Nonprofit Communication Staff Talk Budget

Nonprofit Communication Staff Talk Budget


This month we pitched budget questions to various communications directors at nonprofits to get a better idea of what they spend on media. We want to open up a space to have open, candid conversation around telling stories and the production cost of those stories. We believe that discussion leads to better understanding of the process from both nonprofits and media makers. For this conversation, we’ve kept the identity of the communications directors and their organizations anonymous. See the key below to get a better idea of the size of their organizations. All numbers are in USD.


What is your annual budget for storytelling and media creation? 

Comms Person A: Ideally, I like to set aside $30,000. However, this doesn’t always happen if there are other priorities. For example, right now we’re redesigning our website and all of our resources are going toward this.

Comms Person B: For photo assignments, development of video features and human interest stories, average annual spends are between  $20-25k.

Comms Person C: Our annual budget for storytelling and media creation is not fixed. Our organization has more than 2,000 staff members in 14 countries, but only one staff member dedicated to storytelling, photography, and multimedia. When specific needs arise for project deliverables or special events, we seek out professionals to help. Because of our many funding sources, usually such contracting comes out of specific program budgets. Last year, we spent $20,000 on an end-of-project video and a total of $8,000 on three photography/story assignments.


What does your organization spend on average for a 2-3 minute video, including hiring the videographers and editors, other crew, licensing music, staff time, etc? 

Comms Person A: We’ve spent as little as $1,200 for a video that was shot in the U.S. (in one city) and didn’t have complex graphics, and we’ve spent as much as $100k for a set of 4 videos that were shot in two countries.

Comms Person B: Not sure about nonprofit staff time as that needs to be calculated. But for a video feature from $700-1500.

Comms Person C: We spend between $10,000 and $20,000 on videos. Usually, these videos are a bit longer (5-10 minutes) and program-wide, rather than focused stories. This year we expect to get into shorter, more focused videos, but we do not have a set budget.


What does your organization spend on average for a one day photo shoot with editing and captions?

Comms Person A: $400-650 per day

Comms Person B: $200-450 per day.

Comms Person C: We spend $500-$800 per day for photos with captions. We spend $1,500 for a day of photos with an 800 word story. We also pay per diem, based on State Department guidelines.


 How do you find ethical photographers and videographers who fall into your budget?

Comms Person A: We often ask other global development organizations for recommendations or we’ll see the work of someone and like it so we reach out to them. And we always interview all photographers, asking about their philosophy and what they would do in specific scenarios.

Comms Person B: We only work with professionals including a range of local photographers to build national capacity. Generally we have a pool of 8-10 photo/video consultants in our LTA (long term agreement) roster.

Comms Person C: Generally, we find most of our photographers through other trusted photographers. Occasionally, we will conduct a focused Internet search in an area  where we need photographers and reach out to review portfolios and negotiate rates.

Comms Person D: I usually hire freelancers who are recommended to me by another freelancer I trust, or a colleague in another part of the world who has worked with someone they trust. I get dozens of cold emails from freelancers and know many talented local photographers who work for much less then Western photographers. What I really need someone is a freelancer who has a well-rounded skill set (photos, video, or writing) as opposed to someone who only shoots stills.



Comms Person A: Chief Communication Officer of Small to Midsize Nonprofit ($26 million operating budget)

Comms Person B: Chief of Communication for Country Program of Large International Nonprofit

Comms Person C: Communications Specialist of Large International Nonprofit

Comms Person D: Regional Communications Manager of Large International Nonprofit


Do you work in nonprofit communications? Would you be willing to talk to us for posts like this in the future? Be sure to let us know at

Photograph: © Kritchanut |

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