More and more charities are working with people connected to their organisation to capture video content, and they are seeing increased engagement, better donor retention and impact across all teams as a result.
User-generated content can be a game changer for charities, but how do you do it effectively and considerately? I’m going to share my tips on how to get started (or re-evaluate) using user-generated films for your charity:
1. It’s all in the planning
Before asking people to capture content, you need to have a very clear understanding and plan for the film footage you would like and why.
Start by thinking about how this content will fit in with your other outputs and the key message you would like to convey in this piece. Who is the audience and how will this content resonate with them? Doing this planning beforehand will provide helpful steers for all involved, like what type of content you need and who is best to film it.
When you are clear on the plan, put together a brief for contributors to use. Break down what you would like to be filmed, the messaging, questions they can answer or ask someone in an interview, the format of the film, and how they should send it to you once they have finished.
2. Think about who captures your content
When choosing who captures the content for your project, go back to your key messaging and ask people who can bring this to life. For example, if you want to create content to help with volunteer recruitment, ask a volunteer to film what a typical volunteering day looks like and share the benefits of volunteering.
Some people you can ask include donors, service users, volunteers, front-line staff, trustees and corporate supporters. It is always better to have too much rather than too little footage; plus, providing different perspectives in your content can add another dimension.
The first thing to consider before asking anyone to get involved is whether they can give their fully informed consent to participate. Fully informed consent means ensuring they completely understand how, where, and why the content will be used – this is particularly important if you are working with vulnerable people.
3. Inform and empower your creators
Once you have selected the people filming content for you, they need to be fully informed and feel in control of their involvement in the project. This level of support should remain throughout.
Let your creators know the plans for the finalised content. Give them the opportunity to ask questions, receive feedback and understand how their contribution fits within the wider work of your charity. They should feel like collaborators in the process from start to finish.
4. Upskill your creators where necessary
Upskill and educate your creators on what makes engaging content to improve the quality of the footage. Talk through the technical requirements, including how to change the settings on their phone and share examples of the type of content you would like them to capture.
To improve the footage content, you should ensure creators are:
- filming in landscape
- filming in good lighting (ideally in natural light)
- making sure the sound is clear
We run monthly free workshops that teach people how to capture content using their phones. You can book your place onto our workshops to support you in this work.
5. Help creators send the footage
Make it as easy as possible for people to send you their footage, including a clear deadline for submission. Give them options, such as sending footage via WhatsApp, email or WeTransfer, with step-by-step instructions on how to submit content via these routes.
Once you have the footage, review it, and provide feedback if needed. Remember to thank, thank, and thank again, not just after submission but also when sharing the impact of the work.
6. Give it a good edit
Editing footage is something that takes a lot of time and patience. If you need help, use some of your budget to hire a professional editor.
If this is not an option, you can learn how to use some brilliant free software with YouTube or in cost-effective courses. We always recommend Da Vinci Resolve and CapCut as options for free editing software.
Remember to always let all the contributors review a final version before publication.
My best and final piece of advice is to take the plunge and get started with user-generated content. You will be surprised by how keen people are to share their stories and how engaging this can be for your supporters.
If your charity filmmaking needs assessing or you would like to have more impact in your communications generally, consider our free communications review from our expert team at The Saltways. We will analyse the performance of your website, social media and video content to offer you tailored insights and actions.
For more inspiration on how to approach user-generated content, read these for starters: