"Lights, Camera, Action: films for funding" by Emma Beeston

Aug 5, 2016

"As the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words” so you would think that images are invaluable to a fundraiser struggling with a restricted word count when applying for funding. But how are pictures within funding bids received? Do they help?

An image could help in the following ways:  

o To engage the reader;
o To help your bid stand out;
o To reassure the funder that you exist and do things; or
o To tell the funder something that text can’t.

But in my experience they don’t really add anything. When reading applications, my focus is on the words and how the questions are answered. Many charities don’t have the skill needed to capture a story with a single image. And I don’t think many decision-makers would be swayed by a good image anyway.

However, the inclusion of photos can be helpful in capital bids. If you want funding to refurbish a dilapidated building, then a picture can show clearly why you need a new toilet block in ways that a lengthy paragraph can’t. And they do help on your website, which may well be looked at as part of the assessment process. Here images can convey tone, personality and activity.

If you have some budget for photography, a good investment is in short films that demonstrate the difference you make. You can include a link in your bid and they are a great way of having the voice of beneficiaries heard within the application process. I watch lots of these and they are a really useful tool for understanding what exactly an organisation does and who it supports. It is not so much the imagery but the storytelling that matters. With the rise in smart phones and free editing software, videos have never been cheaper or more accessible to make. Research shows that short films work e.g. your crowdfunding campaign is more likely to be successful if it includes a video.

As with any application, it is important to make sure it is good work you are funding and not just good presentation but good communication plays an important role. Both the Lankelly Chase Foundationand Paul Hamlyn Foundationhave experimented with incorporating video into their application processes. TheNominet Trust and the Baring Foundation have included a video pitch in their new Digital Arts & Creative Ageing programme. I believe this is a trend that is likely to grow."

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Emma Beeston Consultancyadvises funders and philanthropists on giving strategies and processes; selecting causes and charities; assessments and impact monitoring. Services for charities include external perception reviews; bid reviews; training for fundraisers and non-fundraisers involved in bids. For more details visit Emma's website or

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