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).

In 2005, I 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 and the dinner is a mainstay of the Council’s annual fundraising schedule. Although at the time, I was assigned to help develop a major gift campaign (a separate activity), 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.

What can you do if an award honoree cannot give the usual acceptance speech, and when no family members can assist? Video to the rescue!

For a modest budget (underwritten by a local bank), I was able to secure the services of an exceptionally talented video expert whose normal business is to videotape depositions for legal professionals. We also obtained photographs from the family as well as historic photos of the region, and I developed the script. Last but not least, I enlisted the BSA Council Executive to serve as narrator, a task at which he was quite adept. Local authorities and friends agreed to be interviewed.

Once interviews were complete, the video expert and I “locked ourselves in” to edit the film, we added “still” photos here and there, and voila! We were able to complete an attractive and entertaining video of approximately 15 minutes in length that replaced the 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.

My point is, 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.

Last but not least, do not think you must honor someone at an event who is also known as outgoing and a good 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.

I have identified numerous resources you may find helpful, below. Today, the video tools available have increased in number and simplicity. I myself have begun using YouTube Video Editor, making use of casual smartphone videos taken during events, as well as Instagram photographs. Here is an example of a Board meeting presentation filmed with two iPhones and spliced together using YouTube Video Editor (the person was unable to attend the meeting and my quickly-made video replaced his presentation quite well).

There are so many possibilities. I urge you to try them out!

I would like to put in a word for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “Our goal is to accelerate the best ideas in Parkinson’s disease research toward clinical testing and practical relevance for patients. By placing a strong emphasis on translational and clinical research, we ensure that new ideas are constantly flowing into the drug development pipeline.”

This article by Keren Blankfield for Forbes is insightful, “How Michael J. Fox Used Smarts, Celebrity and Philanthropy to Build His Parkinson’s Foundation” (June 5, 2015).

I’ve found smartphones (I use an iPhone) will take surprisingly good videos, which you can insert into more elaborate productions. Photo courtesy of Gadgets360.

A Few Video Resources

  • Adobe Spark has a free video app you might enjoy. It makes the average person look like an accomplished video producer! See my YouTube channel and the section containing some of my simple Adobe Spark productions.
  • Charity Dynamics, “Video Content – Nonprofit Marketing in 2017” (2017).
  • Congregations … you might enjoy reading, “Using Video” by Terri Matthes of the Episcopal Church Foundation (July, 2012).
  • doGooder Nonprofit Video Awards (YouTube).  See for yourself what makes a great nonprofit video by viewing this webpage.
  • Google for Nonprofits has an expanded presence and helpful discussion about the power of video and how to make use of YouTube.
  • Idealware has posted an helpful article by Kyle Andrei, “It’s Not Just What You Say, But How You Say It” (May 17, 2012). “For many organizations, a powerful and effective video means an emotional appeal that reaches out to viewers’ empathy to encourage donations, awareness or other forms of support. Triggering the right emotions in viewers can help them connect with your issue on a more personal level. One of the most effective ways to trigger an emotional response in a video is through music.”
  • Kivi Leroux Miller shares several helpful video resources and ideas on her website, Nonprofit Marketing Guide.
  • Check out MIT Tech TV, “How to Make a Video” (two slide presentations on SlideShare), Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Network for Good has posted a helpful checklist, “11 Rules for Video Fundraising” by Elliot Greenberg and Davin Hutchins (July 24, 2012).
  • NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network’s website has several helpful video resources. Follow the link to find them.
  • Here’s a helpful, hands-on resource from the small business sector: “Viral Videos: How to Create and Promote Videos People Love,” by Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner (November 16, 2012). This post includes a podcast interview with Mark Malcoff, who has had great success creating humorous videos that have gone viral. Humor is also a good way to attract attention to nonprofit causes, in addition to the more serious type of video production discussed above. On a separate note, I find SME posts to be helpful for nonprofit work also, and would suggest you follow them on Twitter.
  • TechSoup provides a wide range of helpful resources on its Storymakers page.
  • YouTube has has developed the, “YouTube Nonprofit Program.” Please check it out! YouTube is one of the world’s top search engines and nonprofits should be present there.

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