Gerard Miller

Last October, Kivi presented a webinar on thank you videos. Today’s guest, Gerard Miller, attended that webinar and sent a sweet email thanking us for the presentation. (He’s really good at thanking people!) He also sent the thank you video his organization, SwimRVA, produced and I asked him to share their creation process with you. ~Kristina

Guest Post by Gerard Miller of SwimRVA

Last year was a monumental year for the SwimRVA organization. 2017 marked the fifth year of operation for the nonprofit in Richmond, Virginia. The five-year anniversary of SwimRVA felt special – it was a reflective time among members of the organization.

The community has played a huge role in the exponential growth, ever since ground broke on SwimRVA headquarters back in 2012. Peeking back at the past inspired us to say “thank you” to everyone that plays a role in SwimRVA’s success.

The Director of Communications at SwimRVA, Scott Bennett, suggested that we create a “Thank You” video. The holiday season was approaching and it seemed like the appropriate time to produce such a video. We decided to take some time during a communications meeting to go online and get some inspiration from Thank You videos that other organizations produced.

After the YouTube video jam session, my first thought about our hopeful video was to make something that was unique without re-inventing the wheel. Shortly after brainstorming early ideas, I received an email that was forwarded by my Director, regarding a webinar hosted by Nonprofit Marketing Guide that examined how to create “Thank You” videos. I signed up for the webinar and it was critically helpful, it was an additional source of inspiration and tactical strategy insider. Not only did the webinar show various examples of videos, but it also dug deeper into the reasoning that certain styles and different information worked separately for specific organizations.

After the webinar, I had a fresh sense of urgency to make something that fit what SwimRVA is all about. SwimRVA gives free-swimming lessons to second graders from all over the Richmond region as part of the Learn-To-Swim program. And regularly schools and classes will write “Thank You” letters to the organization.

These letters harbor some of the most touching images and phrases, and quite honestly weren’t being seen enough. We’d post some on social media platforms here and there, but there were “Santa Sack” loads of letters at the facility that were stored away. I knew immediately that I wanted to use the letters of gratitude, but flip the message of receiving thanks, to a message of giving thanks back to the community.

After coming up with a foundation concept for the video, telling the story was next. I tapped a team member, Ben Harrell, to help brainstorm execution and also aid with production. I finally decided to use the actual letters that we’d received to spell out “Thank You” on a big canvas. A table of many letters was shown to open the video. The first part of the video starts with different letters being shown up-close with an overlay image of children that participated in the Learn-To-Swim program, to add a personal feel.

In the second portion of the video, the plan was to show close-up shots of different hands of staff members putting the letters up, one by one, sequenced with B-roll footage of children taking swimming lessons. The final visual is a big reveal; it is a panning shot from the canvas (also referred to as a wall) that finally reveals the compiled “Thank You” letters that spell out THANK YOU.

The imagery of the video was different, but not enough to stand-alone without feeling random – a voice over was needed.

Every year we get new stats about the progress and impact that SwimRVA is making by the numbers. We decided to use those exact stats to tell the public what they’ve helped achieve. Finally we needed a voice to bring the story home, and after asking around the facility, a programs coordinator, Leah Kramer, stepped up to the plate. In the midst of looking over the swim school and attending college, she found time to deliver the words and give useful insight for script edits.

Everything was shot at the SwimRVA facility. The Community Room, where aerobic classes take place, was used as the production studio. A DSLR camera, GoPro and stabilizer were the basis of the video equipment used, and the
voiceover was recorded on an iPhone. We used Final Cut Pro X to edit the video. I searched the web for royalty free background music and selected an instrumental for the video that contributed to the overall vibe. I captured B-roll while swim lessons were taking place and used previous video content and images of the Learn-To-Swim program. SwimRVA has a policy that everyone has to sign a waiver form before they can participate in any program that the facility offers. There is a photo/video release portion to the waiver that is not mandatory but encouraged through transparency of our intended use.

Here is the final product:

The overall process of making a “Thank You” video was fulfilling and fun. The thought of making a video annually for SwimRVA, presents a creative challenge that I look forward to!

Gerard Miller is the Senior Communications Coordinator at SwimRVA. He studied Creative Advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Published On: January 24, 2018|Categories: Fundraising, Nonprofit Video and Podcasting, Thank You Letters|

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