Nonprofit Film School

A Success Story

Southwest Baptist University

"A considerable portion of time is spent planning because we believe that the end product will only be as good as the planning that is done before we hit “record” on the camera."

Southwest Baptist University is a private, Christian liberal arts university in Missouri. Charlotte Marsch is the Director of Marketing and Communications, responsible for overseeing marketing projects for the whole university — including separate colleges and the Donor Relations department.

With a small team, she needed to get everyone on the same page: her marketing staff, as well as each university department.

So she enrolled her team in Nonprofit Film School.

Before Nonprofit Film School

Before Nonprofit Film School, Charlotte’s team included one staff person dedicated to video — a student videographer with skills in production and editing. With a DSLR camera, a lavalier microphone and Adobe Premiere, they had more than enough tools to create great videos.

Except, there were problems with getting there.

Lack of a Proven Plan

Charlotte said, “Our biggest challenge with videos has been in the planning: really coordinating our brainstorming, pre-production, production and post-production processes.”

Especially with multiple departments requesting videos, along with their internal marketing projects, she sought a way to streamline the video production and creative process.

It can be complicated, if you don’t have a plan in place or a proven direction to follow.

Lack of a Creative Process

When it came to the creative process for each project, Charlotte’s team crunched a lot of brainstorming into a 1-to-2-hour meeting. For the sake of finding their best ideas, there was no set method for gathering ideas, creating clear creative direction or making sure their final concept met the goals of each video.

Lack of Budget

Charlotte said, “Our university’s operating budget has not allowed for outsourcing video production. I saw the Nonprofit Film School as an opportunity to improve our video production with the limited resources that we have. It is an investment in our people, and hopefully it will pay long-term dividends as we refine our process and improve our skills in video production.”

"It is an investment in our people, and hopefully it will pay long-term dividends as we refine our process and improve our skills in video production."

Even with a small marketing budget, the investment in Nonprofit Film School allowed Charlotte to develop her team professionally, while seeing a direct return on her investment.

After going through the lessons, developing video projects and implementing what they learned, Nonprofit Film School provided a new level of skills available within her communications team.

As Nonprofit Film School Students

While working through Nonprofit Film School, Charlotte’s team took diligent notes. Specifically, they took took notes on the process (including the Bonus Resources, like the editable Project Overview) to put a system in place for any video requests their department received.

The result was improved planning and implementing a creative process that works.

Framework for Success

“Nonprofit Film School provided us with fantastic planning resources and a nice framework for the entire creative process," she said.

“Nonprofit Film School provided us with fantastic planning resources and a nice framework for the entire creative process."

In practice, Charlotte and her team put in place clear guidelines for how videos would be requested from and completed by their department. They created a PDF outlining the video production process, which was sent to departments across the University.

Now, in order to request a planned video from the Marketing and Communications team, requesting departments are asked to complete the Nonprofit Film School Project Overview. This resource provides prompts to help develop and identify the goals, audience and expectations of the video.

By putting this system in place, it does two things:

  • It provides a process to follow, step-by-step. 
    • Now both the Marketing and Communications team and any requesting departments know exactly what needs to happen to go from “idea” to “finished video.”
  • It also sets clear expectations for each requesting department. 
    • By communicating expectations of what all video production entails, the requesting parties have an accurate picture of how long it takes to produce a video.

Unless the process and realistic timeline for production are clearly communicated, people assume it’s a fast, turn-of-a-dime process — and we know, for quality videos, that’s not the case. Quality videos take time to produce, especially if the goal is to tell a story purposefully to reach a particular goal.

Creative Clarity

Before implementing the Project Overview resource as a step to requesting a video, departments would request videos from Charlotte’s department without any clear direction or being sure of how the video would be used.

By thinking through these strategies during pre-production — before filming anything — their planned videos are now more direct, with goals and an audience identified from the beginning.

Clarifying the goals of each planned video affects the rest of the process, too.

It means they know what they need to capture during production, what shots to capture and questions that need to be asked during on-camera interviews. It also makes the editor’s job significantly easier when they understand the video’s One Big Idea as they work their way through the story and b-roll footage.

“The planning and organization within the project framework that was presented by Nonprofit Film School saved a lot of time in post-production,” Charlotte said.

Team Unity

Charlotte’s team of eager, full-time communications staff were ready to learn.

Together, they dug into the whole video production process, aiming to understand the steps involved from beginning to end. Even if the student videographer does most of the filming and editing, now they all understand what a great video requires.

Charlotte said, “Our entire team is involved in planning.” Together, they develop creative treatments, seek stories and clarify the goals of each video before filming.

Not only did it provide a professional development opportunity for each individual on her team, it created a team-wide initiative to grow and develop their skills in storytelling and production.

Results In Action