Three inspiring charities who have mastered digital storytelling

| Robin Forrester

These days the idea of ‘storytelling’ is everywhere. It’s become a buzzword in the corporate world and everyone seems to be banging the drum about the power of stories. But there are real and important benefits of using stories in public services, social enterprise and charity work.

Firstly, stories have the ability to inspire an emotional response in an overwhelmingly busy world. There are now well over 165,000 registered charities in the UK, and that number is rising by around 5,000 a year. With so many valuable and important causes, it’s becoming more and more difficult for charities to cut through the noise and hold people’s attention. A powerful, human story can help bring an issue to life and demonstrate how donations can make a real difference to someone’s life.

Storytelling is also something any charity or social enterprise can do, no matter the size. Most do not have the budget for big advertising campaigns. But with digital storytelling, organisations of any size have an opportunity to form meaningful connections with their audience. And if you’re story is powerful enough, social media allows people to help tell it for you. 

And finally, storytelling can be much more than just an effective way of spreading a message. The best social enterprises and charities have learnt that letting someone tell their own story can in itself be therapeutic and empowering. By just giving someone a chance to explain their experience and feelings, we can give overlooked people a voice and a chance to be heard.

Here are three examples of charities who have mastered the art of digital storytelling.

1. Mind

Mental health charity, Mind, know how to tell an impactful story. They encourage all their fundraisers to grab their phone and record their journeys, as well as asking people who have experienced mental health problems to write a blog. More than just a clever and cheap communications strategy, these blogs let people open up about their problems and break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

Read the full story here

2. GlobalGiving

The GlobalGiving Storytelling Project has been working with organizations in East Africa for over a decade to collect tens of thousands of narratives on any community project people wanted to talk about. Thousands of people were asked a very simple question: “Tell us about a time when a person or an organization tried to change something in your community”. The result? A complex collection of perspectives on aid projects, people’s needs and innovative ideas for solutions.

3. Crisis

Crisis brilliantly use the power of storytelling to raise awareness and challenge reductive stereotypes about homelessness. Their Everybody In campaign shared real stories from a diverse range of people who are homeless in the UK. It’s a simple idea — a powerful photo and a firsthand narrative — but the result was important. The campaign showed that although there isn’t a ‘typical’ homeless person, there are typical causes and common solutions, and by coming together, we can do something about it.

So even if ‘storytelling’ is becoming a buzzword it remains the best chance for charities and social enterprises to engage their audience and empower the people they serve. For smaller organisations in particular, storytelling opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Cover photo by David Kennedy

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