#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week ten | let’s take a brief look back, shall we?

Wow! Can you believe we’re already on Week 10 of #whatgiveswednesday? Time is flying!

I thought this milestone was a good opportunity to look back at weeks 1 through 9 and ask, “What have we learned so far?”

I re-read the first 9 posts and already some clear themes are coming through. Here they are:

ONE: TRANSPARENCY
I’ll talk more about communicating with young donors in a sec, but transparency on its own was one of the most important factors I identified after re-reading the posts. Charities must be transparent when communicating with (young) donors. Make your impact known, allow donors to see stats and metrics on their impact, and let them know without a doubt that you did exactly what you said you would with their money.

TWO: INVOLVE
As Sheena Greer told us in her awesome #whatgiveswednesday guest blog post, “We are going to give our time first and our money second.” You’ll show young donors just how transparent and trustworthy you are when they get involved and have a “behind the scenes” look at who you are and what you do. Make it fun and social for them, and the money will follow.

THREE: RESTRICTED
The trend is that all donors – young and old – are moving away from unrestricted giving. It goes hand-in-hand with the changing approach to philanthropy; it isn’t guilt or obligation-driven anymore, so there isn’t a willingness to just pour funds into a general fund and impact… who knows what? Make your giving opportunities more exciting, specific, and cause-driven.

FOUR: MAKE GIVING EASY
If you’re investing in your young donor program, you better have an easy online giving form that’s also mobile friendly. End of story.

FIVE: COMMUNICATE
In addition to being transparent, there are other important factors in your communication with young donors: be clear, be concise, tell stories, use images, integrate short videos, include user-generated content, and be authentic. Don’t use an institutional voice; get existing young donors – a.k.a. “gen y besties” – to tell their stories for you, just like Carolyn Hawthorn suggested in her #whatgiveswednesday guest blog post.

It’s not that complicated, but there’s still more mystery to be solved! Tune in on Wednesday, April 15 for our next segment. Thanks for reading!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week nine | guest post: boom! what? harness the millennials!

I recently attended a conference in Seattle, WA (Academic Impressions Young Alumni: Establishing Lifelong Relationships) and was inspired to “guest blog” about my trip.

Full disclosure: When I was in high school, the Macarena was the biggest dance craze. As such, I am fully aware I can never be part of the Millennial movement (although I’ve seen some great mashup-revivals of those moves recently…)

However, just as I can appreciate great feminist literature or how Bill James could influence major league baseball without ever playing pro ball, I’ve been turning my professional attention to this next great generation: The Millennials (aka Gen Y) despite not being “one of them.” I’ll try not to focus on the myth that they don’t give (and get off my lawn, you meddling kids!) because it’s simply not true (87% of millennial employees donated to a nonprofit in 2013) but rather how our collective mindset and paradigms need to change to allow this group of highly creative, socially motivated folks to connect their money with their passions.

First, this is the #ShowMe generation. Having instant access to information (accurate or not) has trained them to expect to see the impact of their gifts immediately and in a way that aligns with their passion or sense of self. Thank you Facebook and Google Analytics! Make sure your donor relations strategy allows your students and younger alumni to access stats and metrics on the direct impact of their gifts. Also, tie their support to tangible projects that will impact their donor experience. Disinterest in donating to general funds is also trending.

Second, this group has been connected via the internet most of their lives. They know how to navigate web and mobile devices and have no patience for multiple click thrus or ugly websites. Is your content accessible and mobile friendly? 83% of Millennials currently use a SmartPhone and in 2014, mobile access surpassed desktop access. Invest in your marketing and communications online strategies for this group and be intentional.

Third, remember when commercials used to be 30 seconds and YouTube videos were 5 minutes long? Now, we see 6 second Vines, video viewing rates dropping off after 48 seconds, and if it doesn’t fit in 140 characters, it’s not worth saying. Be clear, be concise, and be honest. Every generation has its own vernacular, be sure to use images and short videos for millennials. User-generated content is great and sometimes preferable to “institution-produced” adverts. When Arthur Brisbane said, “a picture is worth a thousand words” I’m not sure he was ready for Instagram, where 8 million pictures and videos are posted every hour. Every HOUR!

And finally, keep in mind that Gen X and Millennials are set to inherit $40 trillion (with a “T”!) in the next 50 years. Can you afford not to speak their language?  

The better we all do as an industry to change our stewardship and donor relations strategies, the more connected, engaged, and INVESTED this key demographic will be. Boom! What? Harness the Millennials!

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Written by Ben Seewald

unnamedGrowing up, Ben Seewald wasn’t like every other kid, who dreamed about being a doctor, or a kangaroo, or an astronaut – he always wanted to work with phenomenal people in Alumni Relations at a University. Ben is living his dream at Queen’s University as an Alumni Officer, working on student and recent graduate engagement programming.

Connect with Ben via:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week eight | guest post: the generation Y organic disruption device

What a quandary nonprofits find themselves in – what to do with Millennials: that is, that generation of “skinny jean wearing, latte sipping, app downloading, futon surfing, instagramming, lol’ing, twerking, sexting youngins” that has the boomers behind the wheel all in a flap. And as is expected of my generation, I’m here on this digital soap box to tell you a thing or two about us and our weird, weird hair.

Despite my tendency to pine for Urbie Green on vinyl, the smell of mimeograph, and a good tuna fish pie, I’m a millennial myself (and so are ¾ of my children, depending on your definition.) No matter how you slice it, Millennials are really tired of being treated like entitled, lazy brats with nothing to contribute. The “kids these days” mentality is a poor excuse and not useful for building relationships. I really don’t feel the division is meaningful, but it exists nonetheless.

So playing into this divide, I’ll give a few pointers on how to connect with younger supporters. I’d call this the Millennial Engagement Pyramid, but pyramids are so, like, uggh, pfffft, and shape-like. I’ll call this the Generation Y Organic Disruption Device.

  1. Connect – This is more than social media, m’kay? Look for opportunities to make those initial connections in person. Where? Universities, colleges, pubs, chamber of commerce events, drinking rye and coke and jumping off a pirate ship, whatever. Social media is a great start, but like internet dating, it gets weird when you only want to Snapchat your logo at us.
  2. Engage – We’re really no different than any other generation in this regard. Tell stories, show your impact, be transparent, and for goodness sakes, don’t bore us.
  3. Involve – We are going to give our time first and our money second. Involve Gen Y in meaningful ways – volunteer experiences should be moving, fun, and highly social. Gen Y is also quite likely to get involved in event-based fundraising.
  4. Collaborate – Here’s what’s missing, folks. Gen Y has collaboration ingrained in the brain. Your greatest alliances are going to be partnerships with groups (large or small) of Gen Ys who have something in common/some kind of alignment with your mission, and getting them in on the ground level of a project/event/etc. This may take extra effort, but you’ll seriously see a payoff. Gen Y is hungry to collaborate, and starving to make changes.

The nature of relationships with donors, regardless of their generation, is changing. We’re all living in a screwed up world and we want to see more from our donation dollars. We all demand real impact, real change, and want our relationships with non-profits to be transparent, authentic, cooperative and cause-driven (as opposed to faceless institutions using high-pressure sales tactics to take the money and run.)

Investing in real human relationships – whether it be online, on paper, in person, or via carrier pigeon – will ensure donors of any age feel their needs as philanthropists are being met.

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Written by Sheena Greer

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“Sheena often uses inappropriate humour and seeks attention in negative ways.” – Sheena’s 9th grade report card.

Raised on a farm on a heavy diet of George Carlin, Patsy Cline and William Blake, Sheena Greer grew with the stubborn-hearted idea that we need to do all we can to help each other, and that being a girl was a moot point. She currently employs her inappropriate humour as a writer, and helps nonprofits and social enterprises seek attention in positive ways by consulting with them on their communications, fundraising and strategy.

Connect with Sheena via: Twitter | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week seven | donor fatigue + give to get = ?

I’ll be honest: I had a case of writer’s block when preparing for today’s #whatgiveswednesday post. I actually have my regular Friday post for next week already queued up, but on the topic of young (non)donors I was drawing a blank. So I did some review of past posts to inspire me, and my mind settled on two in particular:

  1. This post from way back in the day: Donor Fatigue
  2. And this more recent post from the #whatgiveswednesday segment: give to get

Note how much cooler I’ve gotten: I now write blog titles in lower-case.

I digress… what do these two posts have in common? Well, “donor fatigue” is that tiredness – or even irritation – that donors get from being inundated with communications from too many charities and/or the same charity. When you watch three commercials in a row – one about orphaned dogs, and then one about sick children, and then one about homeless people – you become desensitized to the content. How compassionate can you feel for a cause when its mission is getting lost among the missions of so many others as a result of over-saturation?

“give to get” was about the bad rep young people get for wanting something in return for their donation, but I turned that notion on its head by saying what if what they want more than anything else is to know they made an impact? Because I think that’s the truth. I talked about how younger people are critical and skeptical (in part thanks to over-saturation) so you really need to work harder to ensure that they know you’re doing what you say you will with their money. Are there any charities out there that are doing that really well? I have this sneaking suspicion that there aren’t many. The upside? It doesn’t take too much to cut through the noise!

That’s what “donor fatigue” and “give to get” have in common: give them what they want and they will wake up from their fatigue. Innovate, break away from the status quo, be transparent, and show young (non)donors their impact, and they will see you as credible. Think different, and you’ll get different – and better! – results.

(This made me think of two other posts: this one – inspired by John Lepp – and this one from truly back in the day [my second post ever]. Enjoy!)

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week four | venting session

It’s time to air our grievances!

What are the biggest complaints about fundraising practices targeted at young people??? 

I asked people on Twitter and here are the answers I got back:

  • “I’m a small-sum monthly donor – I find big $$ asks are too much to handle in one go!”
  • “Lack of philanthropy education within the student market, impact reporting, and not customizing the ask are key to me […] Also think more needs to be done in terms of boosting online donation programs and infrastructure to support”
  • “Not saying thank you annoys us!!”
  • “They assume I’m hip and trendy. I assure you, I’m neither.”
  • “General lack of interesting, accessible gift opportunities that appeal to the change-making #millennial soul.”
  • “That I need something in return for my gift.”
  • “Anything that suggests an obligation or guilt. We need opportunities to help solve problems #inspiration”
  • “No opportunity beyond the ask for further engagement/involvement with the organization!”
  • “Bad stock photos”
  • “Giving info pages & donation forms that aren’t mobile friendly.”
  • “There’s a general lack of areas of support that pique my interest and inspire me to give.”
  • “Msgs that are too wordy, & too official/top-down sounding. Too many fields req’d to complete gift online”
  • “Emails that aren’t personalized, aren’t designed for mobile and calls when the caller has no info about me.”

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Customization vs. Personalization

Customizationvs.Personalization

Happy New Year, readers! I hope 2015 brings you great things!

Now, for the first post of the new year, starting with an important question:

Why do donors keep giving to a cause? Because we make them feel special! 

That’s a simple reason, but it’s true!

How do we make them feel special? I’ll tell you one way we wouldn’t make them feel special: if they gave us $1,000 and we wrote a thank you letter to them that said “Dear Friend…”. No! That was part of a long-gone era of fundraising; what Fraser Green would call the “Industrial Age of Fundraising”. We’re now in what Mr. Green would call the “Post-Industrial Age” of Fundraising. The idea of pumping out a million things that look exactly the same – case in point: thank you letters written to the same “Friend” – don’t appeal to our donors. What do we do? We customize.

So our thank you letter now – thanks to mail merge – starts with “Dear Jane…”. Satisfied? YES!

NO!!! I sat down with an acquaintance recently and he commented on a fundraising video he’d received from his alma mater. It was innovative, it was different, and it was customized! The email he’d received had a subject line with his name in it! The body of the email had his name in it! The video had his name in it! I was rejoicing! Great work, alma mater!

You know what he said? It creeped him out. Why?! I asked, full of despair! He said that all that video told him was that his alma mater paid a lot of money to a video company and that they had a database full of information about him. That’s when I realized:

It was customized, but it wasn’t personal.

We’re past the age of customization. Having the technology to insert someone’s first name into something is no longer innovative. Taking the time to write a personal note, acknowledge something specific to a donor, hand-address an envelope… that shows something. It’s not necessarily innovative, in fact it’s pretty old school, and that’s why it’ll cut through the rest.

What do you think???

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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The 5 Most Interesting Things I Learned on Day 1 of #AGCongress14

 

the 5 most interesting things I learned on day 1 of #AGCongress14

Ideally I would save this blog post for next week, but my sanity relies on routine, so I’ll stick with my regularly scheduled “every other Friday at 10:00 a.m.”.

What’s today’s post about? Well, right at this very moment I am in a session called “Picasso & Edison: Learn how to be both an artist and scientist in today’s fundraising world”, led by Samantha Laprade, CFRE (a.k.a. @GryphonReport). No, I am not blogging in front of her rather than paying attention to her session! I am writing this post from the comfort of my hotel room in Toronto on Thursday at 5:00 pm. I have just attended Day 1 of the 2014 Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress in Toronto a.k.a. #AGCongress14. Yes, it’s me and dozens of other Annual Giving nerds talking about what we do and how we can be excellent at it. I’m in heaven!

So on that note, today’s post is the five most interesting things I learned yesterday on Day 1 of Congress. Here goes…

  1. STOP! Be stupidly creative. The very inspiring Joel Faflak of Western University started the day off by telling us to stop doing what you’re doing and do something mindlessly creative. Draw, see a musical, do something! Our creativity is being threatened by the business of our every day work, but we can’t stop cultivating it.
  2. Don’t solicit young alumni with the traditional academic segmentation. My friend Ryan Brejak of the University of Guelph (and a guest blogger for this site) delivered a great session on young alumni giving and stressed that millennials need to be segmented differently rather than by their faculty. Segment them by the non-academic affinities they have.
  3. Why would they care? I attended a panel about “How to Write for Development” and asked them what’s more important in a fundraising letter, to emphasize need or success. Chuck Chan of University of Toronto replied that it’s most important to focus on why the reader would care about this. Would they care about a dilapidated building, or would they care about what’s going to happen in a new one?
  4. There are three types of donors. I attended my mentor Paul Nazareth‘s session about planned giving and he outlined three types of donors: (1) the DNA donor, where giving is in their DNA, and so is your organization; (2) the academic, who values your institution because of how they turned what they learned into success; (3) and the trouble makers and weirdos who had a great time at your institution who will give back because of their experiences.
  5. Everyone should be an annual fund prospect all the time. The last session of the day was led by two fundraising powerhouses: Lorna SomersBob Burdenski. They talked about the worlds of major giving and annual giving colliding, and Lorna stressed that major gift prospects/donors should never be taken out of annual solicitations. They should always receive the calls, direct mailings, etc. and major gifts should “opt out” of this if really necessary, whereas the default will be that they’re solicited annually.

What a great day Day 1 was. I bet I’m already energized by Day 2 and it’s only 10:00 a.m.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

A shocking concept!

You know what I hate? When every other Friday comes along (that’s when I post on here) and I have no clue what I’m going to write.

You know what I love? When every other Friday comes along and I have one awesome post ready to go, and then something happens and I schedule that post for later and write another even more awesome post. That’s what happened this week, and I hope this energizes you like it energizes me.

This week I got to have a beer with John Lepp. John Lepp is awesome! John is a Partner at Agents of Good. Please check out his Twitter and the company’s website. The work they do is so inspiring!

Last week I had a coffee with Paul Nazareth. I think you already know how awesome I think Paul is. Anyway, when I met with Paul, he mentioned John, and I said, “Funnily enough I have a beer scheduled with John next week!” Paul was delighted to hear it, and referred to John as a “disruptive leader”. That made me even more excited for some one-on-one time with John.

So John and I met at a half-way point between where we both live, and we started talking shop, of course. John’s expertise is in direct mail, so we talked a lot about that. He shared the truth, which is that every single organization is doing the same thing. We talked about that for a while, and then I commented that somehow I didn’t find that discouraging, but the opposite – encouraging. John agreed and said it was exciting! It means it’s not hard to surprise people with something different.

So I said, “John, what can we do? If you could distill your knowledge and insight down to a few actions, what are they?” John replied with a number of things, but one of them stood out the most for me. Hold onto your seats, because this is going to come as a bit of a shock:

Call your donors.

Get on the phone, call them, and see how they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be an ask, it’s not even really a thank you call – though we should take every opportunity to say thank you, I think – it’s just a personal, meaningful check-in.

When I worked at the Annual Giving Call Centre, even the longest calls barely took five minutes. John gave me a soft challenge of spending one hour a week calling donors.

Here’s the thing, and this is a shameful secret of mine: I hate making phone callsThis is a personal and professional challenge. I’m great at communicating via email, I feel confident and comfortable in person, but the thought of getting on the phone is just… I don’t like it.

One of my mentors – not John or Paul, though they’re both now on my personal Board of Directors (great blog post about that concept from Paul here) – reminded me recently that the way to get comfortable with something is to do it repeatedly.

So here’s my personal challenge, and please take the challenge yourself, too, if you need to: Call donors. For one hour a week. I find making my challenges public always gives me the extra drive to achieve them, so I will. I can’t wait to share the results!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Is your organization’s brand authentic?

Do your communications to your donors and prospective donors reflect what they love most about your organization???

My colleague and recent What Gives Philanthropy guest blogger, Kimberly Elworthy, and I were having a conversation about our respective university experiences and how much we had enjoyed them.  Both working in alumni relations-esque positions, we went on to discuss whether we felt that the alumni communications we received reflected that experience.

As an educational fundraiser, I know how powerful a tool nostalgia is when engaging alumni in the life of your institution, as well as when soliciting gifts.  If an alumnus is going to make a donation, they have to care.  We’d like to assume they care because they attended the institution, but can we make that assumption?  Perhaps they’re 20+ years removed from their graduation.  Assuming they had a great experience, can they still recall that?  Or, is their perception of the university based entirely on their alumni experience now?  And, if so, does that make their perception of the university positive?

I think these issues apply to whatever fundraising you’re doing.  Are you creating a strong brand for your organization?  Is that brand based on what’s considered to make up a powerful brand these days, or is it authentic?  Hopefully it can be both, but my feelings are that it needs to start out as authentic.  The people who are engaged in your organization care about your cause for a reason.  To keep them engaged, and to engage more people, they must feel their experience and passion reflected in your branding.  Otherwise, that dreaded “institutional voice” will overpower your authenticity, and when you don’t seem authentic, donors get skeptical.  Don’t let that happen to you!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Blog: Video Production for Fundraising – Part II – Quality Control

This is Kimberly Elworthy’s second guest post for What Gives Philanthropy.
Click here to read “Video Production for Fundraising – Part I”.

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I do believe there is a minimum standard in this day and age that can be and must be achieved if you are choosing to represent your organization through the visual medium of video. These basic necessities I outline below; you must follow these 3 principles:

  1. Lighting. Lighting. Lighting. The sun is free. Please use this resource. If your videos are not well lit, they will be pixilated, they will be unattractive, they will look dated and your organization will look out of touch. The best rule of thumb is to keep the back of the videographer (that is the person holding the camera) to be facing the lighting source. Therefore if you are in a room with windows and the sun is shining in, the videographer should be standing in front of the window with their back facing the window. The films subject will then be lit by the sun. If you are outside, always have your subject shaded by trees, never film into the sun. If you’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor filming, invest in one of these: http://www.filmtools.com/ligdep/lighting-control.html. If the space you’re in doesn’t have lighting and you cannot bring in any additional lighting sources, I would highly recommend you move. Bad lighting = bad quality = bad reflection on your organization.
  2. Framing + Depth. Video is a visual medium. People like watching videos not because they don’t want to read, but because people are attracted to pretty things. This is the basis film and it is why Hollywood is so superficial. While filmmakers try not to adhere to this sad outlook on life, it might as well be a universal truth: the better your video looks, the more people will enjoy watching it and the more people will watch it.  So when conducting an on-camera interview I find the following rules to be generally a knock-out (see below image for example):
    1. Frame the subject on the left or on the right. If including multiple interviews, stagger what side the interview is on to mix it up when editing.
    2. Do not move. Cheaper cameras or cell phone videos do not focus well when in motion. You must film interviews on a tripod. The subject can be standing or sitting, but the camera must be at eye level, slightly looking down (never looking upwards à double chin no-no). Tell the subject not move their feet around and not to sway back and forth. These slight movements on camera are exaggerated and communicate discomfort which then makes the viewer uncomfortable.
    3. Always have a background with depth. Alternatively, never film on a flat wall. Unless someone professional is filming, I would avoid this look because it comes down to the lighting to create depth so if you don’t have the proper lighting don’t do it! This also means never have the subject of the film at the deepest point in the space. So make sure there is a hallway behind the film subject, or have the subject sit in the middle of the room so the aesthetically pleasing décor is behind the subject. You will have to adjust the normal set up of the room and you will have to physically edit the scene to fit with the framing.
  3. BROLL. A-Roll means your “a” footage, such as your interview footage; it’s probably the footage with the sound you want to use as the focus of the video. B-Roll (broll, BROLL, b roll) is the supporting footage or the “b” footage. Never ever make a video that is longer than 45 seconds without BROLL. Interview-based videos without BROLL are called “talking heads” and again defeats the whole purpose of video as a visual medium. Nobody wants to watch someone talk and talk and talk on film, it’s boring. I can read interviews and I will probably find it more enjoyable. The beauty of BROLL is below:
    1. It can be any visual. Pictures, other videos, newspapers, magazines, computer screen tutorials, etc. If you’re interviewing a donor about their donation, you can insert photos or videos of their donation in action. If you are making a case for your organization, you can add pictures of your staff, your space and your interaction in the community. The beauty of broll is that you are connecting the dots for your audience in front of them.
      • To determine what broll you’ll need to find listen to the interviewee: what key words do they say that you can add visuals to? Do they talk about funding a new building? If so insert an image or multiple images of an architect’s mock-up for the building.
    2. It has no audio. Sometimes when we film in the real world, people say things we don’t want to hear in our video. Broll plays over the interview, so while you see the broll footage, you hear the interview (aroll footage).
    3. You can edit long winded interviews down better. BROLL is a great cover for difficult interviews. People ramble on and on and you probably only needed a few of the sentences they said. BROLL eases the flow of a cut up interview so that you can better edit the sound bites together and you don’t have to worry about the interview footage cutting together poorly.

If you take these lessons to heart, even the most amateur filmmaker can make a visually-appealing, engaging video that they should be proud of. Fundraising is becoming all about storytelling, so to be able to add a dynamic visual element such as a video when sharing a story or an achievement means donors won’t have to work to get the point.

You want donors to know they are doing good in the world, so show them!

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Written by Kimberly Elworthy

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Kimberly is a communications specialist in educational fundraising and alumni relations who worked in lifestyle television for four years. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Grand River Film Festival. (Click here for more).

Connect with Kimberly via:
Twitter | LinkedIn