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I’m going to say upfront, this is an ideas post. It’s based on AJ Leon’s digital storytelling case studies as told to the F&P Forum last week.

It’s about changing the traditional model of storytelling from polished, charity-generated print stories to raw, real-time beneficiary-generated digital content.

Because I think it’s easy to dismiss AJ Leon’s digital storytelling model, I wanted to offer some ideas on how it could be adapted to your non-profit.

I’m not making any guarantees on whether these ideas will work. I just want to get you thinking. If you have any successes, please let me know.

Test and proceed at your own risk.

The key principles involved are:

  • Getting your donors close to the beneficiaries
  • Unpolished equals authentic
  • As real time as possible
  • Making highly shareable content
  • Offering donors a specific project to fund that has a high probability of success.
  • Finding someone among the beneficiary community who can produce content.
  • Urgent deadlines for giving.

So here are some possible ideas:

Homeless families

Follow the activities of several homeless families for a couple of months as they try to feed and provide for themselves. The fundraising goal is to raise funds to provide food and shelter for a specific number of homeless families before winter starts.

Get a social worker or even someone within the homeless family to produce content. Show them sleeping under bridges, packed in a car, scrounging coins off the street to pay for food, the challenge of keeping clean. Then show them transitioning back to independent living.

Indigenous literacy

Following the development of a classroom of disadvantaged Indigenous children as they learn to read. The fundraising goal is to raise enough money to put a specific number of Grade 2 Aboriginal children through a specialist literacy program before they need to take their NAPLAN tests in Grade 3.

Either the teacher or somebody else within the Indigenous community can be equipped with a mobile phone to produce the content. Possibly some children can also produce content of themselves learning to read in the classroom. Show the children getting new books and school supplies, learning phonics, reading at bedtime with parents, slowly being able to read street signs, magazines, food labels. Show before, during and after test results.

Saving animals

If you run breeding programs for endangered species, why not follow the life of an animal in the three months before the mating cycle and expected birthdate of their offspring? The fundraising goal is to raise funds by the time the baby animals are born to ensure their ongoing care and support throughout their first year of life.

Obviously most animals won’t be able to produce content so it would have to be a handler or a volunteer. If you run touch and hold programs for the public, families can also be encouraged to upload their content.

I’m not sure if this could be done but a really cool gimmick would be to give a teachable animal, perhaps a gorilla or chimp, a mobile phone and training them to take pictures of themselves! That would be taking selfies to a whole new level.

What do you think? Completely crazy and will never work? Or is there something here you could adapt and try out? Would you like to take your charity storytelling to a whole new level?

I’d love to work on a project like this with a non-profit so if you’re interested in exploring possibilities, let me know.

Otherwise, in my next post I will be discussing one of the key principles to the success of this type of digital storytelling – key influencers and shareable content.

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