April 22, 2013

Not too late to enter TechSoup’s Digital Storytelling Challenge

A winning entry in the 2012 TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge.

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, video producers, marketing professionals, general public.

JD LasicaEvery spring about this time TechSoup does an amazing thing for the nonprofit community: It reminds us about the importance that visual storytelling plays in advancing causes and missions. And it helps us discover and tell our own stories by showcasing the best of the best in its Digital Storytelling Challenge. (The contest prizes aside, the acclaim that comes with being awarded one of the top award winners is certainly worthwhile.)


If you have a great video that you’ve created over the past year, or if you think you can pull one together on short notice, be aware that you have nine days left to enter your video in the contest.

As TechSoup says about the competition: “Without a good story, you’re just another cause in the crowd. But a good story also needs to be told in just the right way. Digital storytelling amps up your message with technology and powerful images.” Continue reading

October 9, 2012

Video for your cause: Get giddy over Viddy

How 15-second videos are taking advocacy campaigning to the next level

This is the third part of a series on how nonprofits can use video. Also see:
• Part 1: What to consider when investing in video
• Part 2: 7 top video editing tools for nonprofits

Guest post by Mike Kondratick
Director of Strategy, See3 Communications

Nothing tells the real, impactful human stories of actual constituents like video. In the years that I spent as an advocacy program director, collecting user-generated video from our supporters – advocate stories, testimonials, and messages to legislators – was always high on the priority list.

These programs, no matter how well conceived or how good our intentions, were always difficult to manage. Folks would use a variety of ways to capture the video: Flip cams, their laptop’s camera, their smartphone, etc. The video got back to us in different ways: email, links to YouTube pages, posted to our Facebook fan page, etc. Organizing the footage to make the desired impression on potential advocates and/or legislators was a time suck. And, regardless of how well we crafted message points for our supporters to simplify the process and make it less stressful, the video that came back had varying levels of usability. In short, these programs were a hot mess. Continue reading

May 2, 2012

An engaging, uplifting nonprofit promo video

Code for America from Inkerman Road on Vimeo.

Code for America: 5 tips on upping your video game

Lauren MajorCode for America, a nonprofit that uses technology to transform local governments, boasts a creative, compelling promotional video that not only clearly describes its message but also engages its viewers to get involved. In just five simple steps, any nonprofit can follow its example.

Be human and personal

1Be sure to make a personal connection early in the video. Many organizations and causes have a cohort of motivated, smiling people behind it. Bring these people to the forefront and show how upbeat and promising working for the cause is! Code for America illustrates its work environment by interviewing employees about what part of the job and cause they like. People are human and social creatures and are more inclined to stick with a video if they can relate to the on-screen subjects.

Use captivating visuals

2Watching a talking head is no fun for anyone. But listening to someone speak while looking at colorful flowers or a fun work environment is far more interesting. The supplemental footage in a video that does not capture a talking head is called b-roll. For example, Code for America’s video displays a shot of the office while founder Jennifer Pahlka speaks over it. Continue reading

March 16, 2012

Come to the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge

“Mountaintop Library Expands Horizons,” by Room to Read

JD LasicaIf you’re in the Bay Area, join me in 12 days at the 3rd Annual TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge. I was at last year’s event — where Room to Read grabbed top honors for the digital story above — and may hand out an award or two this year.

This year’s contest received 250 submissions from all over the globe, showing a flowering of talent and creativity. Check out the full playlist of videos on YouTube and gallery of photo sets on Flickr.

What: TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge Awards & Screening Party
When: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 7 p.m. Pacific
In person: TechSoup Headquarters, 525 Brannan St., San Francisco
Online: Live-streamed on Facebook and in Second Life
Hashtag on Twitter: #tsdigs
RSVP today!

In person and online

The ceremony is being billed as a “red carpet” event! Watch the live stream if you can’t be there in person. Winners, chosen by a panel of expert judges and the community, will receive products from TechSoup’s donor partners Cisco, Adobe, Flickr Citrix, Sliderocket, Blazon,SurveyMonkey and more.

You’ll also get to meet some of the expert judges, see dozens of the best videos and photo stories, and connect with fellow digital storytellers. Light refreshments will be provided. Hope to see you there!

September 22, 2011

How to make cause marketing video that doesn’t suck


10 tips you need to know before picking up that camera

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, educators, video producers, Web publishers, storytellers, individuals.

Guest post by Steve Stockman
Writer/director/producer, Custom Productions, Inc.

Stockman headshot Videos are made out of passion you have for your cause — the people you are helping, the changes that need to be made, the story that has to be told. They’re a powerful cause marketing tool. But no matter how good your cause is, one truth stands between you and successful communication: Nobody watches bad video. A poorly done video — one that bores people to the point of clicking away — gives you no chance to inspire, to inform, ask for donations, or share your passion. And if nobody watches, you might as well not bother.

The good news: stories about people, struggle, challenges and passion are entertaining — as long as you know how not to push your audience away with a lame video. Turns out that with a little bit of awareness, planning and practice, you too can make video that doesn’t suck.

Here are 10 things you need to know:

1The audience comes first. What kind of experience is your video providing for the audience? If it isn’t going to take them on a fun or emotional ride, maybe your project should be a memo instead. Give the audience a good time and they’ll love you. And vice versa.

2Video shines at communicating motion and emotion. Facts and figures? Not so much. It’s a human thing — as animals, we’re wired to pay attention to things that move (Food! Danger!) and the communications of the tribe (Is he going to hit me? Does she want sex?). If what you have to say is best said with charts and lists, it may just not be good video material.

3A good video can be summed up in a single sentence. That sentence should consist of a noun, a verb and a result. “Our executive director” is not a video. “Our executive director confronts congresspeople on the street to ask about Global Warming” is.

4Think in shots. You won’t see a lot of long, rambling shots on TV. That’s because a video needs detail and action to hold our attention. Don’t run your camera non-stop. Instead, find something interesting. Aim. Shoot. And, when it stops being interesting, stop shooting and point somewhere else. Your short shots will add up to a shorter, more professional video. Continue reading

August 9, 2011

16 tips for making video interviews come alive

nonprofit video


How your nonprofit can capture the best stories on camera

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, educators, video producers, Web publishers, storytellers, individuals.

This is part 2 of a two-part series on video storytelling. Also see part 1:
How to find amazing, powerful stories for your nonprofit video

By Lindsay Oberst
Socialbrite staff

Lindsay OberstStories are a great tool, which nonprofits too often don’t take advantage of. Whether you’re running a campaign or conveying your organization’s mission by spotlighting the people you help, you should be thinking about how to find stories that move people to action.

Once you uncover those stories, it can be hard to get people to tell them on camera and to get the details needed to make an awesome, powerful story. But by following the suggestions below, you can come away with great visual stories that should resonate with your community. And remember, a photo collage with a voiceover can be just as effective as a traditional video.

The following are tips from people who regularly make videos for social good, including Chris Yates of Huddle Productions, Cara Jones of Storytellers for Good, Tritia Pocci, who has created strategy for marketing media content, and Danielle Bernstein of Clear Films.

1Understand your goal. Think about what you want to accomplish with the video: Enlighten people about a cause? Move them to action? Don’t muddy it up with multiple missions. Have a plan.

2“Research, research, research,” Pocci said. Take the time to be inspired, know your subject and figure out what will work in your video.

“Interviews can take on a life of their own, and sometimes that is where the magic happens.”
— Tritia Pocci

3Keep it really simple. “Start with a simple storyline, get clear about the message you want to communicate and visualize the most concise way to convey this message through an interview beforehand,” Pocci said.

4 Don’t bring notes to the video session. This will help the person on camera feel more at ease and will cut down on distractions. “Subconsciously they’ll think they’re being interviewed and they’ll clam up,” Yates said. So just memorize a few key points that you want to cover. Adds Pocci: “Interviews can take on a life of their own, and sometimes that is where the magic happens.”

nonprofit video storytelling

5Don’t have the person look directly at the camera if your subject will be sitting down. Place yourself to the left or right and have them look at you. This will help them feel more comfortable as they talk.

6Work with only a two-person crew: a videographer and an interviewer. “I generally start these conversations while the videographer is setting up and just have him or her tap me on the shoulder when the camera is rolling,” Jones said. But remember: You can be your own crew, too, and do a one-on-one interview.

7Use people who want to be on camera. “They are generally the most articulate and comfortable,” Jones said. Continue reading