Videos for Nonprofits: Interview With Co-Founder of Ample Earth


SEATTLE — Every day, countless good causes strive to improve the quality of life for people across the globe. But their efforts might all be for naught without the ability to get the word out.

As American showman and impresario P.T. Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!”

Ample Earth helps in that fight. The organization has teams around the world that produce videos for nonprofits and social enterprise efforts, lending such causes a medium to tell their stories. Those stories can make all the difference in winning support. Recently, The Borgen Project had the chance to interview Ample Earth’s co-founder, Harry McAlister, to learn more about the company’s work on videos for nonprofits.

Interview with Harry McAlister, Ample Earth’s Co-Founder 

The Borgen Project: So, how did Ample Earth begin, and what is its mission?

Harry McAlister: We set out to get good causes access to top-tier video production.

Initially we thought, ‘Okay, well impact organizations have low budgets, and low budgets means low quality videos.’

But we quickly found one or two very talented and successful individuals willing to help out pro-bono or at massively reduced rates. So we wrote thousands of letters to high-level video teams around the world, asking if they’d be willing to use their skills to help good causes on low budgets.

And of course 95 percent said no. But that last 5 percent ended up being dozens of people, and the more we grew, the more people came out of the woodwork. Today we have a powerful network of people, teams and technologies at our fingertips.

TBP: Your video-makers have won Oscars, BAFTAs, Emmys and more. How has Ample Earth drawn such top-tier talent willing to turn down higher-profit opportunities to join a good cause?

HM: Cady Abarca is an Oscar-winning film director and judge on the panel of the New York Emmy Awards chapter. As he says, “I understand the financial constraints of the cause-community, and even though the videos I make with Ample Earth are paid below rate, I love doing it and I’m more than happy to help.”

A growing number of online tools and resources are also becoming available to cause-video creators. Much of the music we use in our videos comes from Grammy-award-winning musician Moby, which we get for free, and there are growing communities of online marketers willing to help distribute videos pro-bono. It’s thanks to the generosity and goodwill of these people that we can create more cost-effective cause-videos than ever before.

TBP: Tell me about some of your most inspiring success stories. How does Ample Earth make an impact in the fight against global poverty?

HM: Social causes have always been natural allies with video. Unlike profit-driven companies, they tend to have meaningful and emotive stories to tell, and a well-produced video is like having your most compelling employee promoting your cause 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in multiple locations, simultaneously.

So right this second, our videos are out there, helping send children to school in Pakistan; providing healthcare to young girls in east Africa; protecting indigenous lands in Papua New Guinea; fighting human trafficking in the USA; organizing a global movement of medical students; tackling climate change, and overfishing; educating young people about leadership opportunities; and fighting heart disease, cancer, diabetes, et cetera.

We are living in an age of accelerating possibility and the tools at our disposal have become exponentially more powerful – this applies to video as much as anywhere.

TBP: What sets Ample Earth apart from other organizations? How can change-makers make best use of your services?

HM: We’re able to produce videos at 75 percent less cost than corporate video companies, thanks to the goodwill and generosity of our network of video creators around the world. According to Cisco, by 2018 video will represent 79 percent of all online traffic. And today on Facebook, 323 days of video are being watched every minute.

The Takeaway 

We called ourselves Ample Earth because we believe humanity has the brains, resources and willpower to build a better world. Video can unlock vast reservoirs of support, and we think the impact community needs to make full use of the opportunity.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr


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