TechSoup has been running international video and photo competitions for some years now. In previous years, we called it our Digital Storytelling Challenge. This year we renamed it Storymakers, and it starts on August 26, 2014. Any charity anywhere in the world can send us a short video or five-picture Flickr slideshow that tells about their work and will be entered to win some cash prizes. We thought we'd ask some past winners to tell us about how they've been using their videos and how important storytelling is to their organization.

Our story challenges get lots of attention. The 2013 Digital Storytelling Challenge received many many entries from 12 different countries. We got nearly 2,000 mentions of the challenge on Facebook and Twitter in 25 countries.

The Winners in Their Own Words

 Dalit Logo

The Freedom To Dream video by Dalit Freedom Network in Vancouver, BC, Canada, was the grand prize winner in 2013. It is a moving one-and-a-half-minute video about the struggle of untouchable caste Dalit children in India to grow up and be as successful as more advantaged children.

Here is what Dalit Freedom Network executive director Sherry Bailey says about the impact of the video and storytelling:

"The Freedom to Dream video was part of our annual Give For Freedom Campaign. Our goal was to raise the funds to provide education for the rural children of India who do not have access to English education and to give them a chance to dream of a new future. Without education, Dalit children continue in the same generational work as their parents, which is generally street sweepers, leather workers, garbage workers. The campaign raised $120,000 which provided education for 400 Dalit children. We were thrilled at the wonderful response of caring people for these forgotten children.

"Storytelling is an important part of any organization. The needs around the world today are overwhelming, including the Dalit people who number 250 million. However, as we share stories of one child, one women, one community, then our donors and friends realize that they can make a difference in the life of one person; and that makes all the difference in the world!"

  Youth Projects Logo

Our second-place winner for 2013 was the Youth Projects hard-hitting one-minute video submission, No one grows up wanting to be a drug addict.


Youth Projects Chairman Melanie Raymond told us:

"We use this video extensively in our presentations to corporate donors who have responded to the authenticity of our message. It was filmed on location outside our free medical clinic for the homeless in the heart of Melbourne.

"We have been congratulated far and wide for our achievement in the Digital Story Telling challenge, and recognition in our own sector is a vital part of our communications challenge. I was particularly keen to promote this achievement to our corporate sponsors to demonstrate they are hooked up with a competent and successful not-for-profit organization. They are all very proud of us too."

She also told us that their Youth Projects' video was aired nationally on the Foxtel network in Australia.

ACI Logo

Our audience choice award for 2012 went to Alliance Center for Independence (ACI) in Edison, New Jersey. Their mission is to support and promote independent living for people with disabilities. Their clever one-minute video of clients with handmade signs gets their point across without any narration.



On the ongoing impact of the video, Executive Director Carole Tonks says, "We have used the video as part of our outreach. It has been on our social media sites and website and we have attached the video to some of the grants we applied for. Sometimes a video is worth a thousand words. We appreciated the opportunity to work with TechSoup and tell our story."

ACI Communications Coordinator Brian Mazzarella adds:

"ACI has been using video content as way to showcase a side of the diverse disability community that most people don't see enough of. Through effective story telling, we can show everyone that people with disabilities are people first and that their disabilities don't hold them back from living their life the way they want to."

Our first-place video for 2012 was by Columbus, Ohio–based Dave Thomas Foundation. Their 30-second black-and-white video called I Am won first-place video in 2012. It shows what children in foster care are really like and makes an appeal to help find them permanent homes. President and CEO Rita Soronen describes the role of storytelling in their organization.

"Storytelling is critical to the work of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Family, at its core, is a journey paved with storytelling that creates the unique identity of its members. In foster care adoption, a child's family story is too often interrupted, but no less valuable to his or her sense of self and well-being. In order to engage the public in this conversation, it is imperative that we gracefully and respectfully share stories of the children we serve — their journey through child welfare, their unique needs and dreams and, ultimately, the new story of their place with an adoptive family."

The Dave Thomas Foundation continues to create videos to make its case. Their newest video is called Youth Voices. It gives older youth and young adults an opportunity to share their stories directly with the public.

Storytelling: One of the Most Important Things That Charities Do

Storymakers logo

Storytelling in pictures, video, and narrative is probably the most important thing that charities do to make the case for their mission and attract donors. It is very interesting to us to see the variety and creativity in this endeavor. The Storymakers Campaign 2014 empowers nonprofits, libraries, and charities with the tools and training to tell their stories, get noticed, and make an impact. In fact, the theme of this year's challenge is all about stories that really stand out and demand to be noticed.

The campaign starts on August 26 and runs through September 26. Participants can submit any of the following digital stories to be in the running for cash prizes:

  • A two-minute video
  • A short-form Vine or Instagram video
  • A five-picture Flickr slideshow

If you're telling your charity's story in photos or video, I hope you submit an entry (which is, of course, no cost).

Images and videos: courtesy of the organizations featured