Video for Fundraising?

Stewart House and the way they use video is a fine example of clever marketing for a charity. The videos tell individual, moving stories. For the past few years, we have been taking these stories, condensing them and packaging them into manageable, watchable short films, without losing their impact. Videos cannot be too long or viewers quickly lose interest.

Most of Stewart House’s films are an honest and open account by all and real tear jerkers. The candid stories leave you gasping for these children, who are born into a state of affairs beyond their control. They are from challenging home situations, which mean they are either very poor – unable to afford much of anything or they are from difficult family circumstances. The videos has been a real success, with corporate communications directors asking to borrow the films to show their colleagues why Stewart House is chosen as their corporate charity.

A few weeks ago, we created a video for Stewart House’s annual Gala Ball – their largest fundraiser for the year. Graeme Philpotts, CEO of Stewart House, wanted to interview employees, letting them tell about the stories they remember most from over the years. We were initially sceptical, thinking the best stories come from past residents. Boy, were we wrong.

When we arrived for the interviews, the employees were naturally a bit nervous. Most of our interviewees are. We have the full, broadcast kit set up, so it is scary when people first see it. My job is to ease the nerves and draw out the best interview. The first woman, Dee, was the medical liaison person and she talked about a child who arrived from the outback in the middle of winter wearing boardies, a tee shirt and carrying a plastic bag with a dirty old toothbrush that was black. It turned out he didn’t have a toothbrush and this one was his father’s, used for cleaning the spark plugs on his motorbike.

Now I don’t know why I was surprised, for the past few years, we have done these videos and they have always been upsetting. There have been so many times, I have picked up my laptop and just left the office whilst they were in edit. The stories are just too horrible to hear. Our own children mean so much to us that it is awful to know there are some children out there doing it so hard and they just don’t deserve it.

So, I had a vague idea of what I was in for, but it just wasn’t the way I pictured it. To have the employees tell their story was just so confronting and upsetting, I had to leave the room to compose myself. We had two more employees to film– each of them just as passionate about their jobs and as intense as the other. Matt’s challenge was to edit the four 20 minute interviews down to a short film and not lose that intensity. He did that and viewers are left with the same feeling I had whenever it is shown.

On the night, Stewart House hit their mark and broke the record for funds raised at previous Gala Balls. We are pleased to be a part of this charity and glad that Graeme held his ground when we tried to talk him out of using staff members. He was spot on.

Stewart House has used marketing mediums well ahead of its time. The charity has used older, corporate style videos before we met them, going back several years. It has been a useful, archive resource for us. The old videos look dated, but Stewart House should be congratulated for having enough foresight to see value in documenting their case studies in a video medium. Videos are used differently now. They have a very targeted approach, with three different edits of the same film aimed at the different groups of people they need to reach.

Stewart House knows that it is much more compelling to hear and see their story told in first person. The fact that the charity is in existence today bears witness that they do know how to market themselves effectively. They change people’s lives and those stories are captivating enough for would be donors to part with their cash.