We just completed our second fundraising video this year for two unique organizations. First was the grassroots group: A small staff housed in a rundown office, struggling with eviction notices and changing the world. Second was an internationally renowned medical facility raising millions for a large expansion. Although different, these two groups had one thing in common, they chose video to plead their case.
So all went well, their fundraisers were successful and both organizations, I'm sure, will live long and prosper. But building a successful fundraising video is a tricky business, not without its pitfalls, here are four tips to help guide you:
The Production Approach
First, what type of video is it going to be? With a fundraising video the best choice is a documentary. Remember, you're asking for money. So a high-concept marketing video that looks like it cost a fortune might not be your best bet. You should strive for a story that's honest and real, like it happened in front of the camera. But be aware, it still costs money. To create a compelling documentary requires large amounts of footage - it takes time to record those "real" moments. And getting a seamless and natural flow to the edit can take weeks. Believe it or not, a slick marketing "sizzle reel" might be cheaper, the glitzy effects and graphic treatments have been commoditized - they're plug and play.
Something’s gotta Give
When your audience watches a documentary they expect a story. Now there are a lot of rules to storytelling but the most important one, for our purposes, has to do with "change". A character or idea has to transform during the course of the video. This makes your message relatable, universal and enlightening to the viewer. You want to give your audience a transformative experience - that's what great stories can do.
Save it for a Memo
You're trying to be persuasive, right? And we’re taught that the best friend of persuasion is facts and figures. This might be true but please leave them out of your video. There are better methods to communicate the factual information, speeches, websites, brochures, etc. Video can't and shouldn't communicate the whole message, keep it simple - have your documentary focus on the emotion side of the story.
Give the Message a Breath of Fresh Air
Short and face-paced... That what everyone wants, especially in this click-happy internet age. But that's not necessarily true in this instance. If the fundraising video is to be shown at a gala or event the audience will expect substance. They'll need time to settle in and engage in the story. Think theatrical: use silence to you advantage and give the audience moments of pause. Besides, you can always cut a shorter version to play on a website.
So there you have it, a few takeaways from a unique type of video that plays by its own rules. Hope these tips were helpful and your fundraising endeavors reap great rewards.
2012 will be a pivotal year for video on the web. But no worries, those funny baby, talking dog and spunky kitten videos will continue to entertain us. Why wouldn't they? There’s an endless supply, and supply has driven demand for internet video for years. However, changes are afoot, in a big way. Web video is going to spiff-up its image. It’s put-up or shut-up time.
Production quality will be a driving force in the biggest expansion of visual communication since the Nickelodeon. (The old film viewer not the TV network) With a 100 professionally produced channels coming from You Tube this year and every website wanting to get into the video game - it’s going to get interesting. It’s no longer cool just to have a video on your website. It is more like - does this video represent our vision? Scratchy audio and shaky camerawork might have been acceptable for the "bear on a trampoline" video but for your message...it probably isn't going to work anymore.
One of the golden rules of filmmaking is,“if you can show it, don’t say it.” Creating a strong visual message eliminates the need for an explanation - redundancy dumb-downs the meaning. The same holds true for your website, the videos should NOT repeat the same information that already exists on your site. Video can convey the intangible and generate a unique experience for the viewer - show them more.
But what about quality? Production quality is intricately linked to the message you want to communicate. Identifying the visual message will be the guiding force on booking the right talent and resources. Should it be slick, authentic or inspirational, it all depends. Or how about a colorful title sequence leading into grey, blurry video with bad sound; we see this plenty on the web and we kindly ask,“please stop.”
Strong visual communications are a balance of quality, tone and good old-fashion show and tell. No matter where you are going with your website, video can take you farther down the road.
Then along comes a photo camera that shoots video. DSLRs are built with creativity in mind. Photography is an art form, after-all. The long-established principles of photography enable the user to control the image and bend it towards their aesthetic tastes. As a shooter, director and editor, I’ve been frustrated with the inability to limit a video camera's point-of-view. All that time wasted on video shoots art directing an entire scene, when now you can let the background go soft.
Beside the depth of field, the other advantage of a DSLR over the new crop of large sensor video cameras is the ability to take a 5184 pixel still. If the video image isn’t moving - shoot a still. That enormous image can be manipulated in a variety of ways - crop, zoom, pan or animate part of the image. It is one more wrench in the creative toolkit.
One last thought; we know you have new creative powers - don’t over-indulge! The art of editing demands a variety of images, a bunch of blurry images doesn’t suddenly make your video cinematic, clear pictures are nice too. It’s best just to think...what would Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon or Henri Cartier-Bresson do with video. Then you will be well on your way.
What if, like Alice in Wonderland, you looked at your organization through the other side of the looking glass? Essentially, that is what video can offer a company.
A number of years ago, Visual Storytellers created several short video profiles on successful employees of a Fortune 500 company. We examined the uniqueness of each employee by telling the story of their personal, social and professional lives. The videos were played at a live event while the recipients received awards honoring their service. After the event, one of the employees thanked us with tears in her eyes and said, “It was amazing to see the connection between what inspires me as a person and the benefit that provides my company.” That is visual storytelling at its best.