The Digital Voice of Philanthropy

For every global concern, there is a philanthropic group eager to combat it. They have their mission, vision and goals perfectly printed on company stationary, and with that, they feel ready to change the world -- but I would like to add one more element for consideration: digital media.

My interest in philanthropy began in college, and it blossomed into a passion as I learned of more ways to contribute. Soon, hours of volunteer work turned into several Board of Directors positions, and I found myself involved in the complete gamut of causes. This work proved to be personally fulfilling, but I often wondered how I could help other people realize the genuine satisfaction that comes from it.

I found the answer to be simple: create and convey visually compelling messages that they simply cannot ignore.

Everyone loves stories. As humans, we are programmed to respond to the emotions invoked by them, and we can never seem to get enough. This begins in childhood and certainly transitions into our adult years, but our outlooks inevitably change. While maturation plays a large role in this development, so does society. Living in a world saturated with media has caused our attention spans to shorten and our need for stimulation to increase -- and of course, the storytelling mediums are ever-evolving. I soon realized that combining faces and voices with poignant digital effects would spread awareness in an innovative way.

At the time of Birds Nest Foundation's inception, rich, dynamic video content was highly under appreciated. Finding that most non-profits have minimal resources to fund media, I used my background in education and the arts to counteract this. My team and I sought a departure from the generic slideshows and power points; instead, Birds Nest Foundation began producing commercial quality media at prices well below market rates. After a successful first year, we began providing programming grants in the form of video to foundations that lacked a marketing budget. This remains our mission to this day.

With animation, video, and text at play, organizations were finally able to tell their story in their own words and voices. Moreover, promising a personal touch became critical to our mission. This ultimately left foundations with a product they are excited to share, and one that inspired action and participation -- and our impact soon spoke for itself:

As a longtime advocate for family stability, I felt particularly invested in our Help USA domestic violence project. These women endured the ultimate form of betrayal and still possessed the courage to share their stories on camera. By wrap time, my admiration was at its peak and I left in awe of their bravery. I could hardly wait to assess our impact, and at the Help USA luncheon the following year, I did just that.

Upon arriving, I scanned the room in search of familiar faces. It was at this time that a confident young woman ran over and greeted me with a smile and a hug:

"Avis, Avis! I'm so happy that I found you!"

It was one of our interviewees. Once shy and meek, she appeared bright-eyed, fearless, and ready to speak about her experience in front of a considerable crowd.

"I have to go and speak soon, but I really wanted to find you and thank you. You gave me my voice."

This was the moment I knew that our work fulfilled more than my own needs. During her short experience in storytelling, she took a significant step in regaining power over her life. Following her speech, I realized that not only did we empower this woman; we motivated her to empower others.

So while these philanthropic groups have their missions, visions, and goals, I would argue that they are not quite ready to take on the world. With storytelling as it exists today, we cannot forget one key element: digital media. By invoking this tool, Birds Nest continues to give other non-profits -- and those they benefit -- an impactful voice. Between our non-profits and us, over 80 million individuals have been exposed to our stories, and this number continues to grow every day. We ignite a philanthropic movement with our media services, inspiring previously apathetic individuals to contribute their time to those less fortunate.

Do not fight the power of technology. Rather, use it to your advantage to inspire and impact, and most importantly, restore a tired voice.

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