Paying It Forward

That’s more than just a catch phrase for university donors. Educational scholarships offer an opportunity for strengthening a donor base in higher education. But too often university scholarship donor programs focus only on the rational aspects of giving. Potential donors receive a solicitation discussing where their donation might go, with little emphasis on impact and outcome. Emotional connections are secondary, if not ignored altogether.  Emotion best demonstrates the sense of empowerment, grit, and dedication created by the donation. It’s emotion that compels us, demands action, and ensures we are contributing to “moving the needle” at our university of choice. Nothing conveys emotional impact as strongly as a visual narrative. It brings the call-to-action to life, humanizes the situation, and heightens the connection.

Webster University understands the strong emotional connection between donor, recipient, and university. All three are critical in advancing a partnership, building affinity, and driving a response. Webster University’s Office of Advancement came to StoryTrack to develop a 3-to-4-minute video presentation to supplement their annual Scholarship Dinner. StoryTrack strategically suggested rather than focusing solely on the scholarship recipient, the office consider making the donor, and his story, a focal point as well. The goal was to answer critical questions such as… why did the donor give? What drove him to direct their donation specifically to a student? What does a directed donation mean to the family and their legacy?

It’s About The People

StoryTrack developed a documentary approach focused on three primary characters impacted by scholarship giving.

  • Scholarship donor Kacey Hampton tells the story of his father’s legacy of giving back to the community and investing in the future of people.
  • Amir Clark, the scholarship recipient, shares the impact of the scholarship and how it has changed his life and future.
  • Avonda Anderson, Amir’s mother and a Webster graduate herself, imparts how Kacey’s donation helped support her dreams for her son, and how they positively shaped Amir’s perception of learning.

The video was shot on the Webster University campus. A non-scripted interview format allowed Kacey, Amir, and Avonda to openly discuss their raw feelings, convey the emotional impact of the scholarship decision, strengthen the call-to-action, and make a connection with future donors.

Key Themes

Underscoring the personal narrative was content focused on key themes:

  • Clearly demonstrate the bond between the scholarship recipient and donor. 
  • Focus on the Webster University community, highlighting the commitment of Alumni.  
  • Emphasize that the scholarship/donor relationship goes deeper than just financial support. Donors often act as mentors to the student recipients.
  • Highlight the “responsibility bond.”  The recipient cherishes and protects the expectations of the donor; and the donor cherishes and protects his investment and commitment.

By driving a strong, strategic, visual narrative StoryTrack created an emotional connection between scholarship donors and recipients and deepened affinity with a university. Perhaps most importantly, the video message drove a strong call-to-action for future donations. StoryTrack was proud to part of such an important and impactful project. The video was debuted at the annual Scholarship Dinner and made an immediate and heartfelt impact.

Like What You See?

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About the Author

Lori Dowd

Lori Dowd is an award-winning filmmaker and founder of StoryTrack Studio. For over 20 years, she has directed and produced programming for a range of corporate, non-profit, online and broadcast partner/client.