Far From Finished Campaign

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Far From Finished Story #1 - HR Generic from Houston Responds on Vimeo

This is the first post in our new Storytellers Series. The series shares stories of ReFrame Association members organizations and how they use stories to grow their mission. It is inspired by this year's ReFrame Conference theme, "ReFrame {your/the/our} Story."

It’s been more than a year and a half since Hurricane Harvey, and if you drive around Houston or its surrounding suburbs, you might not notice the evidence of the remaining crisis. Houses may look well manicured on the outside, but in reality, neighborhoods are littered with houses gutted on the inside or in need of significant repair. Even locals are surprised when they learn that tens of thousands of families around them are still displaced or living in damaged homes and lack the resources needed to rebuild. 

Since Harvey, many organizations, churches, and individuals have joined together to collectively respond to the disaster in an inspiring display of unity that the city has never seen. The massive piles of debris had served as constant reminders of the devastation; as they were cleared and media coverage began to die down, so did the number of volunteers participating in the recovery effort. 

Houston Responds' church coalitions, representing less than 10% of Houston’s churches, repaired more houses than all other volunteer-based recovery organizations combined. We knew that even a modest increase in local church participation could make a significant difference in the lives of our disaster-affected neighbors. So, Houston Responds and our regional disaster response church coalitions launched the "Far From Finished" campaign in hopes of engaging or re-engaging congregations to expedite recovery for families.

We designed the campaign to be communicated through the platforms that already exist in local churches: in their Sunday morning services, on their social media, and in their various ministries. With so much work to still be done, we felt that calling the campaign “Far From Finished” was a simple way of communicating our message along with the phrase, “turning houses back into homes again for families just like yours.” 

We wanted to make it easy for churches to get the word out to their congregations. We developed promotional materials for our coalitions to provide to their member churches with the primary call-to-action being “volunteer in your community today” following by instruction on how to sign up. Church volunteers can download videos, access resources like flyers, written stories, and even access B-Roll (stock video film), so that volunteers and churches can create their own videos to share with their communities.

Throughout the recovery work, Houston Responds has heard so many stories of heartache that would inspire anyone to want to help. We wanted a way to capture these stories to inspire others, so we developed several campaign videos sharing the stories of families still trying to recover. Since churches have begun showing these videos on Sunday mornings, we have seen an increase in volunteer engagement as congregations are becoming more aware of the crisis and ways they can help. One local pastor in one of the hardest hit areas of Greater Houston told us that their church had four volunteers participate in a coalition workday event, but after showing a “Far From Finished” campaign story video in their Sunday services, they had 30 people show up to volunteer at the next event. 

While no one would have wished for Hurricane Harvey, we believe that it created a unique opportunity that we do not want to waste. Although people have many different ways of serving or volunteering, we like to say that crisis is the microwave that turns good work into a transformative event for everyone involved. It opens doors to loving our neighbors that would have happened in no other way and has the potential to transform entire communities. Houston Responds mission is to unite, empower, and mobilize churches to respond to the crisis and love their neighbors.

As the “Far From Finished” campaign continues, and we develop more story videos, we hope to put a face to the crisis and inspire people to respond. We want congregations to know that recovery work is “Far From Finished, but together we can make a difference.

You can see an amazing example of a volunteer church using the campaign tools to share a written story here: 

            She sat on her dining room table with her German Shepherd
            and waited for the water to recede, but it only continued to 
            rise. Once it reached the table, she grabbed some towels and
            blankets and retreated to the attic amid the sound of rescue 
            helicopters all around her. 

           “I kept hearing helicopters, I kept hearing them tell us to get 
            on the roof, but I couldn’t get on the roof if I wanted to.” 

            Once daylight struck, Wendy moved outside to be
            more visible for the rescue crews, and was picked up by boat 
            and taken to a nearby church.

            -Clear Creek Community Church Blog

Read the full post from Clear Creek Community Church here. Houston Responds then links the stories (written by the churches) to their blog. 

Far From Finished is an amazing example of how a home repair organization is using storytelling to drive their mission, volunteer recruitment, and issues forward. Learn more; check out the Far From Finished Campaign page

As a marketing and communications professional, Duane Theriot has the opportunity to develop and implement engaging and effective communications strategies helping both non-profits and businesses grow. Duane has also served as a branding consultant, focused on establishing brand clarity for organizations both internally and externally. He is currently the Communications Director for Houston Responds, helping raise awareness and support as they mobilize churches to engage in the long-term recovery from Hurricane Harvey and preparedness for future disasters.