More charities should be using video to get their message across
For better or worse, the effect of the controversial Kony 2012 video, a short film created by the charity Invisible Children about Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony released last month, demonstrated the potential of film and the speed and effectiveness of social media for non-profit campaigns.
The people behind Invisible Children are filmmakers and controversy aside, its first 30-minute video has accrued over 100 million online views. That one video shot the campaign into news headlines and Twitter trends, got the attention and support of A-list celebrities and galvanised an army of supporters who began calling for the capture of a despot who, prior to the video, was unheard of to many.
The next generation of news consumers, charity donors and volunteers are finding their way to information, campaigns and opinions through their social media feeds.
And the next generation of newsmakers are those who know how make their stories ‘go viral’. Through striking images, beautiful words and moving music, film has the power to speak to audiences in a way that is uniquely affecting. So for non-profit organisations, filmmakers hold the key to distilling their core message into videos powerful enough to not only engage a global audience but also be easily shared on Facebook or Twitter.
I’ve been an avid volunteer for many years but I found that on entering the all-consuming TV industry, it became increasingly difficult to find spare time to offer to charitable causes. As I moved from contract to contract, I met more and more producers with both tenacity and talent, who were looking for a way to channel their energy and professional skills into something meaningful.
In December 2009, this finally happened for me. I was picked to be the media volunteer to go to Uganda with the charity, Child’s i Foundation, when it made the move to Kampala to set up its baby abandonment project there.
Working with Child’s i was an incredible opportunity to use the skills that I’d developed making TV to support and volunteer with a charity that relies on videos to communicate with its supporters and donors worldwide. The challenge of filmmaking in Africa – where power cuts regularly interrupt the editing process – was far more fulfilling than any production I’d ever worked on in the UK. It’s something I would encourage every filmmaker to dedicate their time and expertise to doing at least once in their career.
Child’s i capitalises on valuable production skills and through combining them with social media, it creates an effective model for communication with its global community. Its videos not only allow its supporters to keep up with the charity’s evolving journey but also enable the charity to activate its support network to fundraise in an emergency and save a baby’s life. In August 2010, Child’s i launched a campaign for baby Joey who needed to be flown to South Africa for life saving heart surgery. Within 38 hours, due to the power of video and social media, it had raised over £10,000 – enough to send him for the operation. This incredible feat was made possible through quick, smart filmmaking and activating global social media connections.
In a world where social media reigns supreme, it’s imperative for charities to create messages and content that gets re-posted and re-tweeted. Using professional filmmakers who are eager to give back is a mutually beneficial way to create awareness for a campaign and to make a real difference.
Claire Ratinon is a British filmmaker, living in New York. She is currently the co-ordinator for a non-profit intergenerational, after-school program called Old School Films. The program aims to teach filmmaking to young people and to encourage community cohesion by making the subjects of their films senior citizens from the local area