Video Tips for Pledge Celebration from StewardshipforUs

by Mark Ewert, StewardshipforUs

Why aren’t there more good annual drive videos from our congregations? I search around the web regularly for appealing congregational stewardship videos – ones that I can use as examples for other congregations. And they are very rare indeed. This puzzles me, since making videos is so easy with technology almost all of us use, every day. Making videos has become so common, particularly among younger people. The real loss is that videos are a great way to reach your people!

The First Universalist Church of Minneapolis released their “Pledge Day” video for a celebration held last week, so I want to use it as an example of the elements of a good annual drive video. Here it is:

First Universalist Minneapolis Pledge Video

First let’s talk about the message and how well it works:

  • It starts with a good identifier. It tells the organization, shows the speaker, has a nice welcome, and tells the purpose. This is rarer than you might think.
  • Then it goes right into an honest and frank statement, (“Let’s be real…”) to establish credibility with the viewer.
  • It engages the viewer’s imagination to create a new understanding of pledging as a celebration, about commitment and connection to each other. That is inspiring – and moves pledging away from an unappealing yearly chore.
  • Refers to feedback from First Universalist members. Everyone wants to be heard and responded to, so this gains buy-in to the video and to the drive.
  • Shows diversity of various types. OK, it is animation, yet it shows people of different genders, ages, a person in a wheelchair, and colors – well rainbow colors, which serves double duty – these might be different racial backgrounds and/or show LGBT welcoming.
  • Announces “Pledge Day.” This is a creative strategy, something new that will interest people. It may have attracted lots of folks to First Universalist on March 9. Even if it didn’t, the positive feeling and publicity probably motivated people to pledge early – or at least on time.
  • It uses a poem quote – and poems are a liturgical source for us – that is inspiring and takes stewardship to the deeper level, of being about belonging and including more people in our community.
  • It taps into our desire to have a strong and vibrant community, and connects that to pledging. It also connects what each member does (pledge) with helping the congregation meet its missions.
  • Food, music, and fellowship are offered to draw people to the event. It even shows pictures of food – doughnuts!
  • There is a good call to action. The invitation to pledge early and come to the event is clearly made.
  • This is all inspiring and motivating; there are no “vibes” of shame, or should, or shame. We would never do that directly, yet I often find it between the lines in congregational pledge materials.

Now let’s talk about production quality. This is equally important!:

  • It is short – just 2 minutes. Don’t make an 8 minute video and expect people to watch it. That’s just too long. And with a longer video there is the irresistible opportunity to try and cram everything in. Brief videos force you to be laser-focused about the content.
  • It’s colorful and visually appealing. It was clearly designed after an existing logo, which is itself colorful. I don’t want to spend even 2 minutes watching a dark or murky video (unless it is horror of sci-fi).
  • It moves right along. If is not rushed but there are also no periods where the audio or visual lag.
  • The soundtrack music works well; it runs along with the visuals and voice-over without being too distracting.
  • Speaking of audio, the sound is good – halleluiah! I can’t tell you how many videos are made in an echoing sanctuary through the speaker system. For your videos, you need a mic that feeds directly into the recorder. You can get away with less than ideal visuals, but bad sound will wreck a good video.

This video uses the minister’s voice, which in this case was a good choice. First Universalist is a large congregation, so the senior minister will be known by the most people. Also in an animated video, having a known person is a plus, as you don’t see them speaking. Rev. Schroeder is also a good speaker for this kind of voice-over. And face it, the minister is usually quite influential!

However, there are amazing ministers out there who are just not good voice-over talents. If that is true in your case, a lay leader might also be your narrator – you want a good engaging voice that is credible and generates trust. Why do you think Morgan Freeman has such a good career in voice-overs?

Now I imagine you saying – but this is an animated video, so I bet it cost a lot, took a lot of time, and we don’t have anyone to do that. Well it doesn’t have to be an animated video. You can review all of the qualities listed above and do yours with live action, or even still photos – Ken Burns style. Having made a short animated video for my book release, I will tell you it is a lot less expensive than you might imagine.

If you have a video you think is a particularly good one, let us know. We would be glad to highlight the best and give people tips by showing your good example!

Read more tips like this at the StewardshipforUs blog.