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Video for Charities Conference 2021 – tips and learnings to take your videos to the next level

26 February 2021

As our lives have moved online, the focus on video is bigger than ever. Video increases brand engagement, it ranks high in marketing trends, can trigger emotion and is a powerful way of conveying a message. But it’s crucial to consider that trends are constantly changing and not every charity has the budget to take on all platforms or can produce highly polished professional films.

Our popular Video for Charities Conference featured two jam-packed days of tips, learnings and thought-provoking examples.

Here’s what we learnt about the ever-evolving world of charity video:

Day 1

When creating a charity film there are multiple aspects to consider – the concept, the audience you are targeting, the best platforms to use, accessibility and the edit to name but a few.

The morning panellists led by Nana Crawford – Nicola Leddy from Teenage Cancer Trust, Lauren Plüss from Young Scot, Shalini Rawlley from WaterAid and Georgia Paton of British Red Cross discussed emerging and on the rise trends like TikTok, Instagram Reels/IGTV, Twitch and audio-based platforms (Clubhouse, Stereo). One theme that resonated from the panel was to be authentic in your message – “Videos are for emotion, not information”. Teenage Cancer Trust’s Nicola Leddy

Here’s a taster of some of the tips they shared:

  • Focus on what is trending on TikTok and work out how your messages would fit.
  • Content can be repurposed and edited for short-form platforms.
  • Twitch presents opportunities to fundraise or run Q&As and works better the longer you can engage and communicate with your audience.
  • Create tailored content for your platforms – but focus on the ones that work best for your audience.

Other top takeaways from day 1 to make the most of your video included…

  • Morever’s Abi Mellor emphasised the three main stages of a big video project (concept, approach and edit) and that you can find unique inspiration where you might not think to look like in music videos.
  • Charity Film Awards’ Simon Burton expressed that it’s all about creativity and underlined five things to think about when making a charity film – your objectives and purpose, who your audience is, keep it short like an elevator pitch, make your audience smile, and speak from the heart.
  • UNHCR’s Dimple Vijaykumar highlighted how to live and breathe and understand TikTok – aim to get onto your audiences ‘For You’ page. Focus on trends and hashtags, keep it short, use a strong opening visual and text, ensure it is well lit, get involved with your community and be obsessed with your analytics.
  • Sightsavers’ Sarah Filbey and Natacha Toledo overview of inclusive video covered everything you need to be accessible. Use clear contrasting colours, use large clear fonts in sentence case (avoid uppercase), use bold (avoid italic or underline), include voiceover text and captions, give meaningful audio descriptions and pay attention to pace – leaving text on screen the amount of time it would take to read it twice.

Day 2

The panel made up of Teenage Cancer Trust’s Nicola Leddy, Samaritans’ Micha Hilliard, Video Sherpa’s Anna Downes and Mencap’s Karen Anderson focussed on user-generated video content (UGC). UGC is a perfect opportunity for charities to tell authentic and diverse stories where you put your contributors at the heart and build strong relationships.

Fundamental learnings included:

  • When working with contributors invest your time – have a conversation first to gain their trust and be transparent throughout the process with how the content will be used.
  • Keep colleagues connected internally by leading by example using video and provide platforms for updates to land.
  • Produce guidelines on lighting, framing and sound so you receive optimal content.
  • Build up your own stock library of content so you can reuse and repurpose in the future.
  • Be clear on deadlines, allow for patience and make the process of creation and submitting videos as easy as possible.
  • Collaboration is vital – make the contributor feel in control of the story and part of the edit.

More take-home tips from the day:

  • Creative Concern’s Chris Dessent drew attention to four points to produce your best film brief. Decide on your purpose – practical or emotional? Keep on brand and reflect your values, tone and personality. Only use trends if they are a good fit. Finally, what is your wow moment to engage your viewers? This could be the scenery, the words someone speaks or a piece of music that drives the narrative.
  • If you are looking to cut through the noise with your video it’s all about moving and emotionally engaging your audience so they are powered to take action. Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity’s Charlotte Young and Katrina Cimetta talked through the process of making their Home for Christmas film during the pandemic where it wasn’t possible to visit hospitals for footage. Instead, the concept became an animation with characters based on real people to preserve the emotional connection.
  • It is totally possible to make an award-winning film on a tiny budget with a powerful story and the kindness of strangers. Sunshine People’s Nahla Summers wanted to do a series of Vlogs and found that by talking to people with what you want to achieve they may want to be part of it. This gives you the freedom to be creative, to have a go and learn from it without worrying about making mistakes. Learn how to do things yourself – use free or cheap software and equipment like a smart phone. “Content is king and failure is fine. No one tells the story like you do.”
  • Child Bereavement UK’s Jane Keightley tackled using film to raise awareness of sensitive causes and expressed that the wellbeing of your beneficiaries is priority. Keep them at the heart with full consent, have support on hand, edit with dignity, consider animation, keep it simple, be real, bold and brave. Also keep the emotional engagement with viewer – show the solution, simple cause to action and signpost for support if they are impacted by the issue.

These takeaways only begin to scratch the surface of the brilliant content throughout the two days, so if you weren’t able to join us live, or want to re-watch the action find it on-demand here. Also, check out our Filmkit guide for even more video tips.

Image: Kushagra Kevat on Unsplash

Adel Hanily

digital content officer, CharityComms

Adel is the digital content officer at CharityComms, managing the social media channels and supporting content planning. She has a background in various sectors including event ticketing, PR, and charity content. She is passionate about communications and helping those with personal or physical barriers to succeed.