April 21, 2011

8 great examples of nonprofit storytelling


“A Glimmer of Hope – LTBH Feature – Austin 2009″

How to convey a powerful message with videos & photos

Target audience: Nonprofits, social enterprises, NGOs, foundations, cause organizations, Web publishers, small businesses.

JD LasicaAs regular readers know, I’ve been a longtime proponent of visual storytelling to advance the missions of nonprofits, cause organizations and businesses. (Heck, I co-founded Ourmedia.org before there was a YouTube.) People take action on behalf of a cause only when they feel an emotional connection, and yet nonprofits in particular are famously bad at telling their own stories.

What we tell people in our Socialbrite bootcamps and in our consulting work is this: Every nonprofit is now a media organization (the same goes for social enterprises and businesses). Never before have the tools of visual storytelling been so inexpensive, easy to use and accessible to the masses.

So why aren’t you taking advantage of visual storytelling yet? (Or are you? Tell us in the comments!)

There are dozens of ways to convey your story, and we’ve laid out lots of ways to get started — see the links at the bottom of this article.

Today we’d like to highlight a few best-of-breed examples of visual storytelling so that you can think about how to take a similar approach for your organization. At least one of the examples cited below should trigger an insight — an idea that resonates or an approach that you might consider using with your team or with a production partner.

Find people who encapsulate what your core objective is all about — and convey their stories with power, genuineness, passion and humility

Remember, it’s not about the tools or the technology. It’s about finding people who encapsulate what your core objective is all about — and conveying their stories with power, genuineness, passion and humility. Some can be elaborate productions, with narration, titling and musical score all working together. Others can be as simple as holding up a video-capable smartphone to capture a moment.

One you have a visual story, or several, that you can draw upon, you’ll be able to begin using it in your public outreach: on your website or blog, on your Facebook page, in your annual report, in your email newsletters. And don’t forget to enter contests like the DoGooder Awards, TechSoup Storytelling Challenge or CurrentTV’s just-ended The Current Cause, where $15,000 in prizes will be awarded.

Here are seven great examples of nonprofit storytelling:

1/ Classic video advocacy


“Breathe,” by Repower America

advocacyLast month’s 5th annual DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards, presented by YouTube and See3 Communications — See3 is at the forefront of nonprofit video storytelling — drew 1,350 submissions from 750 nonprofits, with 16 finalists and four winners.

Among the winners were:
• Best thrifty video: It’s In Your Hands, by Watershed Management Group
• Best large organization video: A Public Service Announcement Not Approved by AJWS, by the American Jewish World Service

Some entries I liked better included:
Breathe, by Repower America (1:33, embedded above)
• The funny, celebrity-studded Seriously, Serious PSA (featuring B.J. Novak & Friends) by malarianomore (1:01)

Sign up to receive See3’s Daily DoGooder: a daily cause video delivered to your in-box.

And here were the 2010 winners. Observe how other organizations are telling their stories — which style did you like: earnest, funny, polished, grassroots?

2/ Digital stories using photos & narration


“Mountaintop Library Expands Horizons,” by Room to Read

digital storiesI’ve been involved in the digital storytelling movement since 2004. A vastly underutilized medium, digital storytelling uses photos, video, film or found materials, combined with voice-over narration, to convey powerful, evocative stories with a rich emotional dimension.

Our in-depth tutorials Digital storytelling from soup to nuts and Digital storytelling: A tutorial in 10 easy steps offers some great examples. But for a simpler way to do this, look no further than the winner of February’s TechSoup Storytelling Challenge.

The first place winner, Mountaintop Library Expands Horizons, by Room to Read (embedded above), took advantage of visually stunning photos taken in Nepal and weaved together a simple 60-second story about the San Francisco nonprofit’s global literacy mission. Nicely done — with no video at all. This is something your organization can do on its own, no? Continue reading