Category 5 - Video Institutional
Change For Change
Research/Situation Analysis: In 2004, the Tallahassee City Commission approved the implementation of a new program to help address homelessness. It was recommended by a citizen group called TEAM, or Tallahassee Equality Action Ministry. Through the program, the city’s 105,000 plus utility customers have the option to commit to a contribution each month on their utility bill that goes directly to area agencies serving the homeless. Contributions range from 50 cents a month to $10 or more. The program has been marketed through an annual insert in the utility bill and through the churches that supported TEAM. By the end of 2008, however, only 1,358 customers were taking part in the program. With the severe economic downturn in 2009, the number of individuals and families facing homelessness began to increase. The Big Bend Homeless Coalition reported an estimate of 3,000 to 4,000 homeless individuals in the community over the course of the year, with 741 homeless at any one time. Most startling, 38% were estimated to be children. The challenge was to generate support and awareness for the Change for Change Program, increase participation, and demonstrate that homelessness can impact anyone.
Objectives: 1) By March 2010, increase the number of utility customers who participate in the Change for Change program by 10%. 2) By March 2010, increase the giving to the Change for Change Program by 10 %. 3) Reach a minimum of 20,000 households with information about the Change for Change Program.
Implementation: In April / May of 2009, city communications staff determined a video would be the best way to tell the story of homelessness in Tallahassee. To drive home the message that “There but the grace of God go I,” the show’s producer worked to find “non-traditional” individuals currently being served by programs supported, in part, by the Change for Change funding. He found three women with compelling stories who didn’t fit the “stereotype” of the homeless, if there is really such a thing, and all of whom were willing to share their experiences. Jennifer, is a single mother with a teenage daughter. Her husband died and she suffered from an undisclosed disability. She has a college education but cannot find a job. Royshawn and her husband have college degrees and moved to Tallahassee with their children in search of jobs and a better life. They have worked all their lives but can’t find jobs. Zarria, comes from a family history of poverty, has limited education, no job, two small children and is expecting twins.
The decision was made to let these women, and the staff at the agencies that assist them, tell the story, as opposed to using a narrator. In order to make it as real as possible, the video was shot from the perspective of the naked eye. No supplemental lighting was used, in order to preserve the actual conditions of the locations. The women are first portrayed in black and white demonstrating the sad, but all too common notion that the homeless sometimes can be viewed as being less than human. An additional film effect with some scratch and shake is added to enhance this image. The black and white image then slowly transitions to color revealing to the viewer that these are in fact real people, as real as your next door neighbors. The women tell heart-felt stories of their circumstances, displaying strong emotions, but also demonstrating strong determination to move out of homelessness and back into the ranks of the employed and self-sufficient. The show ends with details on how viewers can contribute to the Change for Change program by visiting the city’s website Talgov.com.
The 30-minute show began airing on June 25, 2009, and ran 289 times over the next two months on WCOT, the city’s government television channel. Portions of the show were aired again on WCOT in December 2009. In the most recent citizen survey, 42% of the city’s 177,879 residents say they watch WCOT. The Change for Change page on Talgov.com had 1,988 page views from July 2009 to May 2010. The video was also made available “on demand” on the city’s website, Talgov.com, with 54 views. The video was also featured in a story in The Tallahassee Democrat in March 2010, and a link was provided to the on demand version of the show on Tallahassee.com, the newspaper’s website. The most significant results were demonstrated when TEAM released its Annual Change for Change Program Update in February 2010, and credited the show with bringing about incredible increases in donations and participants.
Evaluation: 1) The TEAM Annual Program Update showed that the number of participants in the Change for Change program increased from 1,358 by the end of 2008 to 2,010 (yes that’s really the #, not just the year!) at the start of 2010, representing a 48% increase. While funding did not exist to survey new participants on why they joined or if they saw the video, the TEAM report attributed the increase to people in the community who watched the program and were moved by the stories. 2) The TEAM Report also reflected a 47% increase in the annualized amount contributed for the same period, growing from $47,459 to an anticipated $70,000 based on commitments made. 3) With the video airing on WCOT and available on Talgov.com, in addition to the over 52,000 readers and 30,000 to 40,000 online viewers per day reached via The Tallahassee Democrat, this objective was far exceeded. In addition, the agencies highlighted in the video sent thank you letters to the city and cited increased applicants and donations.
Budget: The only cost associated with the production was staff time, estimated at an inkind value of $4,500, including video production and online posting.