By Doug Gritzmacher
Denver Video Production
We recently caught up with Kirsten Jasna, the senior director of Annual Giving and Donor Relations at Braille Institute, a Los Angeles nonprofit that provides a myriad of free services for the blind and visually impaired. Shortly after taking over the position she reached out to us this year to produce a pair of nonprofit fundraising videos to kick off the organization’s 100th anniversary campaign.
INTERVIEW WITH NONPROFIT EXECUTIVE KIRSTEN JASNA:
You spent over 15 years in New Mexico fundraising in higher education and at the Museum of New Mexico. How did you first come to video as a tool for nonprofit fundraising?
KIRSTEN: When I was with the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, we had a very successful comprehensive capital campaign to build the New Mexico History Museum. Exhibit development used storytelling and video. Participating in this process helped me understand how visual storytelling can engage visitors, donors, and potential donors alike. The finished museum was amazing; I urge everyone to visit if you’re in Santa Fe!
Tell us a little about Braille Institute, your history, scope, and impact.
KIRSTEN: Do you have an hour or two? Seriously, all services we provide to the blind and visually impaired are FREE, thanks to our generous donors. We serve blind and visually impaired adults and children through in-home services, low vision consultations, and enrichment activities such as art and music. We train them with orientation and mobility, smart phone/tablet/computer technology, and provide a telephone reader program—and much more.
When was your nonprofit organizations founded?
KIRSTEN: We were founded back in 1919 by J. Robert Atkinson, a cowboy from Montana. He became blind as an adult and learned to read braille and began transcribing books for his personal library. In five years, he transcribed nearly one million words of print into braille! Atkinson started the Universal Braille Press with a gift from Mary and John Longyear and the rest, so they say, is history. Today we have centers from central California to southern California, covering the coast to the desert. Our library is part of the National Library Service and provides braille and audio books to our patrons.
Video provides us with an opportunity to tug on the heartstrings and add emotion to the mix, compelling someone to give and make an impact on someone they see in a video. That’s powerful.”
2019 is your 100th anniversary! What’s in store?
KIRSTEN: We’re going to celebrate the impact we’ve had on the lives of tens of thousands of people, and use it as a launching pad to continue our important work into the next century. We transform lives and we take that work seriously.
Why did Braille Institute reach out to us for its 100th anniversary campaign?
KIRSTEN: Video is a channel we haven’t really used much, despite the fact that our story is so visual. Print doesn’t show the emotion and impact of our work—video does. It made sense to go into the classroom, meet with students, volunteers, and instructors to tell the story. Losing one’s sight is debilitating and we are here to show adults and children that everything is going to be okay. Video captures the essence of what we do so it really made sense to use this channel.
How did we do with the storytelling? Did we capture the essence of Braille?
KIRSTEN: Absolutely. The process began with Steve asking questions about the organization. I was new here so I was as curious as Steve. Integral to the process was the half-day Steve spent at Braille Institute to plan everything. We met students, volunteers, and staff, and learned more about the impact on their lives. This was key, because it helped refine the story. Steve worked with me to determine who to interview, which classes to visit, and what questions to ask. Spending time with Steve, Doug and the film crew over 2.5 days was exhausting, but exhilarating!
Describe the video distribution and optimal engagement.
KIRSTEN: In addition to social media and online, we’re going to use the video at multiple events throughout our 100th year: our annual meeting, conferences, auxiliary events, etc. The video is perfect for us to inform and engage with our audience.
What kind of return on investment with video have you experienced professionally in your 20 years running fundraising for various nonprofit organizations?
KIRSTEN: I started in fundraising when the Internet wasn’t a reality and print, tv and radio, and phone were the only channels. It was a very different approach! Today each generation has a preference for where they get info and where/how they give. Video provides us with an opportunity to tug on the heartstrings and add emotion to the mix, compelling someone to give and make an impact on someone they see in a video. That’s powerful.
What would you say to a nonprofit fundraising director who is not using video yet?
KIRSTEN: Give it a try! Z-Channel Films worked within our budget and there were no surprises. I helped craft the message and make sure it reflected Braille Institute in the best possible light. Our investment helped the Philanthropy Department grow. And the process of making the videos helped me get to know students and instructors better, which has served us well internally. Externally, the video combined with our 100th will engage both our current and potential supporters. We are no longer just a name—we’re visual and those who watch our story can see the transformative impact we have on our students and the community.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
KIRSTEN: If you or a loved one is experiencing vision loss, give us a call to learn more about options available to you. Call 1-800-BRAILLE or visit our website: www.brailleinstitute.org
Are you a nonprofit executive who is ready to see how video can help you? See more about our Denver video production services.