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Expert Advice: Liz Norton/Stone Soup Films on Storytelling

"There is a Movement Going On Here"

Liz Norton stated Stone Soup Films two years ago with two volunteers she found on Craigslist.  Now, the DC-based nonprofit that matches volunteer videographers and editors with nonprofits in need has an arsenal of hundreds of volunteers and has made over 13 projects for DC-area nonprofits in need.

While there are still challenges to overcome in getting nonprofit organizations to understand the value of video as a critical communications tool in the new, more visual and immediate online fundraising environment, Norton said that her organization has had an overwhelming response from the nonprofit community and from funders who recognize the potential for video in raising awareness about issues and the organizations who are addressing them.

Here are some of the tips provided during her presentation:


More of Norton's good advice:

  • Be faithful to the truth, but figure out how you are going to grab people's attention.  Yes of course elicit an emotional response, but make it an authentic emotional response based on your organization's real impact.
  • Go Deep, Not Wide: Do NOT tell your organization's whole story in one video- your film should whet people's appetite and entice them to learn more about what your organization does on your site/elsewhere.
  • Assess the current perception of your organization before you shoot your video- is there a difference between how your organization is viewed by the public and the way you would like them to see you?
  • Determine your audience: Who do you want to reach, and how do you plan to reach them?
  • Decide who your main characters should be for your film- not just any success story, but the person/story that best represents where you want your organization to be going.
  • Make sure you have worked out photo and filming rights issues BEFORE you film your clients/constituents, either as a condition of service or have a stack of release forms prepared and signed.
  • Film Schools are great place to start seeking help with your video if you do not have a budget for a professional videographer (and you don't have access to Ston Soup Films' services).

Two great video examples cited were:

Montana Meth Project: Parents (warning: this video is shocking and disturbing.... but effective!  Part of a campaign that reduced methanphetimene use in the state by 60% in one year).

Also cited, Vital Voices' film Kakenya, made with the help of YouTube's Video Volunteer program:


Norton spoke Monday at an event sponsored by Benevolent Media in the margins of Digital Capital Week (DCWeek), a week-long high tech meets causes meets social web series of events held once a year in the District.

Liz Norton is the Director/Founder of Stone Soup Films.

Liz Norton was a freelance television producer for over ten years, with a focus on public policy issues. Those programs included several Fred Friendly Seminars for PBS, which explore thorny political and ethical issues in depth and she has also produced for MTV News, educating teens on crime-related issues such as gun control.

During the Clinton Administration, Liz was a research director in the White House Office of Communications. In that role, she served as a link between the president, the press and the public, primarily on the issues involving crime and drug policy. Before then she was a researcher on political campaign finances for Common Cause, a non-partisan lobbying organization.

For twenty years Liz has been a director of the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation in Washington DC. She founded Stone Soup Films in early 2008.

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