Establishing a successful presence on YouTube can be the quickest and most powerful way to increase your nonprofit’s search engine visibility and drive traffic to your website. But the majority of nonprofits are missing the most obvious and beneficial advantage YouTube offers.

There have been more than 4.6 billion views of NGO videos since the start of the YouTube for NonProfits program. That’s one view for every two people on the planet! More than 17,000 nonprofits have already joined the YouTube Nonprofit Program.

However, a close look at randomly selected videos by top nonprofits shows all are making the same mistake. We watched videos made by major NPOs including The Humane SocietyAmerican Red CrossSierra Club, Doctors Without Borders, and even Rainforest Alliance, whose video Follow the Frog had over 5 million views and was a winner in the National DoGooder Video awards. And not one of them had taken advantage of an extremely valuable tool YouTube provides.

A huge unused advantage in search

  • YouTube allows you to include 5000 characters – the equivalent of a 900-word article – to describe your video, complete with links to websites.
  • You also can add 20 descriptive tags to each video – an important tool for search visibility.

Yet the videos cited above, and the vast majority on YouTube, are missing this important opportunity to increase visibility and engagement. Most videos have a couple of sentences about the video, and that’s all.

When used effectively, a keyword-rich description can include a compelling story that will increase visibility in search and engagement from viewers.

Don’t use a bunch of hashtags or stuff keywords into your description. Explain your video’s backstory and its appeal. Tell the story in a way that won’t sound like a sales sheet, and you’re on your way to more time spent on the video, as well as more sharing on other social networks.

Other YouTube tools for nonprofits

The first step is for your nonprofit to establish a Google account. Then you can create a nonprofit YouTube channel for your organization by joining Google for Nonprofits. Once your nonprofit joins the YouTube for Nonprofits program, you’ll have access to a host of important free tools YouTube offers, tools not available to business accounts, including:

  • A Donate button on your videos lets donors contribute to your cause online, right from your YouTube videos. (Available only in the US and UK at this time.)
  • Call to action overlays, which viewers can click to visit your website, donate, or learn more.
  • Technical support – exclusive access to YouTube technical support.
  • Video editing – You also can use YouTube’s ever-improving tools to edit and combine videos, add music and sound effects, and much more.
  • YouTube Space New York or LA – Get production access to shoot or edit your videos at YouTube’s creator studio in New York City or Los Angeles.

Here are some ideas, resources, and examples of successful campaigns to inspire you:

  • Join the 1700-member video production community on Google+ where you can ask questions about video production and marketing and learn tips and tricks.

B.L. Ochman (@whatsnext on Twitter) is a digital strategist for Fortune 500 companies and a guest contributor to Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information about multichannel marketing for nonprofits, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.comFollow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.