When the Houston Ballet conducted an endowment campaign for its new Center for Dance, which opened in April, its public-relations team turned the traditional topping-off ceremony into an exciting event with a simple idea:
Put dancers at the construction site! Put hard hats on their heads!
“Buildings are built every day,” notes Shauna Tysor, the ballet’s public-relations manager. Instead, she says, the organization decided to emphasize its mission. “Go with what’s unique about your organization,” she urges. “With your photo, you can remind people what it’s for: ‘Oh, it’s for dance,’ not ‘Oh, it’s a building under construction.’ ”
The dancers and entire company were excited, said Ms. Tysor, and wanted to help in any way possible. Clearly, teamwork is a top priority at the ballet. The public-relations team was determined to produce multipurpose photos that all departments could use in their efforts, especially the fund raisers.
For The Chronicle, this image turned out to be perfect to accompany an article highlighting the results of our annual survey of nonprofit endowments. In print, the picture appeared on the front page and online it graced the most prominent spot on our home page. Now you can find it residing on a page that highlights all of The Chronicle‘s research.
Year after year, the endowment study is one of the most difficult to illustrate because endowments and investments are not visual. But not this year. The Houston Ballet’s creative thinking is an ideal example of making photos work. A single image tells the story, and the sort of photo shoot that produced it could easily work for a lot of other organizations. In the ballet’s case, all that was needed were dancers and a construction site. And two hard hats.