Once a year the local runaway shelter, Daybreak, hosts a fund raising breakfast where they have table captains invite 9 people for a free meal. Of course there’s a catch, you have to sit through a program that makes you feel warm and fuzzy about their charity cause. This year, the fifth year of using the “secret formula” for raising money- Daybreak asked The Next Wave to provide the 7 minute video for the event.
Yes, folks- it’s prescribed as 7 minutes, and you are supposed to make the audience cry 3 times. It’s near the close of the session, just before the gut-wrenching, heartfelt story of success despite the odds, and the final ask for donations.
After watching the four previous years videos, we knew one thing- we weren’t going to do anything like them: a montage of interviews, “recreations” and narration by staff. It was time for something totally different- something where you wouldn’t know what’s coming- or get caught up in the delivery of the story- just a focus on the story.
Our original idea was to draft David Chappelle to do the MC of the video- and I actually spent 20 minutes talking with him, face-to-face, and offering to pay him to help us out. The goal was to bring national attention to the shelter- and to make more kids aware that it was a positive place for them- instead of an option of last resort. Unfortunately, Mr. Chappelle isn’t reliable- so we found one of Daybreaks own to step in- Mr. Robert Neal Jr.
By placing the clients behind the screen- 60 minute anonymous interview style- we knew that our audience would focus on the story- not on the personalities, when the ending came, it would all draw together in a powerful close. We didn’t want slick production values- and the number of times we had to set up made it an even more daunting task- but the real payoff was the results- watch the video before you look to see how effective it was.
I watched the audience at the table next to me: totally riveted to the big screen, when the totals were counted:
For the first time they had a donor pledge at each of the two highest levels- $10K a year for 5 years and $5K a year for 5 years. Total donations were higher than ever before. They took the concept of the “Fairy tale” gone wrong- and built the whole morning on the theme. While sometimes we wonder if selling more widgets is truly a noble cause, the opportunity to help a great social service organization headquartered a mere 4 blocks from our office makes us proud to do what we do.
As to the secret formula- yes, the whole one hour program follows a fixed script on how to manipulate an audience into giving money. It has worked like clockwork for our client, however, this year, it worked even better.
That’s why we are The Next Wave.