A year ago the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an organization that works mostly in the developing world, spent about $20,000 on a professional film crew to produce the first “identity video” in its 22-year history.
A year later, the foundation has 44 videos on its Vimeo channel, many produced by its own staff. That first identity video–titled “The Time to Eliminate Pediatric AIDS Is Now”–won both the Webby and the Webby People’s Voice awards for public service and activism videos. The foundation uses it in almost every part of the organization.
Evan Von Leer, the foundation’s online communications officer, recently spoke with The Chronicle about his experiences and his advice for other nonprofits.
What makes “The Time to Eliminate Pediatric AIDS Is Now” work?
I think it’s relatable. It’s the story of a mother trying to save her child. We hear all the time from our colleagues in Africa that are working on the front lines of the HIV and AIDS epidemic that this video and Elizabeth’s story really resonates with the people we are trying to reach.
What should other organizations creating this type of video keep in mind?
It was really hard to synthesize things down. We began by shooting for the three-minute mark and we ended up with just under four. Keeping it short is very difficult but very important. People have a very short attention span, so you really have to give them a compelling story and you need to do it quickly.
You’ve added a lot of videos in the past year. How did you handle that increase in video production?
A lot of it has been done in house as part of my job, but it’s also been embraced by our senior leadership. They’ve really begun to see the benefit of having these videos.
What video skills do you have on your team?
We really started from the ground up. I started toying around with video production about a year and a half ago and learned the ins-and-outs of that to the point where we could produce pretty compelling pieces in-house. Not with motion graphics or anything, but we could convey a message and attach it to an e-mail or put it on our Facebook page.
It’s been a fairly steep learning curve. I’m generally the one doing the editing, and it started off as a pet project for me. One or two successful videos turned into doing a lot more of it.
Can a smaller organization do what you’re doing with simple videos?
It’s not so much how much money you have to pump into a project as much as the story you are telling. You obviously want great images and great audio quality and that sort of thing, but being able to tell a compelling story is really the most important thing. I think we’re able to do that because of the nature of the work that we do. We’re helping mothers and children and families, and we’re able to convey that whether it’s a Flip cam video or a video shot on a $3,500 camera in Africa. It doesn’t matter what the quality of video looks like because it’s a compelling story.