Tips & Tricks - Telling Stories Through Short Videos

10 years ago, who would tell that social media or the www platform would be the source of most of what we know and the platform to communicate most of what we do – professionally and socially? Very few of us, if any. With the various social media platforms and the surge of people having mobile phones – more so in Africa – communication has become instant and fairly affordable for everyone. Clicking pictures and recording videos on the internet is so easy these days and as proximal as on your mobile phone.

While working in Eastern Uganda, I was part of the Sponsorship team that piloted a project that was aimed at making a shift from narrative and still picture to motion picture story-telling. Visual storytelling is a way to tell your story through videos.

Many NGOs are steadily making a shift from narrative story telling in the form of MSCs to visual storytelling. They are now focusing on ethical photography and videography in their fundraising campaigns also. It should be ethical because it should have at its core, the needs of the persons in question to ensure that the confidentiality of beneficiary information and consent are of paramount importance.

For NGOs, storytelling can and is a route towards achieving a host of things, like communicating your story to the world, appealing the donors to donate, telling the impact of your work, and asking people to connect and volunteer.

Here are a few tips for making a short video to tell a story and achieve all of the above:  Remember, there is no right or wrong here, all that matters is getting the message across in its true spirit.

§  First step, find a person or story that puts in a nutshell your program intent or objective and or achievement. Consider conducting an in-depth interview to understand the most significant change in the life of the person who is a beneficiary. Ensure that the key element in the video is an emotional touch to it (via a story), plus a ‘call-to-action’. The video must start at a question or an eye-catching figure basically something that intrigues the person watching the video and makes him/her watch further and think about the issue.

§  Second step, it may take one through the story of the people impacted, in a positive tone and outlook. Keep the people at the centre. Let the people speak for themselves, about how program has made a change to their lives, the “befores”- and- “afters”-, smiles, positive changes, their dreams and aspirations, what they think about their future now. Include lot of quotes while recording the video. Capture the little moments of emotional expressions of the person being interviewed. These will make the story and the video richer.

Optionally, the video may also feature the NGO staff or field workers bonding with the beneficiaries, the field workers speaking about the program, how they feel, their day-to-day activities. In the end, it may show the overall ‘impact’ of the NGO, the big picture, in terms of numbers, total beneficiaries, etc.

§  Last step, but not the least; it should have a ‘call-to-action’, like how the donor may support, what the person watching the video can do to make a contribution. Please give the contact details like website, social media page links, address, contact number in the last second of the video. Once the video is ready, you would want to make it reach the desired audience, and expanding its audience also. Share the video(s) on your websites and social media accounts. Make sure you also inter-link the social media platform content.


Conveying a powerful story through the medium of videos can be very effective and appealing to the donors also. Remember that the essence of the video is in the story captured, and NOT SO MUCH in the tools and techniques of videography. A 7-minute video recorded on a simple mobile phone camera can go viral; can get you visibility and even new donors.

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