What Does Your Organization Do? Draw It Out

Jessica Pullano

Illustrated videos are very popular right now with everyone from big corporations to small nonprofits. Jessica Pullano, who is currently participating in my Mentoring Program, shares how her organization created one to help explain what they do. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Jessica Pullano of the San Francisco Education Fund

Like many communications people, my ongoing quest is to find simple, compelling and new ways to answer the question, “What does your organization do?” My latest idea was to create an illustrated video to explain how we strengthen San Francisco public schools by:

a) providing direct services to teachers and students like volunteer tutors and
b) engaging all of the individuals and organizations that care about schools to work together—so we can collectively achieve stronger and faster results.

Two illustrators from The Grove, an organization that provides creative approaches (like graphic recording) to get people to understand concepts, took on my project. I had a preliminary phone meeting to discuss what I hoped to accomplish, and the illustrators explained the process and timeline to create the video. First, I wrote the script that would narrate the video. The script length is determined by how many minutes your video runs. Rule of thumb is each paragraph of writing will be one illustrated scene. I planned to use the video in several ways:

1) It would be shown at our main fundraising luncheon with more than 300 of our major individual donors;
2) as a component of our end of year appeal;
3) on our website and
4) it would be shown to new volunteers during their orientation.

Given these uses and today’s attention span, I wanted the video to be around two minutes, which meant no more than a page of writing.

Once I refined the draft so that when I read it aloud, it was around two minutes, I sent it to the illustrators. We had another conversation to talk through each paragraph of the script and brainstorm what visuals would accompany the ideas. For example, I was thinking about what metaphor could help explain the work we do to align the community behind school goals.

At first, I thought we could use imagery of an individual pushing a boulder uphill. When there are many people pushing it together you make more progress. We also discussed a similar idea of people in canoes paddling upstream. Through discussion with the illustrators, we decided to use the images of the boulder to explain the challenges public schools face and puzzle pieces to explain the different roles people can play to address the challenges.

After discussing potential visuals, the illustrators created a draft. We had a third meeting where they showed still shots of how they would illustrate each part of the script, and I provided feedback. In particular, they wanted to make sure that the most important ideas were emphasized well through the illustrations. After the feedback session, the illustrators incorporated any new ideas or changes and drew out the rest of the video. Meanwhile, I found a volunteer voice over artist to record the script. I sent the voice over and some music (which I found on a stock music website). The illustrators edited together all the components and our video was born.

Jessica Pullano is Director of Communications for the San Francisco Education Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the number of San Francisco public school students – in particular those from underserved communities – who graduate ready for college, careers and civic responsibility. Jessica also has work experience managing public engagement for San Francisco public schools, as she directed the volunteer engagement program for San Francisco School Volunteers which mobilized more than 1,500 corporate and community volunteers annually who serve as tutors, mentors, career speakers and interpreters. She also worked as a journalist for Bower’s Group Online Media. Jessica holds bachelor’s degrees in English and Communications from the University of California, Davis.

  • http://GettingAttention.org Nancy Schwartz

    Clear and memorable story, wonderfully presented! Great work.

  • Geoff Birmingham

    You’re right, Jessica. Short is definitely important. And using illustrations/animation to show what you are all about makes a lot of sense.

    I wonder: do you think you there could have been a way to get one student’s story in there? Perhaps even in their own voice? Easier said than done, I’m sure. I don’t think we would have needed to see the student on camera – having your illustrators draw him/her could have been kind of cool, actually.

    I just say this because stories always seem to help sell.