How to Translate Your Programs Into Compelling Videos
When High Water Women first came to us, the first thing they said was, “We want a video about our program.”
We cringed a little bit. As we described in The Starter Guide to Non-Profit Video Storytelling, many non-profits fall into what we call “The Program Trap.” Their videos focus too much on what they do, instead of why they do it.
Let’s be honest. Videos about programs end up putting people to sleep instead of making them feel something.
We’ve learned that compelling, shareable, money raising videos are about people, not programs.
So we did some brainstorming about how we could create a video that would achieve their goals (recruiting donors and volunteers).
When we explained that we wanted to create a video that would demonstrate their impact and be emotional, powerful, and character driven – they loved the idea, but didn’t think it was possible.
They said that the topic of financial literacy isn’t emotional and that the impact wouldn’t be readily visible.
Here’s how we were able to turn a financial program into an emotional story:
1. Find a Protagonist
A program is not a protagonist. Find one individual whose story (even if combined with others) demonstrates a clear transformation. Someone who takes a journey which leads to them to see the world in a new way.
2. Lead With A Story
Make your viewer feel they are learning the story of an individual (not a program). That’s how you pull them in. That’s how you keep them watching.
Begin with vivid details of what the protagonists’ life was like before they were affected by your org. This is not about guilt, not about pity. This is about empathy and connection.
Make your audience feel invested in people, otherwise they have no reason to care about your program.
3. Leave the Board Members out
You may feel tempted to fill your video with board members and experts because you can trust that they’ll explain the program articulately and offer credibility.
But real credibility can only come from those you serve. And your goal as a non-profit is to make people feel a connection with the work you are doing not with a group of board members.
That means that you need to let the voices of those served by the program ‘drive the train’ of the video.
Because while partipants are more risky- they speak honestly, they aren’t trained with your preferred language – their reflections on the impact of your program on their life is the ultimate proof that what you are doing matters.
And it makes your audience feel something.
For this video, we spent 3 days interviewing experts and board members, but each of them only got one line in the final video. We spent 2 hours doing interviews with the participants of the program- and they ended up driving the piece.
4. Focus on Moments of Transformation
In order avoid a dry, information driven video- we asked all the participants questions about moments.
Asking people to describe how they’ve come to their new understanding of the world rather than just how things are now, allows you to wrap up their insight/change in a story. Plus, these moments illuminate what makes your program effective/unique.
5. Ask Questions that Lead to Storytelling
A great way to do this is to start questions with: “Can you tell me about a moment when you….?”
Also, when you wrap several questions up in one, people are more likely to speak in complete sentences and tell stories.
For example: “Are there any moments from the class that stand out in your mind? When did your perspective start to shift? Were there any ‘ah-ha’ moments?”
or “Where were you at when you began the course? Tell me about what you remember about that period of your life. Are there any moments that you remember vividly?”
6. Include Shareable Stories
Find stories that have telling details that are memorable.
After the shoot, pay attention to which stories are you naturally inclined to share.
Here, there were plenty of anecdotes from the participants, but I noticed that there were 2 stories that I naturally shared with my friends after the shoot.
These were: first, Carlos’ story of how he taught his friend material from the class. Secondly, how Carlos has saved enough money to visit his mom, who he hasn’t seen since he was 7 years old. The head of High Water Women relayed that she had shared them too.
This is important because you want something about your work to stick with your audience.
If you can include a compelling story that’s memorable and easy to share, your volunteers, donors and staff will have a story they can share with others to explain why they support your work.
The End Result
When we sent the ED of High Water Women the first draft, this was her response:
“When we started the project, I didn’t know whether a film about the program could be that personal and show how the program can change someone’s life, but this film does that. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Tonight, the video will be screened at the High Water Women gala.
We look forward to seeing the response!