Nonprofit Video Production and Storytelling - A Case Study with Capital Good Fund CEO Andy Posner
A few years ago, Filmkraft was hired to shoot a series of impact videos for the Rhode Island-based nonprofit organization, Capital Good Fund. Today, we're checking in with their CEO, Andy Posner, to see how the videos have worked out for them.
Andy describes how he has used the videos to connect with donors and win the trust of clients. He also tells us about how he stepped up his effort to tell his organization's unique story in order to "make it click" for donors and begin winning grants.
Read a transcript of the phone interview we conducted with Andy below, and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a summary of key takeaways for nonprofits considering video production.
Our Conversation with Andy Posner, CEO of Capital Good Fund
Filmkraft: Hi Andy! Thanks so much for speaking to us today. At first, we were wondering if you could introduce your organization a little. What does Capital Good Fund do?
Andy Posner: Yeah, so, we are a nonprofit, and we’re also a US Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution, which is a certification that lenders, whether nonprofit, bank, or credit unions, can receive if they show that they are using financial services to uplift marginalized communities. In our case, we use financial services to tackle predatory lending and to empower poor and low-income families to make investments in themselves and in their families. So, the loans that we make are for things like vehicle purchase, repair, or finance, placing a security deposit, immigration expenses like citizenship or green card, emergencies, and energy efficiency upgrades. And actually now we’re doing a crisis relief loan that is for people impacted by Covid-19, and then additionally we do one on one financial and health coaching where we talk about things like healthy eating on a budget, access to primary care, building your credit, and that sort of thing.
On Marketing Efforts
Filmkraft: Great. So, how do you reach the people that you try to reach? How do you tell the world about your service?
Andy Posner: Yeah, we’re unique because we’re a community organization that’s actually an online lender. So, we don’t see any of our clients in person across our five-state footprint. So, the way that we reach our clients comes down to a variety of non-analogue strategies. So, for example, Google Adwords, search engine optimization, word-of-mouth, community partnerships, Google Adwords Ads, earned media, social media… that sort of thing.
About the Video Series
Filmkraft: A few years ago we made some videos together. Why did you want to make videos for Capital Good Fund?
Being a nonprofit lender, which is another way of saying nonprofit business, has a couple of unique challenges. One of them is that we have two different clients. We have the people that we serve, and then the people who fund our work, and if we don’t tell the story of what we do well, we can’t raise the money to do more work. But also, people don’t wake up in the morning saying, “Oh, I’m going to go get a loan from a nonprofit lender.” That’s just not something that people know exists, and we’re asking people then to, once they find us, trust us quite a bit. They give us their social security number, banking info, and allow us to pull their credit. So, it’s really important for us to establish trust. So we wanted to make a video that would help us with both of those.
First and foremost, we need to tell the story of our work, and one of our challenges is that lending doesn’t lend itself as it were to a great visual. You know, if you have a program for children, you can get a nice video of kids running around in their after-school program, or if you’re a homeless shelter or food bank you have very easy stories to tell. Telling the story of somebody getting a loan is a little more difficult. So, we were looking for a video that can really capture for people why giving a grant to a lender can be so transformational.
For us, the key thing is to establish credibility from the get-go with clients. You know, we’ve put a lot of effort into what our website looks like, the language that we speak, what our staff looks like, and so, the video plays a part in that… in establishing credibility, relatability, and trust. For me, the benchmark of trust is our Google Reviews. We have almost 250 with a 4.8 rating. The video just plays into that.
Filmkraft: How did you deploy those videos? What worked for you, and what didn’t work so well?
Andy Posner: So the videos are embedded in various sections of our website. They’re part of our standard package of materials we send to any potential investor or donor… someone who would lend to our loan fund or make a donation to support our work. We link to it frequently in our newsletters, our social media, that sort of thing. So, we blast it out whenever and wherever we can.
I mean, it’s worked out great. It’s one of those things where you can’t measure a direct ROI, but we know it’s there. And it’s one of the first things we do when we reach out to somebody, and say, “Hey, if you want a sense of how our organization operates, why you should support us, check out this video.” Nothing about it hasn’t worked. We’ve gotten nothing but phenomenal feedback on the videos. It’s been an extremely effective strategy for us.
Do you recommend videos to other nonprofits?
Filmkraft: So, videos are kinda expensive. Do you think they’re too expensive for some nonprofits? What are some recommendations you might have for other nonprofits in regards to video?
Andy Posner: That’s a tough one because nonprofits have such small budgets and you’re not typically going to be able to raise a grant to pay for making an impact video. You know, it’s a couple thousand dollars, but it’s something you’re going to be able to use for many years. So, I would say that from a development strategy perspective, it’s a really smart long-term investment if you can spare a couple thousand dollars.
If you think about a crowded field where everyone is getting ten requests for every one request that they can fund, anything that you can do to make your story stand out is critical. Ultimately, this is all storytelling and relationships, so a video on its own isn’t going to do anything per se, but when it comes down to you and another organization that hasn’t told its story that effectively, then that can make the difference. And the way I think about it is… if you won one grant that you wouldn't have otherwise secured because you got the video, the video paid for itself. So, for us it was a pretty easy decision to make once we were in the position where we could spare a couple of thousand dollars to make a video.
How did you tell your nonprofit's story?
Filmkraft: Did you have a long-term, overarching vision about how you would tell your organization's story? What was your strategy there?
Capital Good Fund: For a long time I didn’t. I think part of that is just, you know, it’s not something that nonprofits think particularly strategically about, and I think that part of what made me realize we needed to do a better job telling our story was that I knew we had a really good one, but we also were not winning grants.
And for a while I was angry at the people who were not giving us the grants, but if you really step back and think about it, if you’re a funder and you’re used to funding a soup kitchen, a food bank, job training program, it’s hard to wrap your head around why you should make a grant to an organization that does loans. And as that started to hit home, it became clear to me that I needed to make that case more clearly and effectively.
Another thing was that sometimes I needed to remind myself why we should be the one to get the grants. We fortunately have really good relationships with clients, so for a long time we would talk to clients, get quotes from them, and that sort of thing, but the impact of that is only so great. Then, we had a couple of cases where board members met clients, or a funder did a site visit and we were able to introduce them to a client. We saw the impact that had and how that helped things click for them. That’s how we realized we needed to be more deliberate about how we tell our story. That’s the whole thing, it’s all about making it click for people, because lending is… it’s abstract.
I think that, what’s nice too is that, a lot of the people that give us money can’t relate to, you know, being hungry, but they can relate to needing access to credit, and so hearing how our clients needed a loan, while it’s a different context, it’s the same idea. I used a loan to start my… you know maybe the person became rich because they started out with a $10,000 loan to start their business… this person needed a $1,000 loan to avoid eviction… but they can relate. So, that has been really powerful. But yeah, I think being strategic about that is really imperative, because it’s not like you’re gonna just make a video and everything is going to magically change. It has to be part of a broader strategy. And the other thing too is that not all grant-makers are going to look at videos. There’s not always an opportunity to share videos with grant-makers. So, it might be more effective with individual donors or investors. So that is something to keep in mind. So, it’s not a silver bullet.
What is Capital Good Fund's story?
Filmkraft: So, what is the Capital Good Fund story?
Andy Posner: Basically, in America access to credit is a determining factor of one’s upward mobility or lack thereof. And the particular injustice we’re trying to address is twofold: one, that people that are at the margins, whether because they’re low income, or of color, veterans, domestic violence survivors, what have you, are unable to access the kind of affordable, equitable credit that middle, upper-middle class families are able to access to buy a car, a house, to weather a financial emergency, that sort of thing. So, they’re not able to access those, but on the other hand they are flooded with predatory offers for debt. Things like payday loans or pawn shops that charge 300 percent interest or more and cause bankruptcy and bad credit and excessive debt, and that sort of thing.
So, for us, the story of Capital Good Fund is one of providing access to credit that unlocks barriers, that eliminates barriers to taking advantage of opportunity and also prevents downwards slides. For example, in a moment like this, where people just need liquidity, the difference between getting our crisis relief loan and not is the difference between being evicted and not being evicted, or between taking out a loan that’s going to cause bankruptcy, and not. Or, taking advantage of opportunities. So, if you have a job offer and it requires a vehicle, and you can’t finance that car equitably, then that’s gonna make a big difference in your life in terms of whether or not you can take that job and keep it. So, we think about our impact in terms of preventing downward slides, and also allowing people to take advantage of opportunity.
How to Help Capital Good Fund
Filmkraft: Awesome. And if somebody reading this would like to get involved with your organization, what can they do?
Andy Posner: If you live in one of the states in which we lend and do financial coaching, then you can apply for a loan or get coaching. Those states are Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Florida. You can go to our website, capitalgoodfund.org, and through there you can easily access our products and services. Anyone in the country can of course donate to support our work. We’re in particular raising money right now for our Crisis Relief Loan. What’s really cool is that for every dollar we raise, we’d lend out four of our own dollars, and so it really has an exponential impact. We’ve already done 185 of our crisis loans, and we’re looking to do 2,000. Also, you can reach out directly to me if you’re interested in learning more about how you could actually invest in us in the form of a loan which enables us to then go and make loans and we actually pay interest on those loans.
Filmkraft: Thank you Andy. It's been a pleasure speaking with you!