Being The Change We Want To See

Longtime Ten Thousand Villages volunteer and current board member Taylor Overstreet wrote this article for MISSION DRIVEN, the blog for Greenlights for NonProfit Success.  Taylor shared her excitement (and OURS) for the Austin Fair Trade Film Festival and detailed the process of planning such an event.


Posted on May 7, 2010 by Taylor Overstreet

Disclaimer: I’m a longtime volunteer and current board member at Ten Thousand Villages of Austin, so please forgive me in advance for swelling with pride during this post!

For nonprofit fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages of Austin, the big idea was a film festival to raise awareness about fair trade.  A few months ago, board member and volunteer Sharon Matheny had the idea to hold the first annual fair trade film festival in Austin, in conjunction with World Fair Trade Day, held on the second Saturday in May each year.  Ten Thousand Villages of Austin has celebrated for the past several years, but this year, we decided to go big.

But first, we needed to answer three big questions – what, who and how?

1. What do we want to accomplish? Awareness? Fundraising? Recruiting? For this event, awareness was our primary goal. World Fair Trade Day has connected us year after year to people and celebrations all over the world. It’s a special opportunity to celebrate with our local community and to build awareness about fair trade products and the artisans behind them. There are still lots of folks who don’t know about fair trade, so it was important for us to educate in an informal way that is fun for everyone. Film seemed like a natural conduit because of the vibrant film community that already exists in Austin. We decided to include a panel discussion following each film to create a true dialogue as part of raising awareness.

2. Who should be involved? We love our local partners, and the idea of a film festival in Austin just didn’t make sense at any other place than the Alamo Drafthouse. Our timing coincided perfectly with the campaign to secure the Fair Trade Towndesignation for Austin, and that group has played a tremendous role. We turned to our existing partnerships and made new relationships in the process to secure sponsorships from Texas Coffee TradersHandmade ExpressionsThe Progressive PopulistTransfair USANovicaTexas Fair Trade CoalitionEastside CafeDominican JoeNada MooMaine Root Handcrafted Beverages, Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera,Austin Local & Fair TradeEthical CityMarigold-Gateway to IndiaFair Trade a Day, and Etnik Fashions. Finally, nothing happens without our volunteers. They have been instrumental leading up to the big day and will be a big part of our success.

3. How do we get there? While the film festival is not a fundraiser, we needed funds to make it happen. We set up a KickStarter fundraising page and set a modest fundraising goal that basically covered our costs. We asked a local designer to donate his time designing a logo for our festival t-shirts, and our fabulous volunteer crew galvanized into action to spread the word via Facebook, e-mail, and good old-fashioned word of mouth.

In an effort to build more connections with the nonprofit community, Ten Thousand Villages of Austin recently became a member of Greenlights. Big ideas aren’t so daunting when you have the support that this community provides. It’s our first time trying this experiment, but that’s what big ideas are all about. How big? The festival, the first of its kind, includes three documentary films, panel discussions, a Fair Trade Market, artisan demonstrations, and (because it’s Austin) live music.

What’s your big idea?