MHP on the Foundation Center Blog: Building Capacity with Video Storytelling

Documentary allows honest, and meaningful visual stories to be told about real people. It sounds simple and obvious, but in practice many organizations forget this principle as they communicate with stakeholders.

Originally published on July 21, 2015 on the Foundation Center's blog.

Meridian Hill Pictures was created in 2010 to equip diverse communities with accessible tools, resources and training to create meaningful documentary stories from within their communities. Documentary is a medium that allows emotionally compelling, honest, and meaningful visual stories to be told about real people. It sounds simple and obvious, but in practice many organizations forget this principle as they communicate with stakeholders.

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The Importance of Video Storytelling

Only five years later, visual storytelling has gone from a 'nice to have' to an essential means of communication and community engagement for individuals, nonprofits, businesses — and especially for young people. Social media platforms have created a ubiquitous highway for exchanging visual stories. Media literacy is no longer a specialty field, but something that most professionals need to have to thrive in their jobs, and most organizations and businesses need to be successful. Yet the opportunities for organizations and individuals to learn how to plan, shoot, and edit stories relevant to their life and work are still limited.

We understand that most staff do not have much room in their schedule to produce videos alongside all of their other responsibilities, and we don't intend to make people's jobs harder. What we try to do is the opposite. If you're a communications staff person with a goal of sharing the impact of your work, we are providing the tools to easily capture, edit and share simple videos in a quick amount of time to allow you to reach a larger portion of your audience quickly and in a deeper way.

Why Produce Visual Stories

If you work in development, our workshops provide the ability to create simple and strong visual stories to accompany grants and fundraising campaigns. Our process can be translated into many different formats, from profiles on communities served by your organization, to video staff bios, client video testimonials, to documenting events. Once you are trained on how to effectively capture in real-time and quickly turn around meaningful video content, you quickly become more media literate and capable of creating your own impactful content without needing to call the professionals each and every time.

Videos created by our workshop participants have resulted in their organizations raising more money, increasing the size of their audience, awareness and branding around their services, and empowering staff and community members to dictate how the story of their organization is told. Creating a culture of storytelling within your organization is easier than ever before, and we hope we can serve as a valuable resource for anyone working toward this wildly important goal.

Want to Learn More?

For more on telling your organization's story, join the Foundation Center-Washington, DC on Wednesday, August 12 for Video Storytelling for Nonprofits. In this program you'll learn the three phases of video storytelling from storyboarding to editing and how to film interviews and create supporting visuals with a simple iPad setup.

BRANDON KRAMER is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, educator and a co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Brandon’s career is focused on directing documentary films and teaching others how to create their own films.

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