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How a Denver Nonprofit Held a Fundraising Event During Covid-19


By Doug Gritzmacher

Denver Video Production

Last year I had the pleasure of working with The Action Center for the first time. They are a nonprofit organization in Lakewood and hold their annual fundraising event every April. They had done videos in the past for those events but had several bad experiences with the video production companies they had worked with. So they were a bit cautious when I approached them about working together. But they really liked my work and I managed to persuade them that working with me would be a much different—and positive—experience than what they what they were used to. That all came true and the video I produced for their fundraising event last year was a big success. We started talking again in January about a direction for this year’s fundraising video.

By early March we had identified a person who, with the help of the Action Center, was able to turn her life completely around. Hers was a story that would inspire others. When we approached her about being the subject of the video, she said, “If it helps others, count me in.” We then scheduled two shoot dates for late March and early April.

Then covid-19 hit and everything shut down.

For many nonprofits, the annual fundraising event is their biggest single opportunity to raise funding for operating expenses over the next year. Skipping one could lead to financial ruin. The Action Center is a certified food bank. Additionally, they help people in need with clothing, housing, addiction, and mental health services. In other words, their existence positively impacts the lives of thousands every year. They elected to move forward with their plans for a fundraising event.

How did they do it?

First, they changed it from an in-person event to an online event to be held through Zoom. Then they hired an expert event planner named Melissa Estepp, whose focus is on nonprofits and who guided them through the process. They had five people who planned to speak. Through a relationship with a local church, they were able to get free video recording services. So each person went to the church to have their address recorded. They then hired me to edit those speeches into the full fundraising video presentation, which included the fundraising video I was working on concurrently with them.

For that, we went ahead with our shoot dates, but with precautions. Our first shoot date was set at The Action Center headquarters, which was closed to outsiders. Instead of going inside, they set up an outdoor system where participants could walk or drive up to receive services. This allowed us space inside to enact social distancing and minimize our exposure to others and vice versa. We wore gloves during production. The second half of that shoot date took place outdoors at park. I used a longer lens than usual to be to keep six feet from the subjects.

Our second shoot date was at three different locations. Again we wore gloves, minimized the surfaces we touched, and worked to maintain social distancing.

We shot in the time when the CDC was still recommending not wearing masks, so we did not use them. But we would if we were shooting today.

After completing the fundraising video, I cut it into the larger presentation video and sent it to my contact at the Action Center. They held their event at the end of the month and everything went very smoothly. Best of all, the fundraising video I produced was a huge success. My contact had this to say to me after the event:

OMG, everyone LOVED it! I’ve never had so many compliments on one of our fundraising videos. HALLELUJAH!

This is such a great piece Doug and everyone really loved the black and white vs. color treatment. They like that is was literally so black and white between past and present. I think we made a really solid decision not to include talking heads this year. It allowed for more time to tell the story.

And most importantly, almost everyone I talked to said they teared up and continue to tear up when they watch it. We’ve never had one of these stories do so well. THANK YOU!!!”

If you operate a nonprofit and are searching for ideas on how to move forward with your fundraising event safely, feel free to contact me.



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