For nonprofit organizations, the use of photos, audio, and video in marketing and communications is becoming more important than ever. Sharing original, high-quality visual and audio content tells an organization’s story in a way that motivates positive action and giving, both online and off.

But it can be a challenge for nonprofits to collect the content they need, especially when it means getting permission. I’ve faced this challenge every year in my role as sales and communication director for a YMCA summer camp, and I’ve learned many best practices that have helped me along the way.

One way to address the challenge of collecting quality content is to create a media release form for your organization and establish a system for using it. Media release forms are legal documents that grant authorization for an organization or party to capture, edit, use, and distribute photos, videos, and/or audio of an individual. Creating a form and establishing a system may seem overwhelming, but is possible for any size organization by following a few steps.

Implementing a media release system for your nonprofit: 3 steps

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1. Set up your media release form

Before you begin, check to see if your organization already has a media release form. Many national and international nonprofits have an existing form in place. Sometimes, you are required to use the pre-existing form. Other times, depending on the circumstance, you may be permitted to edit the form or create your own.

Once you’ve determined that you can, or need to, create your own form, the first step is to establish your team. Determine who in your organization will be responsible for or involved in creating the form and finalizing the system. This could be a combination of executives, marcom team members, program or event coordinators, or legal representatives. Make sure everyone clearly understands their role in the process.

Once you’ve established your team, schedule a meeting. Ask the team members to review sample forms from other nonprofits and think about the following questions prior to the meeting:

  1. What type of content do we need to collect? Based on that answer, what should the media release form cover (photos, videos, audio, or a combination)?
  2. How do we plan to use the content we collect?
  3. Who will we ask to sign our media release form? (Parties to consider include individuals you serve, third parties who attend your events or rent your space, and individuals who are under the age of 18).
  4. Will it be optional or required?
  5. What legal guidelines do we need to follow?
  6. Who will approve the form?
  7. Will the form expire after a certain length of time?

Discuss these questions during the meeting. When your team comes to a consensus on the answers, designate someone to draft the form and set a deadline for its completion. Then set a second meeting for your team to review and/or approve the draft.


2. Set up your media release system

Once your media release form is finalized and approved, work with your team to establish a system for using it. Consider the following questions:

  1. Will we use paper forms, digital forms, or a combination? Can we legally accept a digital signature?
  2. Who will be responsible for distributing and collecting the forms and how will they do it?
  3. Where will the signed forms be filed? Who will be responsible for filing them?
  4. Who will have access to the signed forms once they’ve been filed?
  5. What happens if someone declines to sign it? How do we communicate to others within our organization that we can’t take photos or videos or collect audio of that individual?

Your answers will largely depend on your organization’s needs and the circumstances under which you’ll be collecting content. You may need to consider setting up a digital filing system or integrating the forms into your existing paper filing system.


3. Train your team and communicate expectations

The last step in the process is training. Choose someone from your team to lead a training session for everyone in your organization. During the training, review the form and explain why you created it. Remember that you may encounter resistance as you start the process, so be prepared to explain the importance of a media release form and how it will benefit your organization. Discuss who is and is not allowed to collect and use photos, videos, or audio and explain the consequences (disciplinary and legal) for doing so without permission.

You should also communicate with the parties who will sign the media release form. Explain why you’ve created it and what it means when they sign it. Give them enough opportunity to sign it prior to any photo, video, or audio collection. Be prepared to answer their questions or connect them with a member of your team who can.

The timeline for this entire process will depend on your organization. Check your calendar for any upcoming events or other opportunities to collect photos, videos, and audio and plan accordingly.


Are you ready to get started? This is an important process for any nonprofit, so don’t be intimidated. Start with the first step of locating or creating your form and continue from there. Remember to rely on your team members for help, and follow the process in a way that makes sense for your nonprofit. Good luck!

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Kelly Rembold

Kelly Rembold

Marketing Specialist at Lark Enterprises, Inc.
Kelly Rembold is a nonprofit marketing and communications professional with a passion for storytelling. She is the sales and communication director at Kon-O-Kwee Spencer YMCA, a year-round YMCA camp in Fombell, PA, that offers summer programs, group retreats, and environmental education. Kelly has a background in journalism, and has previously worked as a reporter and editorial assistant for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Kelly Rembold