Donna White: Storytelling in the third sector - using video to create an emotional connection

Charities must adapt their approaches to stay one step ahead, and video is a core growth area, writes the head of digital marketing at the Prince's Trust

Donna White
Donna White

Giving to charity, whether financially or through volunteering, has never been more easy. From your local bake sale to setting up a JustGiving page, the ways in which people can embrace their charitable side are constantly evolving. But this evolution has also brought with it an increased pressure for charities such as ours to use new and innovative ways to grab attention, as well as an increased level of competition.

In such an environment, charities – mine included – must consider how we can adapt our approach to ensure we’re keeping up with the latest demands, maintaining high levels of audience engagement and staying one step ahead of others.

With video fast becoming a core growth area for marketers across all sectors, the Prince’s Trust recently sought to explore the breadth of opportunity it presents.

This article will walk through three of the ways in which video has supported us and can support your charitable efforts too.

Sign me up: using video to expand a community

Today, supporters of the Prince’s Trust are a diverse mix of ages, genders and backgrounds, and include volunteers who donate money or time as well as people who participate in or host their own fundraising challenges and events. The trust has supported more than 825,000 young people to turn their lives around. Faced with such a large audience, however, it can be a challenge to keep everyone engaged while continuing to bring others in.

Video has proven a highly effective way for our supporters to share and initiate conversations with family and friends about their involvement with the charity. In essence, through video viewers can see the difference the charity is making and be inspired to sign up to volunteer or donate as a result.

Our recent Parallel Lives campaign – part of our 40th anniversary celebrations – is a great example of this. Though initially conceived as a way to boost brand awareness, one of the central pieces of content was a long-form video, which actually ended up being instrumental in generating the largest number of sign-ups of all the content in the campaign. A 78 per cent completion rate on YouTube also made the video a great social media success, which was undoubtedly instrumental in recruiting the 1,600 new supporters that joined our community throughout the campaign.

Taking me on a journey: empowering the storytellers

Another extraordinary benefit of video is its ability to empower the people whose stories it so effectively tells. Video is a brilliant way to express people’s journeys in a visually effecdtive and personal way. Recognising this, we are starting to allow some of the young people we help to create their own videos, encouraging them to share their stories in their own words.

From a practical perspective, user-generated content (which could also come from members of the community) enables charities like this one not only to expand the number of videos produced, but also to stay in front of people with authentic stories that resonate.

Let me manage: putting video into the hands of everyone

According to recent research, eight in ten (79 per cent) of consumers agree that video is one of the easiest ways to get to know a brand online. Luckily, creating and distributing branded video has never been simpler thanks to the latest player technologies.

Take Brightcove, for example, our video platform provider of choice. The technology within its player enables (among many things) easy brand customisation and the rapid distribution of a single video across multiple platforms at the same time. Video has truly moved beyond the realm of specialists and become something anyone can manage, opening up the ability for charities of all sizes to create and manage video content, no matter their expertise, skill level or budget.


It has always been important for us to tell the impactful stories of the people we help. For us, video has become the authentic vehicle we needed, bringing to life how we make a difference to our young people’s lives. It captures the emotional engagement in a way that written words don’t allow.

By capitalising on video content and solutions that can instantly share that content across all of our platforms, we cast a bigger net over potential donors. Broadly speaking, it is certainly a competitive and exciting time for the third sector and we hope our experiences encourage other charities to leverage the power of video campaigns and reap similar rewards in the future.

Donna White is head of digital marketing at the Prince’s Trust

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