From 2012 to 2015 housing prices increased by 23.1 percent across the United States, creating a short supply of affordable and safe housing (Neal, 2015). Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization that is actively addressing this problem by building and repairing affordable homes for people who live in worst case housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines worst case housing needs as “renters with incomes below 50 percent of the Area Median Income, who do not receive government housing assistance and who pay more than one-half of their household income for rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or both” (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2015).
More than 19 million families are living in housing insecurity in the U.S. and approximately 11.97 million (63 percent) are living in worst case housing (Housing Insecurity, 2016). Living in substandard housing is a violation to a person’s basic needs as shown in the famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, theory of the hierarchy of needs. If families had access to livable and affordable housing it would influence their ability to progress in mental and social capabilities (Kenrick et al. 2010).
In the MetroWest/Greater Worcester (MW/GW) area Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a charitable organization that educates the public about affordable housing, recorded that 45,722 households were living with housing insecurity in the MW/GW area as of 2014. Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (Habitat MW/GW) circumvents this problem by being involved in the community and improving families’ living situations through their many programs (Habitat, 2016).
Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 6.8 million people obtain safe and stable housing (Habitat, 2016). Habitat for Humanity, founded upon the “Hand Up, Not a Hand Out” model, does not simply give away houses, rather they partner with families through sweat equity (completion of 500 hours of community service with Habitat for Humanity) and work with families to develop an affordable mortgage that goes towards funding other Habitat for Humanity homes (Habitat, 2016). Habitat MW/GW is a growing organization, in need of more exposure to the local MW/GW community, and is hoping to reach a greater number of donors, volunteers, and homeownership applicants to better address the housing insecurity problem.
In order to do so, our sponsor initiated the production of a series of promotional videos that Habitat MW/GW can utilize to educate the public on their mission: every man, woman, and child should have a safe, decent and affordable place to live (M. Pietrantonio, Personal Communication, October 27, 2016). The creation of promotional videos is an effective tool for a nonprofit like Habitat MW/GW. According to advertising guru Will Royall, “The average nonprofit marketing budget across the board is 3 percent of the total revenue – in the for profit world it’s 10 percent” (Royall, 2014). With this in mind, the availability of newer and less-expensive video methods can provide a much needed inexpensive means of advertising.
In an effort to engage the community better Habitat for Humanity MW/GW reached out to the Worcester Community Project Center to develop these promotional videos. These videos focus on educating the local public about the unique story of Habitat MW/GW and how their leading programs work.
In order to achieve the goal of telling the story to give a localized feel of Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (Habitat MW/GW), we interviewed and surveyed key stakeholders, recorded all data, and lastly created the three promotional videos. We followed a set of eight objectives; This eight step process included determining the content and target audiences for each video, producing and developing the videos, presenting the videos to Habitat MW/GW staff, receiving feedback, and revising accordingly. Lastly, we created a media plan to help Habitat for Humanity MW/GW reach the target audience.
We triangulated our methodology to help us compare the different sources of data and validate the legitimacy of our findings (Berg & Lune, 2012). According to Berg and Lune, experts in the field of qualitative research methodology, it is important to use triangulation, the use of multiple data-collection methods to measure a single concept, when conducting research (Berg & Lune, 2012). The data we collected presented the common misconceptions of Habitat MW/GW as well as what people already knew to be true about the local affiliate. These findings helped guide the direction of the three promotional videos.
Using the data from the key stakeholders, which included the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate staff and residents of the local community, we produced three promotional videos, one video telling the story of Habitat MW/GW (Story video), one about the Habitat for Humanity homeownership process (Homeownership video), and one about the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Worcester (ReStore video). After the creation of these videos we presented them to our sponsor, Habitat for Humanity MW/GW.
Results and Analysis
Based on our background research, analyses of interview and survey data, and analysis of nonprofit videos, we developed our findings. Our most important findings included understanding the story of Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (Habitat MW/GW), determining the target audience, determining the video format (animated vs. live action), and the development of a media plan. Through our analysis of the surveys we found that many local residents do not have a clear understanding of the mission and day-to-day practices of Habitat for Humanity MW/GW. The Habitat MW/GW staff reiterated this, indicating that the most common area of confusion was “Habitat’s partnership program in which they do not give away houses, but provide an affordable mortgage of zero percent interest at about 30 percent of household income” (Bonnie Biocchi, Personal Communication, November 3, 2016).
Through the use of focus groups and sponsor meetings we determined that the target audience was different for each video: The target audience for the Homeownership video was potential homeowners, the target audience for the ReStore video was shoppers, donors and volunteers, and the target audience for the Story video was those uninformed about Habitat for Humanity’s mission. We found that the purpose of the videos should match the target audiences. For example, the purpose of the Homeownership video is to educate potential program applicants, which matches the target audience, potential homeowners, who are confused or misinformed about the qualifications of the program. Additionally, we found that the format of the video (live action vs. animations) should be modified to align with the purpose of the video as well. For example, we found it best to utilize animations to explain the homeownership process because the visualization of the information is easier to digest.
During our video analysis and research of the local affiliate, we found that the Habitat MW/GW website could be updated to provide users with a more effortless and straightforward experience. In particular we found that they could use Habitat for Humanity St. Augustine/St. John County’s website (http://www.habitatstjohns.org) and the Habitat for Humanity International website (http://www.habitat.org/) as models.
Lastly, we found it important to develop a media plan to better reach the aforementioned target audiences. We identified a list of media outlets through meetings with our advisors and sponsor. To keep the distribution of the videos low cost, it was important to share the story through local organizations to specifically target the local audience.
Our work with Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (Habitat MW/GW) gave us an understanding of the knowledge base of the local greater Worcester community and guided the development of the three promotional videos. Through the production of the promotional videos, we identified areas for further development. We recommend that Habitat MW/GW not only follow the proposed media plan but also expand on the number of partnerships with organizations willing to share or promote these videos and other promotional/educational materials for little to no cost. We also recommend that Habitat MW/GW consider conducting a future project to develop videos featuring other programs that Habitat MW/GW offers.
At the end of our project with Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (Habitat MW/GW) we produced three promotional videos. We believe that the three videos we created will help bridge the knowledge gap between Habitat MW/GW and Worcester residents. These videos will be shared with the local community using the media plan we developed in collaboration with our sponsor, consisting of local networks and organizations. The distribution and use of the three promotional videos will help Habitat MW/GW achieve their mission of providing “A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out” for families in need of safe decent affordable housing.