The storyteller in your pocket- How a mobile phone could transform your communications

communications digital fundraising fundraising campaigns fundraising ideas fundraising strategy Jul 04, 2023
Image of a dog being filmed with a mobile phone

Could a mobile phone transform the profiles and awareness of small charities?

If your small charity is like most, communications and marketing is probably one of your last priorities amongst all the other ‘to-dos’ on your list.

 Large charities have comm’s teams or pay costly consultants to develop their marketing and brand awareness to drive traffic to their website and ultimately grow their donor base.

As a small charity with limited time and resource, it can be hard to know where to start and what to focus on.

But are small charities missing a trick, in assuming that communications and marketing are only for large national charities with big budgets?

There’s a strong case for small charities to put more time and resource into developing their public profile and awareness, not only to tell people about their vital services, but also to reach out to potential donors who may prefer to support a small local cause where they can directly see the impact of their donation.

The trouble is, usually this potential remains dormant- donors only ‘know what they know’ and if you don’t put your work in front of them, you remain invisible to them. Too many of our small but vital charities hide their light under a bushel, whilst struggling to maintain services within an increasingly competitive funding environment.

So, what can small charities do to change this?

  • Create your Communications Strategy on a Page-One of the first things I advise small charities to do is spend an hour or two with colleagues to draft a simple communications strategy. I know, I know… you are probably thinking, not more writing and strategy that no one will ever read! But how about using a communication ‘plan on a page’ template with some key questions to forge a discussion- your discussion points can then be jotted down in your template and there you have your basic communications strategy. A free template can be found here on my blog.


  • Identify people in your organisation or potential volunteers who would like to help, - whether that be helping to make or feature in films/lives/reels, writing press releases, helping with social media, producing copy or coming up fundraising campaign ideas. Consider forming a communications sub-group to drive this aspect of your work forward. Many corporations are now looking at skills-based volunteering for their staff, so why not approach a local business to ask for their help with volunteering.


  • Embrace film as a means of telling your stories- whether via social media, your website, email marketing or events, video has the power to connect people with your cause and bring your charity to life in a way that the written word cannot compete with. In fact, social video generates 1200% more shares than text and image content combined. And viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text (Source: Forbes: How to Increase Engagement through Video Marketing, Oct 2022)


Film can help forge an emotional connection between the viewer and your work, instilling loyalty, support and respect from the public as they are able to clearly see and understand the difference you are making in the world.


  • Create campaigns as vehicles to raise awareness. Just because you are a small charity, it doesn’t mean you can’t create campaigns to build awareness of your cause and raise vital funds. Whether it be your 50th anniversary celebration, a campaign linked to an awareness day (such as International Women’s Day) or Christmas Appeal, campaigns are a chance to get creative, highlight the work you do and encourage people to support your cause with a clear call to action.


  • Don’t overthink Sometimes you just need to get stuck in- try your first facebook live, create your first Instagram real, or insert your first CEO video greeting into your next email bulletin.


  • Upskill yourself and others in your charity so they have the skills to create simple films and campaigns in house. It can be a fun, creative process that can also bring your staff and volunteers together in shared purpose. And the best news is that you can make really effective, high-quality films and video footage using just a mobile phone. Charity film company ‘The Saltways’ are passionate about showing people how to make films on a low budget, providing regular free webinars to teach you the basics.


“At The Saltways our mission is that charities of all sizes and budgets should be able to create effective and ethical content. Films can be used as a powerful medium to communicate key messages, engage with supporters and inspire action. know, from firsthand experience, that films connect supporters with your charity and the work it does, in a way that 100 appeal letters never will be able to. It gives donors the opportunity to see, hear and feel the difference their gift will make.” Emma Bracegirdle, The Saltways 

Here at Funding School I‘m passionate about helping small charities diversify and strengthen their income streams and firmly believe that increasing your public profile with film is a key strategy in achieving this. That is why I’ve teamed up with The Saltways to deliver an Innovative 8 week ‘Christmas Appeal Bootcamp’ course, that will work closely with a small group of learners, to produce a compelling fundraising film with your mobile phone, and help you launch a Christmas fundraising campaign in November. The course starts in September (the starting date will be collectively agreed) so if you are interested in getting involved, click on the link to find out more and register your interest!

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