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Tips & guides 3,714 views Dec 15, 2015
Story Gathering on a Budget

Catherine Raynor is Director of Mile 91, a story gathering team for charities and changemakers. Mile 91 helps charities capture stories that inspire action and encourage giving.

We are all used to seeing household names profiled in big fundraisers like Text Santa and Children in Need or seasonal national newspaper appeals. These charities have big fundraising and communications departments with money to spend on professional filmmakers and copywriters. It is easy to feel daunted in the face of their storytelling might, but don’t be – local charities have stories that are just as powerful.

Here’s some advice on capturing and telling great stories on a budget:

Feel confident!

The first thing to remember is to feel confident. You are operating right in the heart of your community. This means you see the impact of your work both firsthand and instantly. Unlike global or national organisations that often have head offices far away from their work, your stories are easy to access- they are right in front of you every day.

Think about the ‘because’.

 Stories don’t come from the ‘what’, they come from the ‘because’. What inspires people to volunteer or give is understanding the change and improvement their contribution can make. It is far more inspiring to read ‘Because of our meal service 68 old people in Wakefield will enjoy Christmas dinner with company this year’ than ‘we will deliver 68 meals on Christmas Day this year.’ Start thinking in terms of impact not intervention.

Understand story structure.

Storytelling is actually pretty formulaic and we learn story structure from a very early age. Good stories have a beginning, middle and end and more often than not they have a hero and a villain. For charity storytelling the beginning is the problem you are solving, the middle is what you are doing and the end is the change. The villain is the problem, the hero is you. If your stories have all three components and clearly show how the hero is conquering the villain you are doing well.

Use free tools.

There are many free storytelling tools and apps that can help you bring your work to life. Set up an Instagram account to share photo stories, use Audioboo for short interviews or Vine for short films. These are all really simple to use and can be connected to Twitter and Facebook so you can easily share your stories.

Don’t miss the obvious.

There are likely to be stories around you all the time that can bring your work to life. What does the 8-year-old enjoy about coming along to the community allotment on a Saturday? Ask them and snap a picture of them digging. What motivates that busy Mum to volunteer once a week? Ask her and you might uncover a really heartwarming story.

Look for local expertise.

You almost certainly have professional writers and filmmakers living in your area. Why not see if they want to volunteer a few hours or a day here and there to help you make professional films or to write some stories for your website or grant application forms. 

Mile 91 uses words, pictures and film to help charities show the impact of their work on individuals, communities and the environments they live in. For regular tips on charity storytelling sign up to our blog:


Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   
The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  
Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack 
5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha 
Get your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield
 How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar