We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how to make the most of your organization’s annual charity gala.

I want to zoom in for a minute on one specific element that is a popular feature of many of these functions: the honoree film.

You’re probably familiar with the concept. Before invitations are sent out, organizations will often choose to name one or more individuals as great benefactors or allies.

At the gala, they highlight these people’s accomplishments and express tremendous gratitude for their patronage.

What role does video play in all this?

It’s often the highlight of the evening — a moment for everyone present to formally direct their attention to the honoree’s story: How they came to be connected to this cause; how thankful the organization is for their efforts; how their actions impact and inspire the people in their lives. Sitting and watching this together, your dinner attendees acknowledge and pay tribute to your chosen honoree.

This is a fine, even gracious, tradition. But where did it come from? Why is the trend of producing honoree films so widespread? While it’s a beautiful impulse to honor your supporters, video is a pretty pricey way to do it. How did it gain a place of such prominence in the nonprofit world, where every expense needs to show a clear benefit for furthering your cause?

In other words: What is the goal of an honoree film?

What’s its place in your marketing strategy? This is a fundamental question.

Without knowing what aims an honoree video can help you pursue, you may end up missing out on its true potential.

In order to address this point, let’s zoom back out and remember that the honoree film has the same purpose as the event itself: It’s a celebration of the good work you and your supporters do together. By showing your appreciation for their hard work, commitment, passion, or material backing, you reassure them that their contributions are as important as ever. You remind them how necessary and important they are.

In this way, you renew their commitment to your cause.

So what does video accomplish?

A video invitation makes this accolade even more prestigious.

It shows that you take this event, and your honoree, quite seriously. As the short teaser spreads around the community in the leadup to the big night, viewers will understand that it’s a significant honor — one worth saving the date for.

Friends and family of your honoree will be particularly proud to participate in this recognition of their loved one. Your interviews with them for the video can be quite an emotional encounter, as together you tell the story of their achievements. They, too, will feel closer to your organization through the experience.

By the time the gala culminates in showing this powerful video, there will be smiles and tears all around. You can use this opportunity to remind your supporters that all their contributions are valued. Whether it’s a board member, a staff member, or a donor, you’re sure to see a response from your honoree’s peers. Many will feel inspired or challenged to make their own mark and establish their own legacy in response.

And don’t forget that when you reach out to the honoree in the future, you now have a natural ice-breaker: I was re-watching last year’s video recently and have to tell you once again how grateful we are for everything you’ve done over the years. I’d love to get together sometime soon to talk about the exciting projects we have going on right now.

As dinner season comes around once again, ask yourself how you can best utilize your honoree film.

Honoree films lose their impact if the award treats the recipients as interchangeable and not as separate, distinctive, worthy personalities.

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