Kudos to the Los Angeles Mission for their video, 5 Ways To Help The Homeless. It’s a great example of how nonprofit ministries and missionaries can and should use video to coach champions in the cause rather than promoting their own ministry through tear jerking videos.
I encourage you to take a minute to watch the video. Here’s what I think is particularly well done:
- The video doesn’t take place at the mission. It doesn’t feature sad, exaggerated images of homeless people that portray them as objects of pity. Rather, it shows homeless people where champions normally encounter them in LA, namely, on freeway offramps and panhandling on the street. It is so essential in champion coaching videos to depict where champions normally encounter the cause…not where you do (i.e., your building).
- The video depicts other champions talking about the cause–their questions, insights, and experiences. Other champions are rarely seen in most nonprofit/missionary videos. Instead, what we get are shots of “the need”, “the solution”, “the testimony”, etc.
- The video positions the champion as the actor (i.e., the one responsible to help the homeless) and the mission as an optional platform for collective action for interested champions. That is, the video doesn’t say that to help the homeless you should support the mission. Instead, it shows how you, the champion, can help the homeless through your own direct action, which can be enhanced by drawing on the mission’s experience, location, and resources. In the video, the mission is resourcing you, whether or not you choose to resource it.
- The video gives champions something to do other than pray ‘n’ give, that classic pair. Pleasantly, when praying and giving are mentioned, the mission is not depicted as the recipient of either but rather as the platform for you to impact the cause directly. Note, for example, that you are given suggestions about how to pray for homeless people.
- There is a homeless person in the video who is portrayed as an authority, rather than as an object of pity. Praise God. Rarely do I see nonprofit/missionary videos where the intended recipients of help are portrayed as wise, knowledgeable authorities worth listening to.
There are a few things the video lacks that would be nice additions, most particularly mention of what the Bible calls Christians (or, should the mission be seeking to reach a broader audience, people of faith in general) to do relative to the poor. A list of scriptures for further study would be great, as would an explicit invitation for champions to email their questions about helping the homeless.
I watched the other six videos the Los Angeles Mission has posted on their Vimeo site. Disappointingly, they’re all examples of traditional transactional fundraising rather than coaching champions. I hope the mission will make more videos like 5 Ways and less like their year-end message, which could be a traditional transactional fundraising year-end message for any charity with a little cut-and-paste action to change the organization’s name and swap in different tear-jerking footage.