Lesson One: Working with nonprofit groups is a wonderful way to expose people to our work. One of the first organizations I became involved with was a large church in the Minneapolis area. I talked to the head of the missions program about incorporating video into their program. This was in the early 1990s when slide projectors were still the standard AV tools used in most churches. Fortunately, the pastors saw the power of video and were willing to take a risk. Our videos gave 90-second updates on the many missionaries they supported. We also used video to show what the church was doing in their inner-city outreach. We used video to promote their annual missions banquet, and even had the senior pastor and the missions pastor jump out of an airplane that the minister of music was flying—all with special effects of course—and promised to show the landing at the banquet!
Not only did our work with video help tremendously with the church’s missions program and its annual collection of donations, but people started asking, “Who did that video?” This led to projects with several professional athletes and businessmen. Working with just that one church allowed me to establish a reputation that I am still building on today.
Lesson Two: Working with a nonprofit group does not mean that you shouldn’t charge for your work. People place a greater value on things they have to pay for. But how do you put a price on your work when working with a group that doesn’t have the biggest budget in the world?
First of all, don’t say, “Pay me what you think the project is worth.” Several years ago I spent many hours on a project for a missionary that needed a video to show his work. I told him to pay me what he could. When the project was finished, he handed me a $5 bill, and said, “That is to cover the cost of the video tape.” I was devastated! But then I realized that it was my fault for not communicating clearly at the beginning of the project.
Most people don’t appreciate the time and expertise (not to mention all the equipment) needed to put together a well-produced video. One of the things that I now do is have my nonprofit clients sit with me during the editing process. Not only does this give them a chance to learn what goes into video production, but once they see the editing process, their creative juices start flowing. Some of my most creative work has come out of collaborations like that.
Second, come up with a mutually agreeable figure for the project before you start. This eliminates surprises at the end. It’s fine to give a special rate; you might offer to discount your hourly rate by a certain percentage, or offer to provide free DVDs of the project. You can also be flexible as to payment. I have had organizations make monthly payments to me until a job is paid for. Whatever concessions you offer, by making them pay you for the work, you’ll ensure their commitment to you and the project.
To me, the most important thing is to see that they are willing to pay. Recently I did a project for a women’s ministry. After the job was completed, I learned that they had committed most of their advertising budget to the video. When I gave them the final bill, I gave them a substantial discount from the original price. They were thrilled. But it was the fact that they were willing to pay that motivated me to discount their original cost.
Lesson Three: Be patient. For many nonprofits, it will be their first attempt at producing a video. Our job is to educate them patiently and help them come up with a product that will accomplish their goals.
When the video revolution started in the early ’90s, I heard an interview on the national news with NewTek founder Tim Jenison (who arguably started that revolution). He said, “Video is the language of this generation; the problem is, we don’t know how to speak the language.” That is especially true when it comes to traditional ministries and programs. Several years ago I was approached by a lady who had been in the mission field for more than 50 years. Her supporters gave her a video camera and insisted that she come back with video to show when she went to their churches. She came to me with several VHS-C tapes—all recorded in SLP mode. Her idea was to combine all the tapes into an hour-long video that she could use when visiting her supporting churches.
After much “discussion” we finally got her video down to the four or five minutes that was needed. The video truly did give a glimpse of missionary life seldom seen in churches. At the end of a long week, we were both pleased with the results. I didn’t make a lot of money on that job, but had a great sense of satisfaction knowing that we had helped a dear lady enter the “video age.”
Two months after producing her video, I received a long-distance call from the president of the International YMCA in Hong Kong. He had been invited to see a video that a little “missionary lady” was going to show. After watching it, he’d called me to congratulate me, and to ask if I was available to do some work for him.
Today, I continue to give a large portion of my time and work to nonprofit organizations, and I am overwhelmed by all the new jobs that keep coming in!
Alan Naumann recently published The Complete Course on Funeral Videography, an updated and expanded version of his popular Business Everlasting training DVD. A featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2004-6 and a 2006 EventDV 25" honoree, he is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.