Storytelling through Film

On Thursday, October 13th, GlobalGIving co-hosted a training on storytelling through film with Rob Holmes from the Green Living Project. Listen to the recording here. See below for a complete summary.

Storytelling is conveying events in words, images and sounds.  Your organization can use storytelling to educate, engage, and captivate supporters.

In today’s busy, multi-media world, film is a great way to share your organization’s story in a lasting and memorable way. Studies show that people are more likely to remember content when it is conveyed in an interesting and unique way.

Telling your story

So, where do you start? First, decide what you would like to accomplish with your film. Outline your goals. Determine who you are trying to reach. What types of stories would they like to hear? Consider involving your supporters in the filmmaking process. Use social media to ask them what they’d like to learn about your organization.

Next, pick a story that demonstrates your organization’s passion and drive. Take a look at the history and culture of your organization. Think about the staff that work with you, the organizations you collaborate with, and the people that you help. Reflect on the challenges that you’ve faced and the ways that you’ve grown and evolved.  Consider what makes a story great:


  • Unique and different. Tell a story that’s never been heard before. Help people understand what makes your organization special.
  • Short and simple. Tempt people to want more. Use your short film to entice viewers to visit your website, meet your staff, sign up for your newsletter, etc. Don’t try to tell your viewers everything about your organization. Just give them enough information that they’ll want to come back for more! Rob recommends that you keep your video to 3-5 minutes, or shorter.
  • Educational yet entertaining. Short films are certainly a teaching opportunity but make sure to captivate your audience by making them laugh and smile. People will keep watching if they’re enjoying themselves.
  • Familiar and personal. Make sure that your audience can relate to your story. Give them the necessary context to understand the circumstances. Tie the story to something relevant in your viewers’ lives. Demonstrate the emotion and passion behind the story, making it personal for the storyteller and the viewer.
  • Positive and uplifting. At Green Living Project, Rob and his colleagues like to share positive stories to show how the organizations they’re highlighting are making a difference.
  • Transparent and honest. Be prepared to be up front and open about your organization’s challenges and struggles. Don’t try to hide information from your viewers. Audiences respond well to transparency and authenticity.

Once you have your story laid out, get to filming! Nowadays, there are lots of cheap ways to make films. Digital cameras are often equipped to take short films. Most laptops even have built in webcams! Get creative to shoot a film on a tight budget.

Looking for help with editing?  There are some fantastic resources available to you online. Visit, among other sites for online training and support. Or, consider hiring a video-savvy college intern to help or post a volunteer request online.

What is Green Living Project?

Green Living Project makes documentary-style films about sustainable development work being done by nonprofits and companies throughout the globe and promotes those short films in North America through events, television, social media, and more.

Watch the training recording for case studies of stories that Green Living Project has told through film. Watch some of Green Living Project’s short videos here.

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