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Telling their own story with video

29 March 2016

The best charity spokespeople are those who have benefited from the services of a charity. 

An authentic voice can truly engage your audience and connect them to your cause. Facts and figures are always important to share, but it’s an emotional connection that will motivate your audiences to take action, whether that’s to donate, join or volunteer. Lots of charities have a good understanding of how powerful video is as a medium and how vital it is for beneficiaries to be given a platform to tell their own stories. Here are some examples of films from charities which showcase beneficiaries telling their own stories. 

1) Shining a light on personal struggles

A beneficiary’s honest story can bring to light emotional issues, such as feelings of isolation, that are otherwise hard to address or not often spoken about. This approach makes it easy to relate to. It can also help others feel like they are not alone, and support their loved ones. In this film from Macmillan Cancer Support, Kate speaks about her own personal struggles with cancer, addressing the fears that are often less talked about. 


2) Inspiring hope 

The people supported by charities are often in the darkest of places. By sharing stories of real survivors, you can inspire hope. In the video below from Breast Cancer Now, Emma’s strength and determination in the face of her hardships encourages viewers to have empathy, not sympathy. The video leaves you feeling inspired in an authentic and genuine way. 


3) Finding charismatic characters

Every beneficiary is different and has a unique story. By adapting the film to the individual, you can make their personal story the main narrative and foundation of your film. George is captivating in this film below from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). He is full of personality and sincerity which makes him a likable and authentic voice. 


4) Using raw and unedited footage 

Audiences respond to authenticity and sincerity. In the film below, Jean, who’s also known as ‘The Bee Lady’, shares her story of engagement with Age UK. This video isn’t overedited and adds to the overall effect of sharing Jean’s own story. Her positivity and joy also shine through and you cannot help but be inspired by her.


5) Working with your beneficiary to best tell their story

It’s not always appropriate for beneficiaries to tell their own story directly to camera. But this does not mean that their stories should not be told. There are many ways to represent a beneficiary’s story in film that protects their identity – such as through animation or text. Speak with them and make sure they are comfortable with how you intend to share their story. 

More like this
Check out our best practice guide, Show and tell: guide to portraying beneficiaries
Read about supercharging your case study videos 
Have a look at the presentations from our seminar on charity video 

Victoria Harrison

marketing executive, Kartoffel Films

Victoria is a marketing executive at Kartoffel Films, a full-service video production agency with a specialisation in creating online videos for the third sector.