By Yvonne Siu Turner, Senior Manager, Corporate Resources and Programs, Points of Light Corporate Institute

Jasmine Youssefzadeh had a passion for storytelling, and she knew she wanted to incorporate that passion into a business that was dedicated to creating social good. Looking for inspiration, she went to the HUB LA, a business accelerator and support group for the Los Angeles start-up scene, and met Matthew Manos, the founder of verynice, a design consultancy that gives 50% of its work away pro bono to nonprofits. When she heard about the social impact Matt was having with his unique approach to business and social causes, she knew she had found her inspiration and the business model for her social venture. 

A year after that initial meeting, Jasmine founded filmanthropos, a creative agency with a mission to scale impact through the use of new media. filmanthropos specializes in multiplatform storytelling for causes, non-profits, and corporate social responsibility initiatives and excels at humanizing social issues and cause marketing that builds awareness. Even as a new start-up, their clients include the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica, the Children’s Bureau of Southern California and the Zimmer Children’s Museum.   

To meet the goal of giving half of her organization’s work away for free, Jasmine follows a simple rule of thumb: she doubles filmanthropos’ workload and taps into a network of local volunteers to staff pro bono projects. In their first year of operation, she was able to recruit 16 pro bono volunteers and take on 15 pro bono projects to meet local needs.

More than that—Jasmine and her team place heavy emphasis on creative initiatives, and completed their first pro-bono “ProduceAthon” in celebration of Pro Bono Week 2013. A work-around-the-clock creative blitz, their “ProduceAthon” helped a cause tell their story and the impact they are making in a short film produced entirely over 24 hours. The outcome of the event was a 60-second motion-graphic video created for Swipes for the Homeless, a nonprofit focused on hunger alleviation. 

“We created an entire video, from pre-production to post, in 24 hours,” said Jasmine. “Our volunteers pitched in and helped with scripting, storyboarding, shooting, animation, audio production, editing and more.”

Dasha Orlova, filmanthropos’ Creative Director who participated in the “ProduceAthon” said, “My favorite memory of the project was when we were doing a stop motion scene outside, moving fruit a half-inch at a time--everybody who walked by wanted to know what we were doing!”

For filmanthropos’ staff, the pro bono project was not only an opportunity to lend their professional skills to a good cause, but was also a fun team-building experience. “The most gratifying part was the bonding experience,” said Orlova. “You get to know other volunteers very well when you’re all together for 24 hours straight and your one goal is to produce a video!”

The pro bono marathon also generated media coverage for filmanthropos and helped them develop their client base. Their “ProduceAthon” was mentioned in Forbes, GOOD Magazine, Social Earth and 3BL Media, and many of the 18 nonprofit applicants for the event are now current clients. 

For Rachel Sumekh, Executive Director of Swipes for the Homeless, a program that enables college students to donate their excess meal points to buy food for those in need, the “ProduceAthon” was a huge boon. “The video helps us communicate the impact of our work, makes our organization look edgier, and has already helped drive more traffic to our website” said Sumekh. Being the sole staff person for Swipes for the Homeless, she said, “We often don’t qualify for services from larger foundations or companies, but with filmanthropos’ focus on smaller nonprofits, we could qualify.” 

Indeed, the video will help raise visibility for Swipes, and strengthen the high-impact work it has started—in 2012-2013, its program raised $70,000 for meals that were donated through five food bank chapters in the Los Angeles area. 

The highly collaborative nature of the pro bono project also resulted in additional benefits for Swipes. “When you purchase a service from a vendor, it’s often a contractual relationship. With this pro bono project, we were able to develop real relationships with the volunteers, and with filmanthropos. That relationship has led to helpful connections—and to us securing more pro bono service from other businesses for our website and branding.”

The “ProduceAthon” was such as success that Jasmine plans to offer it as a pro bono opportunity every quarter to qualifying nonprofits, to continue her dream of purpose-driven filmmaking and storytelling.

Congrats to filmanthropos for taking the Billion + Change pledge, and for inspiring other social entrepreneurs to lead the change through pro bono!

Watch the video that filmanthropos created for Swipes on YouTube. Interested in applying for filmanthropos’ next “ProduceAthon” in March? Email [email protected]

Points of Light Corporate Institute February 3, 2014