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  • Writer's pictureWoody Harrison

When A Free Video Isn't actually Free

Do people value things they get for free? We'll certainly go to great lengths to get free things. Wait in long lines, accept random freebies we don't need(coozies at the UT games anyone??) all because of the power of FREE.

This picture is of hundreds of people waiting in line for free IHOP pancakes. Seriously?

Robert Chialdini wrote about his extensively in his book "Influence."

So how does FREE effect a services relationship, like a non profit getting a free video and how can you make it work better for you?

The most common free alternatives I've heard are:

  • students

  • in-kind donations from production companies

In theory, this is great. Other people creating video content for you while you work.

But in reality, the offer may not be as good as it seems.

I’ve spoken to many, many non profit marketers that have gone these routes, only to be disappointed, or worse, left with no video at all!

The Student Option

I spoke to two different non profit marketing professionals in the last week and they all shared similar frustrations regarding this alternative.

Both organizations were helped by students at the either the UT or St. Edwards RTF/film departments. Again, this sounds great in theory. Students who are eager to put their new found skills to work for a good cause.

But they're students, not professionals. These folks are 18-21 years old, have little to no professional experience, do not yet understand how to work and talk with clients and, from all the stories I've heard, don't have a strong grasp of deadlines.

In one case, the video was delivered 2 hours before the event (after having 2 months to work on it) and the video was unusable.

Other experiences I've heard reflect a general lack of professionalism and quality. Best intentions, poor execution. Look, these students mean well, but they simply aren't prepared for this kind of work, and they probably have a ton of other classwork to take care of. Your non profit is NOT a priority for them.

In-Kind Donations From Production Companies

Some non profit marketers have told me they have great relationships with a local professional production company. I've seen some of these videos and they are great. Here's one:

However, another common pain I've heard is, when doing in-kind or pro-bono work, the production company moves the project to the "back of the line" and can take much longer to complete than a paying gig. You can't fault the company, they need to pay bills too. But that doesn't do much good to an organization on a deadline.

So where are we now? What's the point of this?

One solution could be to pay anyone who creates videos for you.

Pay them something.

Maybe you pay the students $500(or less) or negotiate a lower rate with the production company.

Why do this?

Because study after study shows, that people don't value free stuff.

And this works both ways too.

If your non profit is relying on free work, what level of quality can you realistically expect? And how can you hold anyone accountable if they don't deliver? Money has this power of accountability.

By attaching a dollar amount...any dollar amount, you change the relationship and gain more control.

Now, someone is getting paid. You are an official client, not a favor. Think about how hard someone works for a "favor" rather than a "client." Huge difference.

The student gets a few bucks for beer and food(that's what I would have spent extra money on!) and feel like a professional, hopefully motivating them to act like one.

Often, the non profit will offer something like advertising space at their gala or on their website in exchange for a video. That's nice, but it's not cash money. Cash money changes things.

So instead, offer them 1/4 of the price, see how big their hearts are! Again, this allows you to dictate the terms of the relationship. You should be treated like a full paying client now. The production company gets a few dollars and puts you at the front of the line.

Everyone wins.


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