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Habitat For Humanity Goes Virtual

Many nonprofit organizations hold an annual in-person fundraising event where they raise the bulk of their funding for the year. Videos are often shown at these events with the goal of engaging prospective donors on an emotional level. Over the years I’ve created several such videos to great success. I focus on the stories of people who have benefited from my client’s services. And I use a documentary and observational style to tell those stories in an authentic and humanistic way. The end result draws viewers in and often moves them to want to act. My clients consistently report back to me how impressed they are with how well the videos I create for them perform.

This year in-person events are not possible for safety reasons. So nonprofits have been looking for ways to shift their events to the Internet. In the spring, The Action Center, a regular client of mine, worked with a local church that volunteered their video cameras and staff to capture the Action Center’s speakers on video. They had already hired me to create the usual story-based video I do for them each year and then they asked me to edit together the video from the church with my video into a larger presentation they could put online in lieu of their in-person fundraiser.

They have raised 50% more funding than their target goal with the help of this video — the most in the organization’s history!”

A couple months ago the Habitat for Humanity chapter in Fort Collins reached out to me to do something similar, but with higher production value and more elements. They shared with me a video presentation another chapter had done that they wanted to use as a model for their own presentation. So I worked with them to flesh out the different components of the presentation. We ended up with four: A presentation by the executive director, the story-based video profiling one of their participants (the kind of video I usually do), a 3-4 minute video telling the story about a local high school construction program that partners with them, and a video with a board member who gives the “ask”.

With the content decided on, we worked together to create a production schedule, which took place over two separate days. I then spent two weeks editing the video together and working with my client to source additional elements to increase the visual interest of the presentation.

The final result is above and went live on October 7th. They have raised 50% more funding than their target goal with the help of this video — the most in the organization’s history! Congratulations to them!

The first video below is the story-based video included in the larger presentation. They had selected a woman named Natasha to focus on. She was engaging and full of life and energy and proved to be a great choice. Since moving into the Habitat built house, Natasha has gotten very active in the community, including volunteering at a food bank and making friends with other parents at a local playground. I thought showing her engaged in those activities would be a great way to show how much having a home has impacted not just Natasha, but also those in her community. But for reasons of safety we were unable to and instead stuck close to Natasha’s home. Nevertheless, everyone was really happy with the end result.

The second video below is the local high school construction program story also included in the larger presentation. Habitat partners with Poudre High School to provide an opportunity for students to build a home. Because of covid, all construction activity on the home ceased in March. So I wasn’t sure how I would be able to tell the story without that. But my client still really wanted to include this in their presentation.

They worked on lining up the construction program teacher and a few students to interview about their experience with the program. I arrived the day of the shoot still not sure how I was going to tell this story. Not always having a plan is part of the territory when it comes to documentary-style productions. You have to be willing to let things develop in front of you and figure it out on the fly. So this wasn’t new territory for me, but still, I was a little nervous.

So first I shot the student interviews. Then I set up for the teacher, who showed himself to be very extroverted and high energy. In the middle of his interview it hit me — why not take advantage of his personality and just let him speak to camera directly and give us a tour of the house? This would be much more energetic than a bunch of static interviews with some “broll” of the house and classroom. It would be a departure from my usual style of storytelling, but I find it fun and exciting to try new approaches. So I finished the interview and pitched the idea to my client. They loved it and were very happy with the end result.


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