When is the point in a project’s life that you can say that was success?
How do you know you’re making a difference—that your programming touches people’s lives and makes them think?
What does having fun and learning at the same time look like?
Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) is a national organization based in Lincoln, NE. We work with American Indian and Alaska Native media makers to deliver programming to PBS stations. Major funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It’s a fine line we walk as we balance how much our organization and individual staff members give back to our local community, when the nation and over 560 federally recognized Tribes make up our “service area.”
We decided to do a local film festival.
With the Mary Reipma Ross Media Arts Center and other Nebraska venues, we brought 37 Native films (both features and documentaries) to the VisionMaker Film Festival last fall as our fourth biennial film festival. The six filmmakers that we brought to Nebraska spoke to high school and colleges groups, in addition to their Q & A session after the screening.
We were also pleased to bring in Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian American Media, and Laguna Pueblo potter Josie Seymour. Michelle Kosmicki, from Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (PBS and NPR in Nebraska), helped us evaluate the moviegoers’ experience.
Remember the old days? You wrote a letter to your funder thanking them for the money and told them about the wonderful things you did. Now they want proof.
Here’s what we found out:
Film festival participants were generally female, with 51.5 percent reporting their gender as female, 48 percent reporting their gender as male, and 0.5 percent reporting their gender as other.
The age of film festival participants were 25.6 percent age 50–64; 18 percent age 35–49; 15.2 percent age 18–24; 14.5 percent age 17 and younger; 12 percent age 65 and older; 11.1 percent age 25–34; and 3.7 percent did not give their year of birth.
The vast majority of participants were from Nebraska (85 percent). Eleven other states represented 9.7 percent of participants.
When asked if they would attend more screenings, 57.4 percent said yes.
Word-of-Mouth (27 percent) was the most effective marketing tool followed by “other” (24.6 percent) and email announcements at 18.4 percent.
So what? The arts are much more than statistics.
What did people learn? Here are some responses:
- The struggle to reclaim cultural identity in the face of adversity, institutionalized injustices, and discrimination. The film also proposed and advocated our responsibility to promote the truth, correct past injustices, and to uphold the sacred cultural values.
- An awareness of stereotypes and how we need to break them down so our children know the true story.
- An introduction to a subject I was otherwise quite ignorant about.
- As a young indigenous filmmaker, this inspired me to tell my stories.
- I’m glad I brought my eight-year old daughter. I know that she was exposed to much needed information.
- I need to work hard so I can go to college. College is important.
- I wish more teenagers and parents could see this film.
So, was our funders’ money well spent? We think so.
The overall project goal is to raise local awareness about this national organization based right here in their backyard!
Six months after the festival what difference has this made? Beyond the numbers, awareness of our work in the area is increasing.
How do we measure that? Is it the number of invitations to speak at service clubs? Is it the amount of website clicks or re-tweets?
Emotional impact for NAPT is just as important as the number of people watching our programs. If we can inspire our youth to graduate from high school, we are successful.
If we can help revitalize Native languages through a mobile app, we are successful.
If we can raise awareness of the social and environment issues facing tribes, we’ve done our job.
How do you measure success?