8 Guideposts to Achieve Trust and Integrity in Your Videos- David Deschenes

I recently interviewed a number of families for a video we produced to highlight the value of a nonprofit organization that provides home and community health services across Connecticut. As with any on-camera interview, I approached these meetings with some basic questions such as “tell us what brought you to where you are now,” or “how did you get connected with this organization.” But I also probed more deeply to give the interviewees an opportunity to talk about things like their personal and professional challenges; some of the family dynamics at play as they worked through extremely trying issues.

The on-camera interview is my favorite component of video production. It’s something I’ve honed over time. Earlier in my experience, I would compile a number of questions for the subject and dutifully run down each to gather as much as I could for their story. But I eventually learned that while it was important to prepare for an interview, it was equally as important to “be in the moment” with the person I was interviewing. Over time, I realized that I would get to a person’s real story through conversation as opposed to a more structured interview.

This perspective alone changed my approach from that of a detached interviewer to someone who really wanted to know what was happening in a person’s life. And this, in turn, triggered something more personal. I developed a need to protect the people I interviewed. On-camera interviews, particularly with people using the services of a nonprofit organization, can get very personal. Intense moments can present themselves. That’s part of what makes me protective of the people I interview. By offering very personal insight into their experience, they’re allowing themselves to be in a vulnerable position. I’m honored when someone feels comfortable enough to trust me with their story. So my overall goal, every time I highlight a person in a video, is to portray them in a way that communicates not only their story, but their courage and conviction as well.

Based on this approach, I’ve developed eight guideposts for interviews and usage. They’re not in any particular order, because I think they all contribute equally to a successful on-camera interview.

  1. Approach each story and situation with respect. The interview can be a cathartic experience for the person you’re filming. It could be the first time they’re saying something out loud about their challenges. It takes a lot of courage and strength for someone to sit in front of a camera and tell their story.
  2. Set up your equipment ahead of time so you can start the interview as soon as the subject arrives. If you schedule an interview for an hour at 10 am, start the interview at 10 am. It can take up to a half hour to set things up, and another 10 minutes to frame the subject and get proper audio levels. So arrive early and get things set so you have the full hour.
  3. Take some time to chat (time allowing) before getting into the questions. Let the interviewee get acclimated to what is usually a very unfamiliar setting – sitting in front of a camera or two, surrounded by a light or three.
  4. Honor wishes for usage, even if someone has signed a release that may state otherwise. People can change their minds. Sometimes people decide after the fact that they don’t want to share their story. There is also a trust factor that once broken, is very hard to repair.
  5. Don’t rush. And in fact, allow more time than formally allotted for the interview in case someone has difficulties starting, or really gets settled in. I’ve had people sit down, obviously very nervous, saying, “I only have a short time,” and an hour and a half later we’re wrapping up with a lot of insightful and profound statements.
  6. Actively listen. In a commonly used technique, you would ask the question and have the subject answer back as a statement. So you never hear the interviewer in the final video. Because you need to remain silent while the subject is speaking, go out of your way to communicate that you’re interested through body language: nod your head, lean in.
  7. Don’t fill the silence. If someone is talking about a difficult subject, they may pause to gather their thoughts. Let them get to it on their own. I tend to pause after someone addresses something that’s particularly challenging for them. I want to make sure they’re really finished with that thought. Sometimes, they’re not. They might add something more because they’re in the moment.
  8. Approach each interview as an assignment. Do some research. Find bios if they’re available. Learn about the person and what they’re talking about. It will allow you to form better questions ahead of time, and will help with follow up during the interview. In addition, the person you’re interviewing will be impressed and respond accordingly.

When someone agrees to be interviewed on-camera, they are always taking a leap of faith that their contribution will be portrayed in a way that is true and fair. After a successful interview, the test in editing will be to produce a story that is compelling but not intrusive; something that gives equal time to challenges and successes. The guideposts above will help you get to that story while maintaining trust and integrity going forward.

We want to hear from you. If there is any topic you would like us to explore, please send your inquiries to info@danosky.com. Visit us to read more of what we’re passionate about!

5 Types of Low Cost, High Impact Videos That Nonprofits Can Create to Raise Awareness and Money- David Deschenes

Technological advances in visual marketing have presented opportunities for smaller to mid-sized nonprofits to establish a video marketing presence that may have been financially out of reach just a few years ago.

Smart phones now produce very high quality video, as reasonably priced smart phone accessories such as wireless or traditional mics, add-on lenses, and internal camera apps help to improve the quality even more. Add to that browser-based video editing software which can be subscribed to for a nominal fee, and you have the ability to create a high impact, low cost video to promote your mission and raise money.

And if you want to have even more control over the quality of your video, video cameras have come down quite a bit in price as well. For $400, you can buy a HD quality camera that offers lots of manual controls and inputs.

There is a learning curve to taking video and producing it, but not too much of one if you’re going for a simple look and message. Lots of non-pro video editing software now works much like iMovie – geared to the novice film maker.

Videos don’t have to be cinematic productions, and in fact, some donors can be put off by lots of editing magic and built in bells & whistles in video. They may feel that an organization is spending lots of money in an environment of funding cuts and tight budgets.

Following are five types of videos that are short and to the point, and fairly simple to produce.

  1. BRANDING This kind of video gives the viewer a good idea of what your organization does and for whom. It can be a “b-roll” format with fast paced images & video over music combined with punchy text and ending info with your logo and website info.
  2. APPEAL This can be tied to a general appeal, or a special event like GivingTuesday. In this video you would want to show the impact you’re having on the population you serve. And like the branding video, you can combine positive images and video with testimonials of success. Always important to end this with a call to action: “Give Now at ________.”
  3. EDUCATIONAL / INFORMATIONAL Informative video that provides information on how you do what you do, or where you fall within a cause or issue. Examples of this kind of video can be an organization showing their success (or increased challenges) helping people with opioid addiction. Include testimonials from experts, staff, volunteers, and clients to underscore your message. This type of video would also include a call to action to direct the viewer on how they can donate or get involved.
  4. STORIES / TESTIMONIALS This video can include short vignettes highlighting the beneficiaries of an organization’s service, each story clearly showing challenges and success (or perhaps ongoing challenges, because sometimes the story doesn’t end with a perfect solution). Pair these clips with staff and volunteers talking about their passion for the mission. Again, an ending call to action drives donations or another kind of engagement.
  5. THANK YOU Communicate the results of someone’s monetary or volunteer support. Walk around a program and get brief comments from people on how they were helped. If you’re a land trust, show some work in progress and talk about how “your donation is helping our local environment”. This can be a brief video to a particular donor, where you narrate and address them by name, or a group of donors/volunteers. This kind of video can have a higher share/forward rate as people love to share this kind of news with their own networks.

As you explore and discuss types of videos going forward, you will find that many have overlapping formats such as application of b-roll, music underlay, contributing staff, volunteers, donors, clients, etc.

While it is important to create the right kind of video for your intentions, it is just as important for a nonprofits to establish a video marketing strategy, as well as internal policies & guidelines;  it is important to ensure that those tasked with filming and producing videos are aware of legal implications and usage limitations.

While it is crucial to plan your approach to in-house video production, there is also somewhat of a “just do it” approach that can help you get over those first hurdles. Your first videos don’t have to be cinematic masterpieces. Number one priority is to tell your story clearly and with the most impact.

We want to hear from you. If there is any topic you would like us to explore, please send your inquiries to info@danosky.com. Visit us to read more of what we’re passionate about!

The Color of Nonprofit Boards- Sharon Danosky

Nonprofit organizations – and their boards – are on the front lines of many of the societal problems we face.  They are advocates, providers of human services and collaborators for social change.  And they are predominantly white.

A recent study of Board practices, Leading With Intent  published by BoardSource noted that “boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices”.  The survey they undertook of their members received responses from 1,545 organizations nationally.  Of those organizations, 90% of their Chief Executives were Caucasian, as was 90% of Board Chairs and 84% of Board members.

While the survey may not be a representative sampling, I contend that you can walk into the Board rooms of nonprofits across the country and see predominantly white faces.  Recruiting for diversity is often given lip service.  Even in instances when there is an effort to diversify the board, the reality is that boards self-perpetuate and as they seek new members, they go to the well that is familiar – and that well looks just like they do.

To address issues of racial equity and bring about real change requires new perspectives.  It requires that the people sitting around the boardroom table represent and understand the problems an organization is trying to solve.  Recently I had a conversation with the Chair of the Governance Committee for a client I am working with.  The organization he represents serves predominantly immigrant children and children of color.  He asked me, “Does diversity really matter?  I know it is something we keep hearing, but why should it be a priority?”     I asked him how his board evaluates the effectiveness of their programs and the impact they are having.  How do they know whether they are reaching children in meaningful ways – ways that address their cultural concerns, including issues of trust and opportunity, if they are only seeing it from their own lenses?  As he thought about this he said, “I am a white man.  The entire leadership of the Board is white, and predominantly men.  The answer is – we don’t know”.  Then he hesitated a moment and continued, noting that a new board member, a woman of color, had just joined the Board and his committee.  He said he thought it would be good to have her work with the committee for a few months – then he would step down with the intent she would assume his leadership role.  That at least it would change a little.  It’s a small step, true – but it is a step forward.

In board rooms throughout the country, we need to have board members asking these same questions. And they need to listen in ways they have not done so in the past.  And perhaps those small steps can grow and make a real change.

Hail the Unsung Heroes of Hurricane Harvey- Sharon Danosky

I am frustrated by the lack of understanding that undermines the efforts of many dedicated staff and volunteers in the nonprofit sector.

What prompts my writing was an interview I heard this morning. A non-profit executive was stating that they would be providing a full accounting next week of the funds that had been raised and spent in the relief effort for Hurricane Harvey. The reporter then asked, with a note of incredulity in her voice – “wouldn’t that be the same?” Implicit in her question was an assumption that if the funds spent were not the same as the funds raised, there must be some mismanagement or worse.

Nonprofit organizations do not exist in a world that is so black and white. Simply because you have raised the funds, ordered the supplies, set up a supply chain, provided the cots, food, water, blankets, and distributed donated goods, does not mean that every bill is paid simultaneously. Nor does it account for staff time, travel, reimbursement for gasoline, etc.  The sheer logistics, coordination and manpower hours (both donated and paid) are staggering. Nonprofits are the first on the ground and many arrive at great peril and no one is punching a clock. But it does cost money and it is not a matter of simple bookkeeping. Vendors do not submit bills instantaneously and staff isn’t paid every hour, so the funds raised and spent would never be the same for any organization on a week to week basis. Why would it be so expected simply because it is a nonprofit organization?

Nor did this same reporter take into consideration what many on the ground have been saying consistently: this recovery will not be complete within days, weeks or months. It will take years. And the recovery efforts will also be funded and supported by many non-profits. Good stewardship of the funds raised includes insuring that they are being managed today and tomorrow. Whether there will be support to provide for the myriad expenditures to come is precarious. That is why investment in ongoing fundraising is critical to ensuring that continued resources are available. However, fundraising costs are frequently viewed as a negative without any recognition of the effort it takes to continue bringing the challenges of recovery to the public – long after the reporters have left.

We have been living in a world where every fundraising scam is given an inordinate amount of publicity – in some instances where it wasn’t warranted. In reality, nonprofit organizations do a remarkable job with limited resources. They are a critical part of the relief and recovery equation, often providing relief and support that federal and state governments are either unable or unwilling to provide.

What I do applaud is another reporter who was discussing a number of alternatives where people could contribute. He was asked why not focus on international organizations such as Red Cross or Americares? His response was that most people are aware of those organizations – and they do extraordinary work. However, the local charities are there today and will remain boots on the ground tomorrow – because this is their community and this is the work they do.

It is appropriate that we recognize the men and women, who are both paid and volunteer for the incredible work they do. We should also recognize those who raise and manage the funds. There is a cost to providing relief and recovery efforts.

Beyond the pictures of dramatic rescues and volunteers serving food – there is a nonprofit infrastructure that makes it function – and that, too is worthy of our support and recognition.    

We have a Strategic Plan, Now What?

“Nothing happens until something moves” Albert Einstein

Ask an Executive Director or CEO if they have a strategic plan. Many will say, “Of course we do – it’s here somewhere”. Then they will reach to the top shelf of their bookcase, blow off the dust and say – here it is!  This leads me to believe that a lot of strategic plans end up as bookends or dust collectors.

We recently posted an article that discussed how the most critical part of the strategic plan is actually the planning process. If that is the case, then what do you do when the ‘planning process’ is over and how do you bring those strategies to fruition?

To be relevant for more than a year (or even a day!), strategies must be fluid. So, how do you take something that is fluid and translate it into concrete action? I have found that implementing the following steps can keep boards and management focused on the priorities you agreed upon during your planning process.

1)     Assign Each Strategy to a Board Committee or Task Force. Accountability plays a significant role in maintaining focus on the things that matter. Having a team responsible for keeping an eye on a particular strategy goes a long way to keeping that strategy front and center. Standing Committees, such as Finance Committees, are a good place to delegate any financial aspects of your plan. Programmatic initiatives should involve a task force (or several) comprised of management and staff to develop key initiatives, conduct research or engage community constituents. Ownership of a strategy is what puts a strategy into play.

2)     Develop Action Steps for each Strategic Initiative. The best way to tackle a grand initiative – is one step at a time. This is the work of the committee or task force. Action steps often begin with gathering research. The research leads to analysis and conclusions – which then leads to options. This is where the fluidity of the strategy comes into play. The options present opportunities which can be pursued based on factors internal or external to the organization.  In other words – those activities an organization needs to take on to help it pursue its mission.

3)     Establish timelines and share progress. Inertia is the downfall of many a plan. How you safeguard against inertia is by creating a blueprint which lays out how you will move things forward.   Then hold yourselves accountable by setting deadlines and reporting on progress at each Board meeting. I often recommend embedding the action steps and timelines into the Board agenda. If the Board and management agreed that specific strategic objectives are the priority for the organization – then it only makes sense that the Board has regular discussions relative to whether it is moving forward on these strategies. Timelines hold you accountable.

4)     Develop dashboards to mark progress. Dashboards are a great visual for reporting progress – and should be a tool every Board uses. For strategic planning, I think it should be straight-forward. Each strategy has action steps it needs to undertake each year.   Create a simple table, with the action steps listed in rows and three columns across the top: Not Begun; In Process; Completed. This way you can see at a glance whether you are moving your strategy forward, or falling into the trap of inertia. Color coding them – green for good, yellow for caution and red for problems – can help you see the progress with a quick glance – and focus strategic discussions around problem areas.

5)     Review. While each step along the way is important – review is probably the most essential. We talk about plans being fluid for a number of reasons: assumptions change, organizations face unforeseen challenges; the world changes on a dime.  Reviewing your plan twice a year – or minimally once a year, allows you to evaluate what has happened internally or externally which may impact your plan. And it is ok to change and adapt your plan. You may need to consider going in a direction that wasn’t apparent when the plan was made. That is why plans should be fluid. If you strategies are broad enough, you will be able to accommodate these fluctuations in direction.

The final take-away should be that even when you think the planning process has ended – it really never does. Your plan is your guideline and there are action steps you need to take. But planning and strategy is an ongoing discussion – one that is essential for effective Boards. A good strategic plan should be able to provide the framework.

(Next week look for our post on When Not to Plan, or refer to our prior post on What makes for a good strategic plan? And Click Here to see D&A’s planning process