May 12, 2010

not just reading, but seeing

I recently heard about the Slingshot Fund's use of video to share knowledge, and I reached out to Will Schneider, Slingshot's Executive Director, to ask about why and how Slingshot chose video as a story sharing tool.

The Slingshot Fund
describes itself as "a collective giving community for next generation philanthropists," providing unrestricted grants to "innovative Jewish organizations." Will told me he realized grantees were taking a lot of time to prepare the requested three- to five-page mid-grant reports, and that although he himself read all the reports, donors did not read each and every one. The Slingshot community wanted to more effectively share their stories about impact.

So, last year, in addition to the grant itself, the Slingshot Fund gave each grantee a Flip video camera “to document their programs and projects” and asked “grantees to submit a mid-year video so that we could share their good works with the Slingshot community.” Will admitted, “We fund innovation, and it’s pretty clear we had to be innovative ourselves.”

He elicited compelling stories by telling grantees, “We just want to see what your work looks like,” and asking them, “What do you wish a donor could see?”
“The cameras went to Jackson, Mississippi to document Jewish life in the South, they taught us how Hebrew schools can use visual aid strategies to engage children with special needs, they showed us the side of the West Bank Security Fence we have never gotten to see, and provided dozens of other moments that a written report could never have conveyed.”
Will points out that the videos are "not a replacement evaluation technique", but rather, "an effective way to share information we were excited about." As a result of the videos, he told me, “Our donors are not reading a brochure about great the program is, they are seeing it.”

It’s not just the donors who now, as Will says, “get it, because they saw it,” it’s also board and staff members – and the grantees themselves, who are now able to more easily learn of each other’s work.

And you, reader: several of the videos are posted to YouTube, and you can view them at <>

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