Video as a Powerful Development Tool

After working as a television account executive in Denver, Colorado, for over a decade, George Araneo embarked on what he calls “a mid-life course correction … to use video to move people to positive action and change.” Today, he is a producer of programs that engage the audience with positive emotion.

After working as a television account executive in Denver, Colorado, for over a decade, George Araneo embarked on what he calls “a mid-life course correction … to use video to move people to positive action and change.” Today, he is a producer of programs that engage the audience with positive emotion.

Here, he shares advice for ways to produce videos on a budget to help your nonprofit organization better engage potential funders, friends and advocates during these lean times.

Video Tells a More Compelling Story

As a producer of films that tell the stories of nonprofit organizations, I have found that every organization has a spirit, an energy, an essence, that is uniquely its own. The power of film is its ability to convey what is distinct and special about an organization in an emotionally compelling way, thereby creating a stronger call to action.

By combining the elements of sight, sound, motion and emotion, film offers your organization a communications medium that combines the strengths of all other media. It allows you to transport your audience to the environment where your work takes place; introduce them, in a more personal way, to the people whose lives you are changing; and help them more deeply experience the results of your organization’s efforts.

Nonprofits have successfully used film to fundraise, inspire stakeholders, recruit staff and educate the public about their work. Your film can be easily distributed on DVD, used as an introduction to a live presentation, or made available for viewing on your website. Shorter versions of your film can be strategically placed on the Web to drive viewers to your website. All of these benefits can be achieved at a lower cost then you may think.

Planning Your Project

A number of factors come into play when budgeting for your film, but based on the projects I have produced, $1,200 to $1,500 per finished minute of film is a reasonable place to start. Funding a film project lends itself to raising funds over and above your normal operating budget, as your key supporters often get particularly enthused by the unique opportunity film can offer.

I have found 10 minutes to be the optimal length for a development film. This allows enough time to develop some depth in your story and its main characters, yet is short enough for a busy person to take the time to watch. The entire process of developing, shooting and editing your film should take between three and four months.

Note that a shorter video can be produced for use on the Internet. Many short, inexpensively-produced videos have been very effective in advancing nonprofit issues and programs.

Questions to Consider

The basic questions to consider when considering a film about your organization are:

  1. What do you want your film to accomplish for your organization?
  2. Who is the target audience for your film?
  3. What do you want your target audience to understand, or feel, about your organization through watching your film?
  4. What action do you want your audience to take after watching your film?
  5. What are three to five core points about your work that you want your audience to take from your film?
  6. What story can you tell about your organization that will best help you make those points?

An experienced producer can guide you through the process to help you determine the best story to tell about your organization. This process works best as a joint partnership between producer and key staff. The decision as to the best story to tell will inform choices of locations, characters, length and shoot schedule.

Film is the most influential communications medium in the world. It’s flexible, affordable, and can leave a lasting impression in the mind of the viewer. The resources required to produce your film are an investment in building a stronger future for your organization, one that can pay for itself many times over, even during difficult times. Through a well produced short film you can most effectively present the opportunities that involvement with your organization offers. Consider the possibilities when planning your next campaign.

Learn more about George Araneo and his video work.

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