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Creating a Video Annual Report: The Mitchell Kapor Foundation's Experience
April 2, 2012

(Cedric Brown is Chief Executive Officer of Mitchell Kapor Foundation)

Cedric BrownAs much as I hate to admit it, I rarely spend more than 30 seconds looking at annual reports. I'm usually attracted to the paper, design, or lead stories, but don't really delve into the sometimes-substantial reading required to make it through one of these tomes. And who has time? I'm not sure if there's a general trend toward simplification of such publications, but that's what I had in mind in late 2010 when starting to consider a format for the Kapor Foundation's first annual report

Given that we're a small family foundation interested in the intersection of social justice and tech, I wanted to use a tack that would reflect our values, style, and general approach to work. And I especially wanted it to be simple to digest. Daniel Olias Silverman, the Irvine Foundation's fantastic director of communications, advised me that the world is moving to video. And so move we did.

Mitchell Kapor FoundationWorking with the Kapor Center's in-house production team, we scripted brief highlights from the Foundation's areas of work. I wanted each of our staff members and the Kapors themselves to have a role, giving voice to our priorities and accomplishments. This vision was met with a little skepticism and camera shyness. But on the day of the shoot, everyone came through like pros - well, maybe not, but at least our natural selves shone through. We left the footage in the hands of the director, Trevor Parham, who added photos and animation to bring our words and work to life.

When we distributed the video through emailing it and posting it on our website's home page, I hadn't expected to get the kind of positive, "WOW!" reviews that came back to us.  Some of our community partners expressed appreciation for getting the pithy information in an entertaining format (and a little hip hop  beat in the background never hurts). Of course, we didn't win any awards or such, but we accomplished my ultimate goal of explaining what the Foundation does in a way that would be widely and clearly understood. The video format also allows us to be (a certain kind of) green by minimizing the use of paper, to save production money, and perhaps best of all, to have almost three times the distributive reach that we would've had strictly through our mailing list!

So this year, we've taken it a step further. No animation against a green screen this time, but we again aimed to deliver the highlights of our efforts in a concise way, using a knockoff of an increasingly popular format. Check it out.

Watch the video »

I'm now a believer that video is indeed the way to go. If you're thinking about doing the same, I'd advise a few practical things:

  1. Write a narrative that outlines your organization's mission and framework;
  2. Use video or photos of grant recipients and partners in action to help tell your story; and perhaps most importantly,
  3. Videos need not be overly fancy or polished. While we at the Kapor Foundation benefit from an incredibly talented in-house team, I've actually seen interesting work done with flip cam footage and freeware. Just be neat (aesthetically) and tell a good story!

Looking forward to seeing your work next year!

-- Cedric Brown

Comments

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Community building, cnimuomty organziing, volunteerism, the creation and preservation of pubic goods within an increasing authoritarian "owernship society" - I wonder if those are not the topics of which "open source" is both a subtopic and a success story. Also bears on your topic of "capital." Perhaps the greatest capital is not financial, but our ability to work together to create public goods, motivated by a sense of stewardship, joy in each other's company, and sometimes status competition to see who can give most, give best, rather than do least, get most.

Great stuff Cedric - especially the tips about low tech. Content eats design for breakfast every time! Here's another post with tips and several examples from Debra Askanse - http://www.communityorganizer20.com/2012/01/05/rethinking-the-annual-report-for-video/

Congratulations both for your foundation's fine effort and for your candor in acknowledging that few people have time to read annual reports.

Following up on Brad Smith's comment, for more information on other ways foundations and nonprofits can produce more engaging publications online, and the new tools available to them, I invite them to view a recent webinar the Communications Network hosted, "How to Spruce Up Your Online Publications (and Save a Tree in the Process)": http://goo.gl/0P7Y3

Thanks Cedric for sharing this really great, unpretentious and effective way for telling people what the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and its partners achieved in 2011. Just as it was fun to see the staff debut as actors in last year's foray into the video world, it was a nice touch to use tweets as the hook for each segment this time around.

It might be interesting for other foundations if you could share some of your own experience in terms of costs, comparing the video report to the production and distribution costs of a more traditional print publication.

Thanks again for sharing!

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