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

March 17, 2011

A story-driven Web platform for communities

Shelbyville project kicks off with a series of ‘Welcoming’ videos

JD LasicaChances are you haven’t yet heard of Shelbyville, a small rural community in Tennessee, much less than the upcoming “Welcome to Shelbyville” documentary or the online project that is forging a pilot, or prototype, for communities to tell and share their own stories. So let me share my initial impressions of this remarkable, ambitious, exciting effort.

On Monday I was lucky enough to be a part of a “digital braintrust” of 20 progressive media and nonprofit representatives at the Bay Area Video Coalition headquarters convened by Active Voice, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that uses film, television and multimedia to spark social change.

We spent two hours reviewing the Shelbyville Multimedia project and offering ideas about how to finish it out and what to do differently next time. First, a quick overview:

miss-marilyn

Miss Marilyn, a retired public elementary school teacher who taught in Shelbyville for 34 years.

Active Voice conceived the vision of building a story-driven Web platform and brought together a team consisting of Free Range Studios, a creative services firm, and documentary filmmaker Kelly Whalen.

Over much of the past year, the parties combined efforts to create the ShelbyvilleMultimedia.org website while Kim A. Snyder directed and produced “Welcome to Shelbyville” (executive produced by the BeCause Foundation, in association with Active Voice) which has grown into an hourlong documentary that will air on ITVS’ “Independent Lens” series on PBS on May 24.

You can see the webisodes, produced by Active Voice in association with the BeCause Foundation, on the Shelbyville Multimedia channel on Vimeo. If you’re an educator, activist or community organization that wants to engage on a deeper level and host some of the webisodes on your own site or blog and invite conversations about the stories, head to the webisode discussion questions page.

What are your impressions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

‘Shelbyville': Stories about immigrant integration

Welcoming America is an umbrella organization that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born residents.

The Shelbyville project is a series of stories about immigrant integration. One of Active Voice’s objectives was to introduce people to Welcoming America, an umbrella organization that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born residents. It is overseeing “welcoming” initiatives in 14 states, including Welcoming Tennessee.

“They opened doors for us in Shelbyville and introduced us to other affiliates, who hosted community ‘sneak previews’ in October,” said Active Voice operations director Daniel Moretti.

Active Voice approached Irina Lee, the creator of First Person American, about working on a pilot based on the Welcoming Stories theme. The idea, Moretti said, was “to combine FPA’s aesthetic and authenticity with Active Voice’s need to attract user-contributed stories. We’re hoping to raise funds to keep going, to both send Irina to other cities, and to commission other artists to create new Welcoming Stories formats.”

You can see some of the Welcoming Stories on the Tumblr site created by Active Voice and Free Range.

The tone of the two sites is positive and uplifting. As Moretti told us: “We didn’t want to build an advocacy site but a site to help people take the next step by providing options for different levels of engagement.”

While the project took a lens to the issue of immigration in rural Shelbyville, Tenn., Moretti pointed out: “We’re media strategists, not immigrant integration specialists. We had a feeling that what was going on in Shelbyville would resonate with people in small towns and large cities across the country, and we’re eager to help them connect to these issues in a human and nuanced way. But Welcoming America is doing this important work for the long haul, and we hope the website will be a great vehicle for them.”

The story-driven Web platform that Active Voice and Free Range developed, then, is not just to showcase webisodes, parts of a documentary or even the story of Shelbyville. Active Voice sees it as an early pilot of how other communities can tell their stories in a deep, meaningful but easy and lightweight way, with the focus on individuals’ stories rather than forcing users to wade through a complex backstory. Continue reading