Fundraising for Good.
It was like we never left, standing in the soaking midday heat of the Haiti airport surrounded by our photography equipment, carefully packed in huge luggage cases. We had stumbled off our red eye feeling tired but determined. Customs was out of the way and our ride was nowhere to be found. Seasoned travelers, we shrugged off the minor inconveniences and focused on the task at hand: Helping Haitian Angels. We were ready.
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
Helping Haitian Angels originally contacted us for help with a fundraising video. The non-profit got its start by chance, when a Virginian couple traveling through Haiti met a group of 35 kids who had been abandoned, facing starvation and disease.
Bill and Debbie Harvey didn’t have time to explain the details of their mission to every single potential donor. They were busy building housing, establishing classrooms, organizing vaccinations, and spending time with the kids, loving each of them like their own.
The video was made to evoke emotion and create action, and it worked incredibly well..
Between 2010 and 2014, our film became the centerpiece of their most successful fundraising effort ever. Viewers could easily see the positive change HHA brought to Haiti. The film generated millions of dollars in donations, and some people gave money in $100K and $250K donations.
This allowed Helping Haitian Angels to purchase more land. They started building a community center, church, school, and four homes to house 40 orphans and 8 supervising “mamas.”
ROADMAP TO SUCCESS
The huge success of the first documentary created more than a little pressure the second time around. Bill and Debbie, the orphaned children, the local community in Limonade and the entire HHA organization were counting on us. We didn’t want to just duplicate the first documentary. These kids deserved better than that.
Our first film had tremendous impact on the lives and prosperity of all involved. Our second film would need to be even better.
We don’t get our hand dirty, we get our hearts dirty.
Just as importantly, we decided that Haiti and its people would take center stage.
Haiti endures massive misconceptions, often dismissed as corrupt and ill kept. But we saw another Haiti – a Caribbean island with green mountains, lush valleys, red roads, and brilliant blue skies. We saw hope and beauty complexly intertwined with the barbed-wire fences and wrecked sailboats.
Our cameras took note of growling bulldozers, neat rows of schoolbooks, and historic colonial buildings. We filmed laborers hauling shovels and the musical French patois of HHA mamas. We portrayed smart and dignified people, willing to work hard to make life better for themselves and their neighbors.
We had a knack for befriending the kids, who started out somewhat shy around these Americans strangers. They were intrigued by our cameras, drones and technology. But the best day of the trip was probably a rare beach day. Many of the adult volunteers hung back from the sea, preferring to supervise from the sand.
We gladly set aside our photography equipment and dove right in with the kids. As surfers, it felt great to swim with them, teaching a few kids how to hold their nose underwater. By the time we got out of the water, we’d made some new friends.
STRATEGIC PROBLEM SOLVING
The days were long, hot, and humid. Navigating a drone through international skies is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Many of the people we worked with spoke a combination of French and Creole, and we worked from a mobile production studio.
Still, we insisted on avoiding the clichés associated with “typical” fundraising videos, refusing to take shortcuts. Our crew blended with the subjects of our film, making adults and kids alike feel comfortable and natural. The result? A highly complex story of human empowerment and social change – all distilled into 6:55 minutes.
A kid flying a handmade kite. Motorcycles weaving between battered trucks. Students sharing bowls of rice. The glow of a newly installed light bulb. Soccer in a patchy field.
Even a good story can get lost in the noise. Fortunately, this one didn’t.