Video to the Rescue

Donor with Parkinson's Disease
A distinguished South Texas citizen who suffered with Parkinson’s Disease is the focus of this article (photograph by Joe Cook of Coastal Bend Video).

I once worked with a Council of the Boy Scouts of America that sought to honor a distinguished community leader during its annual dinner. The Council’s activities span 17 counties. The dinner is a mainstay of the Council’s annual fundraising schedule. At the time, I was assigned to help design a major gift campaign (a separate activity), but because I knew the gentleman being honored, I stepped in to assist.

The honoree was most deserving and had contributed greatly to the economic and social vitality of the region. However, he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was quickly losing his ability to speak and to move about comfortably. The photo above shows him – once tall and commanding, now advanced into Parkinson’s – watching construction on a new art museum wing he helped to fund substantially.

For an overview of the symptoms of this devastating disease, see the Parkinson’s Disease Information Page of the National Institutes of Health. They note, “Parkinson’s disease (PD) belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which cause unintended or uncontrollable movements of the body. The precise cause of PD is unknown, but some cases are hereditary while others are thought to occur from a combination of genetics and environmental factors that trigger the disease.”

What can an organization do if an award honoree cannot give an acceptance speech, and when family members are unable assist?

Video to the rescue!

For a modest budget that was underwritten by a local bank, I was able to secure the services of an exceptionally talented person whose normal business is to videotape depositions for legal professionals. We were able to obtain photographs from the family as well as historic photos of the region. I then developed the script myself. I enlisted the BSA Council Executive to serve as narrator. Local authorities and friends agreed to be interviewed and speak about the life and achievements of this truly distinguished citizen.

Once interviews were complete, our video expert and I hunkered down in the office to edit the film. We added “still” photos here and there, and soon we had a video about about 15 minutes in length. The attractive and entertaining video replaced the banquet acceptance speech with class. The video told a colorful and enlightening story of the life of one of the area’s most respected citizens.

The video was a resounding success. It reduced the unease of the family during the annual dinner. The honoree simply rose silently from his seat to be honored with a loud round of applause at the conclusion of the video. In fact, it was if he was indeed standing up at the podium giving his speech himself.

My point is that video can come to your rescue at critical times when you wish to honor someone special. Video can make for a smooth, seamless presentation during special events, especially when community leaders and their families are frail, shy, or just plain nervous. In this case, the honoree could not speak due to his illness, and his family members were too shy to speak publicly. Video can also document the history of your organization and the region in which you live, for posterity.

Video does not have to be an expensive pursuit. If you think your project through carefully and consider your available talent and resources, you might be surprised to find all you need is close at hand. Video is a worthwhile investment in your overall development program. This article was written back in 2011, when I first launched Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog. Today, video has taken off like a rocket and shows no signs of slowing down.

Last but not least, nonprofits should not fall into the trap of believing they must honor someone at an event who is outgoing public speaker. As we all know, shy and introverted people are often great philanthropic heroes. Video can replace a speech eloquently, it can entertain and enlighten an audience (and keep your event on schedule), and it can be a wonderful “gift” for the person you wish to honor.

Today, the video tools available have increased in number and simplicity. I myself have begun using YouTube (having a channel is a great idea, as YouTube is a top Internet search tool), Vimeo (which has a built-in recording studio I find helpful), and Adobe Creative Cloud. You can combine casual smartphone videos taken during events, as well as Instagram and other photographs.

There are so many possibilities. Try them out!

Image courtesy of Adobe Creative Cloud.


“Video is here to stay. Making video ads is no longer the exclusive realm of high-end marketing agencies with top-dollar budgets. The majority of for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations use video as a marketing tool. From social media, to email marketing, to fundraising event messaging, video has become the norm.”

The State of Video Marketing

Diana Castro for the TechSoup Blog, “7 Tips When Leveraging Videos in Your Marketing Strategy” (October 27, 2022).

Noteworthy also is a report from Indiana University and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy regarding fundraising and communications (2022). Donors want nonprofits to more effectively communicate the organization’s impact and to leverage images and video as a means of demonstrating impact. One experiment found that video was the most effective donor communication means among those tested. Video also elicited more empathic responses.

Visit my YouTube channel by following this link.


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