Documenting nonprofits’ good work

Michael Hoffman

There’s a point in every fundraising dinner when someone comes up to a podium and tells the audience how the organization has made an impact on his or her life.

“I am a product of this organization,” says a confident 15-year old boy.  “I used to have trouble getting along with my family and focusing in school, but thanks to this place I’m now a leader in my community.”

That’s a great thing, but imagine how much more powerful his message would be if the audience could see his transformation through video.  What if there were video footage to back it up?  It’s an opportunity for the kind of storytelling that gets people involved and wanting to help an organization grow.

As the infrastructure of TV and the Internet continue to come together, we can expect to see increasing fragmentation in media distribution.  That means your website is essentially its own channel.  Video is gold, and it’s vital that your organization starts documenting its work and putting it out there.

Here are some tips for getting on the road toward documentation:

Incorporate video into your work

You need to adopt a “culture of documentation.”  That means sitting with people who think about strategy and using a calendar to figure out where important events lie.

What do you want to capture?  When will a video record help your communications?  When will a professional be necessary, and when can the organization film on its own?

If necessary, you should expand the scope of a project so that it is being done with establishing a media library in mind.

Start a media library

Film now and you’ll find a use for it later – you never know when you might need it.

Getting original footage from a vendor is a valuable first step because they’ll give you their raw footage in addition to a final, polished product.  For that reason, dinner videos are a great opportunity to jump into documentation.  You can always reuse and repurpose that footage for other videos in the future.

Document, document, document

It’s not just that your organization needs to tell its story, it’s that you need more stuff than ever before.  There are countless ways to distribute your media and that means you need a continual stream of things to show.

Think outside the box

Documenting doesn’t always have to be professional.  And documentation doesn’t have to be all video.  Your organization should invest in a digital lens reflex camera and take photos on a regular basis.  These photos can be shared easily on sites like Flickr and can always be turned into a simple slideshow with narration.

Michael Hoffman is CEO of See 3 Communications, a Chicago-based company that creates online video and Internet marketing initiatives for nonprofits.  He can be reached at or through the See3 website.

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