Why We Went Digital With Our Donor Stories

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 12:00 am

by PJ Watters

As a community foundation, we are always talking about our role connecting "people who care" with "causes that matter." When we award grants from our funds, people don't usually know who's behind the fund name-and they should! It's time we tell our fund founders' stories. So we created some public service announcements to bring donors' passions to the forefront.

First, it is important to understand that grants from these permanent funds will continue for years to come because someone took the time to plan a gift that would last. That's why we call them "the gifts that keep on giving." So, these stories will never be out dated. There have been a lot of people in our community who have made a huge impact. In order to start the process, we needed to decide who we wanted to feature.

It was not an easy task to pick a few out of the hundreds of incredible stories and fascinating people we know. We decided on four fascinating people: a red-headed, 90-year-old spitfire of a gal from North Idaho with a Mayflower heritage who handed us $500,000 after her line-dancing class so kids in the logging town could go to college; a high school principal who lived to be 107 and taught more than one generation on Spokane's South Hill, then toured the world, coming belly-to-belly with Mahatma Gandhi; the attorney who worked pro bono to establish this very community foundation; the Spokane bachelor whose estate gift became the foundation's first ever fund.

All of those people-Edith Schuyler (I can still hear her saying "that's S-C-H like 'school' and U-Y like 'buy'"), Louis Livingston, Allan Toole, and Anton Albert-have passed on, but not before leaving great legacies.


Before we started our project, we developed a basic concept and knew who we wanted to feature. Then we went out and did some research on local production companies and asked for bids to decide who we would go with. Corner Booth Media, a local video production, television commercial, and marketing consulting company, was highly recommended by one of our board members. They helped us create simple but powerful story lines and auditioned local talent from among those who benefited from the grants we planned to feature. Selecting the grants to highlight from among hundreds was also a task. We went with the best photo opportunities and made sure we represented a variety of beneficiaries: kids in parks, classical music in a historic theatre, a scholarship recipient at a state university, and senior citizens in a community center.

We submitted the PSAs to our local media sources so they could air them when they had openings. Much thanks to KHQ TV, the NBC affiliate in our region-they picked them all up and ran with them. The Louis Livingston PSA was first and the fourth grader who narrated it can now say she was on Saturday Night Live and had a talking part! Then we hit prime time when the Spokane Symphony conductor who narrated the Toole spot interrupted Minute to Win It. The insomniacs heard Edie's scholarship recipient on Late Night with Jimmie Fallon and the senior citizens Anton Albert so loved were featured on Dateline.

Looking to the future, we are seeking corporate underwriting to have these television service announcements sponsored so we can pick our prime times to play and have them seen more regularly.  

PJ Watters is director of gift planning for the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations.

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