 2013, but we couldn’t move forward at the time” says Ettema. “But they stuck with us and offered helpful advice, which made our vetting process easier. It wasn’t until December 2014 that we were able to pull the trigger.”

Ettema worked with Visually to ensure that all project components were spot-on. After going through a few iterations, she and her creative team were able to create the ideal video.

“We had some initial changes in direction based on what our scriptwriter shared with us,” says Ettema. “We worked with her to get back on track and develop a video that ended up becoming a perfect fit. Our animator graciously did not mind when we got extremely nitpicky about the timing of things. He was very gracious. The platform itself kept us organized, efficient, and on track with all communication contained in one central place that we could easily access. Visually was better than any agency. They stuck with us for the entire duration of making this project happen.”