Last Thursday night I attended the Lights. Camera. Help. opening night pre-screening here in Austin and was blown away by the powerful videos shared by the four nonprofit organizations screening their video entries. David Neff shared with me info about the organization's event and I thought this was something all Connection Cafe readers should hear about. Submissions are now open so anyone interested in entering the festival should start sumitting now! (note: you don't have to actually be a nonprofit to submit, your video simply needs to be about the nonprofit space)
FILMS FOR A CAUSE FIND THEIR FESTIVAL
Lights. Camera. Help., the premiere film festival exclusively for non-profit and grassroots organizations, officially opened its submission process Thursday, April 30.
Four prominent non-profit organizations showed their support for the festival by formally submitting their films at the Reel-to-Reality event held at Southwest Key’s East Side Community Center.
Representatives from the American Cancer Society, United Way, the Capital Area Food Bank and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary spoke about the value of the films-for-a-cause genre, showed trailers for their films and then formally submitted their films.
This is the first annual Lights. Camera. Help. festival, where films and videos with a cause directly related to a non-profit or grass roots organization will be evaluated on a rigorous criteria by a panel of judges. The films and videos will gain recognition by being considered the best in one of several distinct categories. Proceeds from the event with go to the organization that is the subject of the winning video.
This festival is the first of its kind in the nation and reflects the spirit of Austin, a city with prominent non-profit, grassroots and activism communities. Non-profits, grassroots organizations and filmmakers will use the festival to spread the word about their cause, develop a community of followers, and expand the film-for-a-cause genre.
It’s free to submit to Lights. Camera. Help. and any film or video is welcome, so long as the emphasis of the video is on a non-profit or grassroots organization.
“We really wanted to make sure that every non-profit organization is able to tell its story, regardless of resources. A lot of film festivals charge 50, 60 even 100 dollars to enter a film. We do not.” - Co-founder David J. Neff
In its first year, Lights. Camera. Help. was conceived by three friends, Aaron Bramley, David J. Neff and Rich Vázquez. “We created Lights. Camera. Help. because we want to help non-profits and grassroots organizations gain visibility through film and video,” said Co-founder Aaron Bramley. “It’s a phenomenal way to tell your story, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.”
“The idea was to give non-profit videos validity and merit by judging them. We want people to see these videos, know they’re important and say ‘hey, that’s a cause I want to support.’” - Rich Vázquez, Co-founder of Lights. Camera. Help.
The Festival will begin on July 31st and up-to-date information can be found at http://lightscamerahelp.com.
For more information:
David J. Neff
And without further ado, here are the amazing videos screened last week:
Best Friends Animal Society - Celebrating 25 Years
Capital Area Food Bank's East Austin Service Center
United Way and Hands On Central Texas Spring 2009 Day of Caring
American Cancer Society's Heroes of Hope
Thanks to NTEN for sharing live webinars of the NTC sessions for those of us that couldn’t make the actual conference. Yesterday, I checked out the session “Community organizing and online organizing: can they go together?” led by Charles Lenchner who currently works for the Working Families Party and consults with Democracyinaction.org and Change.org. The session covered interesting points on the debate between community and online organizers and ways to overcome the resistance within an organization. He asked the question – is organizing the same whether it is done online or offline? In many cases, yes, but the process is very different. More on this below…
Charles started out with a comprehensive definition of community organizing:
Community organizing is a process by which people living in proximity to each other are brought together in an organization to act in their common self-interest. A core goal of community organizing is to generate durable power for an organization representing the community, allowing it to influence key decision-makers on a range of issues over time. Community Organizers work with and develop new local leaders, facilitating coalitions and assisting in the development of campaigns.
He boiled down the 3 main goals of community organizers are:
And then, broke the 3 goals down into offline/online tactics:
Recruit entire organizations
|Petitions, Letter to the Editors (LTEs), Emails|
Organizing house parties
New media/social networking
|Segment list by those taking the most online actions|
Organizing real-life training
|Letter to the Editors (LTEs), Emails|
Netroots (term coined for political activism through blogs and other online media
Integrating the offline and online tactics is the HOLY GRAIL, and Chris provided the following recommendations to address the gap:
He closed with some strategies for getting offline and online to get it on — mainly that you need to focus on the end goal, NOT the process goal. And, there are effective methods in both the offline and online camps, but it is up to your organization to overcome the philosophical differences between community and online organizers and determine what strategies will work best for your ultimate cause.
This debate isn't solely found among community organizers. Check out Convio Founder, Vinay Bhagat's recent video interview discussing multi-channel methods to make a greater impact on fundraising, marketing, and advocacy.
And please share comments on what you are doing in your nonprofit to address gaps between online and offline activities.
If you haven't already heard, a few great minds in the nonprofit and social media worlds have a new event on the horizon to help bring the power of video to the nonprofit and advocacy space with the Lights. Camera. Help. Nonprofit Film Festival (yes, a film festival exclusively designed for all you do-gooders out there!) I've written here often on the power of video for the nonprofit space on such topics as how nonprofits can enhance their online presence with video, why video is so powerful for storytelling and even top tips on how to best utilize video for the nonprofit space - so I'm excited to see nonprofit video getting more attention with this new festival started by none other than Mr. nonprofit video himself David J Neff, Aaron Bramley and Rich Vazquez.
In short, Lights. Camera. Help. is an annual film festival dedicated to telling the story of nonprofit and grass roots organizations through the use of film and video. Through this event, films and videos with a cause directly related to a nonprofit or grass roots organization will be subject to a rigorous criteria by a panel of judges. The films and videos will gain notoriety by being considered the best in one of several distinct categories.
This festival is the first of its kind and is a pillar of the City of Austin, a prominent city in the non-profit, grass roots and activism communities. These organizations, along with filmmakers, will use the festival to spread the word about their cause, develop a community of followers, and expand the film-for-a-cause genre.
Several non-profits are already lined up to submit their films for judgement. So far, the organizations that have promised submissions are United Way, Capital Area Food Bank, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the American Cancer Society. General submissions open April 30.
And for anyone who live in the Austin, Texas area, Lights. Camera. Help. is holding a screening party to celebrate to opening of submissions here in Austin on Thursday, April 30th 7:30-9:30pm at Southwest Key. Anyone interested in joining the festivites should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP where representatives from the American Cancer Society, United Way, the Capital Area Food Bank and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary will speak about the value of the films-for-a-cause genre, show a trailer for their films and then formally submit their films.
For more info, contact email@example.com or Aaron Bramley at (917) 678-4590. And of course, check out this rad video by @Daveiam and @AaronMSB.
Turn out. Take action.
World Wildlife Fund is asking individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.
Interested parties can sign up on the site to demonstrate their intention to participate. There are lots of other ways to get involved, too - taking action on Action Alerts, visiting the online store, and much more - you should really check it out.
I especially like the twitter feed from @earthhourUS that's being pulled into the homepage. The more I learn about twitter, both from my colleague James Young's posts and from using it myself, the more potential I see for twitter to be a useful tool for organizations. Content syndication like this is just one of the examples.
But anyway, back to the signup form. The Earth Hour microsite is not a Convio-powered site, but the signup form is using Convio's API to post the signups directly into Convio, thus allowing World Wildlife Fund to immediately engage these folks through contacting them with Earth Hour updates which are sent via Convio's Email Marketing tool. This is saving everyone who is working on Earth Hour US a manual step of doing daily imports of data and helping to create a more seamless experience for constituents who sign up.
I'm told that our friends at M+R Strategic Services helped out with building this signup page and coding the API - nice work!
*note - for more information about Convio APIs, visit the Convio Open site
Recently, Thomas Gensemer who led online communications for the Obama campaign said nonprofit email newsletters are “a waste of time and effort and should be ditched”. He instead urged organizations to send “short, personalized emails to supporters giving clear instructions for participation”. For the Obama Campaign, “fundraising and participation tactics included sending regular, short emails to supporters asking recipients to do one thing that day. Each email also told the supporter what their action would accomplish and what would happen next.” He went on to say “Email newsletters don't get read, yet they take more effort to prepare than a 250-word email”. He concluded, "email is still a killer application, but only when used properly."
Anyone who helps raise $500m online is worth listening to, but in this case I beg to differ. While I concur that email messages should be as brief as possible and that it’s important that supporters see the impact of their contributions and actions, the notion that every email should ask a supporter to do something that day is in my opinion incongruent with maximizing donor lifetime value. Political campaigns are short lived and maximizing participation during the campaign cycle is critical. In contrast, nonprofits rely on building long-term donor relationships. As such, they should adopt a much more stewardship centered email strategy, regularly sharing stories about the impact of their work, interspersed with calls to action/ fundraising asks at the appropriate frequency. In fact, the ground breaking “Wired Wealthy” research into the online habits and preferences of mid-level and major-donors shows that many of your donors would indeed react negatively to Mr. Gensemer’s recommendations.
For many charities major and planned gifts represent a significant part of total contributions. Major gifts are generally preceded by ten continuous previous smaller contributions over a number of years. Planned gifts are typically given by people who have had multi-decade relationships with a charity. Without a long-term communications orientation, you risk alienating your future major and planned giving donors. As we learned in the research, the Wired Wealthy, major donors are increasingly online and assess where to direct their contributions based upon how they are engaged online. Communication preferences vary, but so-called “relationship seekers”, a segment representing 29% of the donors are pretty avid readers of nonprofit newsletters – 42% of them reporting that they read 75% of more of the charity email newsletters they receive. To quote a relationship seeker, “I do get lots of emails from all these organizations and if it’s got interesting content about their work, I’m happy to get them. You pick and choose.”
Many nonprofit newsletters are unfortunately poorly executed. Far too many send organizational updates versus writing inspirational content. In the Wired Wealthy research, only 8% agreed strongly that they charity emails they received are generally well written and inspiring. This is not to say that nonprofit newsletters as a category are a bad strategy. There are many nonprofits who are utilizing the email newsletter as an effective donor relationship strategy. Conservation International is a great example. Their high quality emails present donors with vivid accounts of their work, share successes, and place a significant emphasis on thanking donors. They invest in writing high quality content that is always donor centered. They will from time to time ask donors to take action – in their case, make a gift, but those requests are far outnumbered by high quality stewardship and compelling informational updates.
So to Mr. Gensemer, I say, let’s not kill nonprofit email newsletters as a category. Let’s instead invest in building more donor centered and inspirational communications. Let’s not sacrifice the development of long-term donor relationships by over whelming them with actions and requests today.
*The screenshot on the right is a great example of a successful, well-made newsletter by Conservation International.
*The screenshot on the right is a great example of a successful, well-made newsletter by Conservation International.
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