Making impact partners

In addition to impact campaign funders there is a whole constellation of partners who would be keen to learn about your film. The reason they are most likely be interested in partnership because of their shared interest in the issue you are trying to highlight.

We think of them as sitting outside the documentary film ecosystem – campaigners, philanthropists, brands, media, policymakers, foundations or NGOs. These partners can enrich the campaign in a plethora of different ways outside of monetary support, from arranging meetings with key stakeholders, to setting up non theatrical screenings, or lobbying the media. Through their own knowledge, contacts and experiences, they can get the team access to decision makers and audiences which extend the campaign's reach, and amplify its voice. In short, what they can offer is priceless." %}

In the case of American Promise, the film team spent considerable time getting organisations and foundations invested in the film, mobilising a total of 66 national partner organisations and 118 community organisations around the release. This advanced engagement proved invaluable when it came to spreading the word about the theatrical release, rolling out the community screening programme and engaging audiences around the campaign." %}

Likewise, No Fire Zone worked closely with national and international partners including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and many Tamil organisations who played a huge contribution in organising high level influencer screenings in a number of key territories pivotal to the campaign strategy." %}

Let's look for a second at when educational charity " %}Facing History and Ourselves (an educational nonprofit that engages students in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-semitism) attended Good Pitch. They were so taken with the Bully documentary that they offered to create a free downloadable learning guide and online training resource to accompany the film, as well as introducing the film to 3500 educators as part of One Million Kids. As well as that they introduced the Bully team to their own funder, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, who ended up becoming a major funder for the Bully project.

'We have to acknowledge the role of partners - Facing History and Ourselves, the Conference of Mayors and all brought so much to the Bully'" %}

Lee Hirsch

Or perhaps when The Innocence Project were so moved by Give Up Tomorrow that they set up a new organisation called the Philippines Innocence Project to work on reforming the nation's criminal justice system. Here's what the filmmakers had to say about securing the partnership:" %}

'With Give Up Tomorrow we really really wanted to work with the Innocence Project.

We are big fans of their work and what they've accomplished: exonerating hundreds of wrongfully convicted prisoners, many of them from death row.

They are such a perfect fit for our campaign, as they champion others victims just like our main character Paco. We tried desperately to reach out to them, but they didn't know us, and as you can imagine are extremely busy saving lives.

We were invited to do a screening with Philanthropy NY hosted by Ford Foundation's JustFilms. JustFilms asked us who would be good candidates to join the panel discussion afterwards. Here was a great opportunity to invite the Innocence Project. JustFilms sent them an invitation, and they accepted! Finally they had a chance to see the film on the big screen at the Paley Center for Media with a sold out audience, and that's all it took. They recognized that our issues were aligned and our film was able to convey the same message they do. A few days after the screening, we were invited to their offices in downtown New York to brainstorm how to work together.

" %}

Marty Syjuco & Michael Collins, Filmmakers, Give Up Tomorrow

" %}

The Escape Fire filmmakers approached the healthcare foundations, but then also started to think about how the campaign would play with the military. They met the head of the US Army pain management task force and the Department of Veteran Affairs at Good Pitch, who helped arrange screenings for military personnel and the team also managed to secure screenings at The Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and the Department of Defense, hosted by the Surgeon General of the US Army." %}

Finding perfect partners

So now here's an exercise and a practical tool to help you identify partners, organise and manage these relationships effectively. Although various contacts databases exist, and these do all sorts of whizzy things, our own version is a simple spreadsheet which we hope can be used by everybody, regardless of budget or technical ability." %}

This picks up from your issue map – but now it's time to do the job a little more systematically, and to keep a record while you're doing it. There are " %}six steps to building and maintaining the Partnership Contact Log:

Step 1

Let's go back to our issue map, where we scanned the issue thoroughly and mapped the issue landscape (if you skipped this section, go back to it " %}here). From this, you can start to develop a long list of organisations (and wherever possible named individuals in those organisations) to add to your partnership contact log. You might find the following useful as a research prompt:

  • Research the history of distribution and impact campaigns of previous films in the field. Look at film credit lists, study films campaigns' websites, social media, press
  • Learn who the key stakeholders and funders were. Study which organizations sponsored screenings, who sat on post-screening panels and led Q&A's. Read final campaign and funder reports.
  • Ask whether the campaign achieved its goals and how those goals evolved and changed over time. Learn if the stakeholders found it a positive and effective experience. For some, it may have been a waste of their time, resources and organizational energy.
  • Study the field of the issue itself not just the films. See where there is collaboration among organisations and funders and where there are turf wars between organisations.
  • Collaborate with films on a similar subject where possible. Working Films institutionalised this practice with the Reel Engagement initiative: thematic collections of documentary media that turn competition into collaboration and show how groups of films on the same issue can make a stronger impact together than they can apart (Reel Aging, Reel Energy, Reel Education).

Step 2

Once you have a list, it's worth carrying out some basic analysis of these potential partners, to understand their strengths:" %}

Step 3

Think about and then list what you might in an ideal world get from each. Usually funding is close to the top of the list. But there are lots of other potential asks including:" %}

{% trans " During production: " %} {% trans " After the film is completed: " %}
{% trans " Sharing research materials & access to experts " %} {% trans " Promote the film to mailing lists/memberships " %}
{% trans " Access to photographic or film archive " %} {% trans " Drive donors to give to a cause " %}
{% trans " Access to local operations which can help logistics " %} {% trans " Use the film as a training tool " %}
{% trans " Access to stories/contributors for your film " %} {% trans " Use the film as a lobbying tool " %}
{% trans " Introductions to prospective funders " %} {% trans " Use the film as a teaching tool " %}
{% trans " Promote the film to mailing lists/memberships " %} {% trans " Create a study guide/discussion guide for the film " %}
{% trans " Promote crowdsourcing campaigns " %} {% trans " Integrate the film into ongoing campaign work " %}
{% trans " Give feedback on rough cuts " %} {% trans " Organise membership screenings or high level influencer screenings " %}
{% trans " Help you develop your Impact Goals and Strategy " %} {% trans " Show the film at annual events/conferences " %}
{% trans " " %} {% trans " Fund press and PR work around the film " %}
{% trans " " %} {% trans " Introductions to prospective funders " %}
{% trans " " %} {% trans " Share or create web resources to amplify the film's impact " %}
{% trans " " %} {% trans " Sell the DVD to members and others " %}

" %}

" %}

Step 4

Prioritise. Order the list into where you want to start, and be realistic about how much capacity you've got to do it." %}

Step 5

Update constantly. Keep using it and update after every conversation, or at least make a note to update as a team on a regular basis." %}

Put alarms in your calendar to make sure you do." %}

It's vital you keep on top of this – it'll give you a really clear idea of where you're at, and what other opportunities exist." %}

" %}Download the Partnership Contact Log

Step 6

So we've got a list. But how to start. These people are not film people. Will they understand how we work as artists? Will they value us as change makers? Will they overvalue us? Our top tips are:" %}

" %}PICK UP THE PHONE AND START! For all the advice we can give, there's no substitute for getting on the phone (far better than email or social media, though twitter can be great for making contact, and for finding the right individuals). Call people. A lot of people. It works for us.

" %}INSPIRE FIRST, CONVERT LATER. This can take the pressure off you as well – feeling like every conversation has to directly lead to something will put you on edge, and that in turn will put your prospective partner on edge. Start by finding common ground and by sharing your passion for the issue.

Your impact vision might come in handy here. You'll find people want to talk to you if you start from this level and ask them to respond, rather than asking for money or support right off.

LOOK FOR THE RIGHT INDIVIDUALS. Often we've found that organisations that really ought to get involved in a film project, don't; and organisations whose link is less obvious, do. It's all down to the individual. Find the right person, and if you don't see the spark in their eye, ask yourself whether you're ever going to.

START SMALL Small asks can go along way. Deliver results and build from there. A small ask lets you test the waters and get a better understanding of each other's value. Partners (or funders) can see the direct impact in the shorter term, and get more deeply engaged in the project and it's potential.

MAKE A GOOD DEAL Once you have figured out what your partnership might look like, it's time to make a deal. It might be a good idea here to read Active Voice's excellent The Prenups Guide, which you'll also find in our Library. Although it is written from the point of view of the relationship between funders and filmmakers, much of its advice is relevant to nurturing good partner relationships too.

Don't forget to think about mutual benefit. Partnerships aren't just about what and individual or organization can do for you, it's also about what you can provide for the partner. This is often a tipping point for NGOs and others when they see in clear terms how the film adds to their exposure, thought leadership, social capital and more." %}

Here's our five bullet point summary of the Prenups Guide to whet your appetite:" %}

  • Figure out what role is right for partners to play.
  • Define needs and expectations on both sides at the outset (don't forget to include data, we'll come back to that in the chapter on Evaluation).
  • Ask whether goals overlap, differ, or conflict.
  • Identify the risks of partnering – there will be some ie: drifting time lines in film production and distribution vs fixed campaign schedules.
  • Make it explicit – sign something!

With that last bullet point in mind, and once you've forged the terms of your partnership together with shared expectations and goals, you might find it useful to have a look at this excellent " %}sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between filmmakers and nonprofits, which could be a useful template for other types of partnership agreement too.

Thanks to Molly Murphy, Co-Director of " %}Working Films, for sharing it for use in the Field Guide.

In that same spirit we love Gillian Caldwell's super smart checklist for what it takes to maintain successful partnerships, as shared at Working Films' & The Fledgling Fund's REEL CHANGE training. Its tough to go wrong if you have:" %}

  • Shared vision
  • Clear expectations regarding roles and responsibilities
  • System for communications with clear points of contact
  • Active honesty
  • Awareness of power
  • Willingness to submerge identity/share credit
  • Flexibility and willingness to readjust
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Love

And finally:" %}

"As you go about working on your films and campaigns, remember to always keep a positive attitude. An attitude of gratitude"" %}

Marty Syjuco & Michael Collins, Filmmakers, Give Up Tomorrow

Geek Out: Ideas for further reading" %}

Putting your Strategic Plan into action is about assembling people and parts. The configuration of your team is entirely dependent on and should be proportional to the scale of your project and available resources. As with your motivations and vision, there's ultimately no wrong answer - just what you decide it takes to get the job done. Thinking ahead about each of these pieces of the puzzle will help you to develop a timeline for production, engagement and distribution. Up next, we figure out what distribution looks like for your unique plan." %}

Made byDoc Society Made possible by: Ford Foundation - Just Film Bertha Foundation Sundance Institute Knight Foundation