“Whether we’re talking about books, music or film, it’s all about storytelling. You get a powerful new way of connecting with people once you hear their stories.”

—Craig Hatkoff

It’s easy enough to say it’s all about storytelling, but to tell a good story, one must first have good content. While there is no one magic formula for creating a perfect scholarship video, there are a few secrets that can help you as you seek to obtain and edit the most effective material for your situation.

1. Don’t script

Nothing rings less true on the ears and heart than scripted content. Start with a concept or an outline in mind, but avoid scripting the video or interviews. To get deeply rich and heartfelt content, you have to capture a genuine reaction. While the answer to a question may always remain the same, the way it is delivered (and even felt) by the person answering the question does change. For the most part, that first, unguarded response yields the deepest sincerity.

2. Make it personal

To be compelling and effective, the story needs to feel personal. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways. Interview the donor. Interview the recipient. You can even interview the parent of the recipient. There are countless perspectives from which to approach the subject. Whatever you do, be sure you capture the impact that a scholarship has made or could make. Without being overly dramatic, you want the viewer to believe that a scholarship can change the world.

3. Ask good questions

This is where it’s helpful to have an outline of the flow you intend to take with your video. Before designing your questions, start with the answers in mind. Consider what you would like to hear almost as much as what you would like to know. Then, ask yourself what type of question would most likely elicit the types of responses you want. Create a good flow of questions, but remember this outline should be used as a guide. If you over-prepare, you run the risk of only looking for specific answers. The best part of the process is hearing each person’s story—firsthand. Be genuinely curious and interested in the subject and consider your interviews part of your research.

4. Follow up

Real magic lies in the follow-up questions. Everyone has a “first line of defense” answer. It is the surface answer, and if you don’t dig deeper, you will only have content for a superficial story. There is a reason children always ask “why” after you answer one question. It’s because that is how you find the meaningful answers. Just don’t overdo it. Your follow-up questions should be measured and intentional—just like your storytelling.

5. Tell a good story

Once you have the content, you are the storyteller. There is a natural flow to any good story.

  • Give some background—but only just enough. You need the viewer to invest in the subject of the story, but don’t get lost in the past. Scholarships are about changing the future.
  • Present a challenge—it is often tempting to avoid this aspect. Many schools worry that presenting the challenge will feel too negative (or paint the school in a bad light, as if it is just too expensive). But there needs to be a reason the scholarship mattered. If there was no challenge that the scholarship helped alleviate, then you leave the viewer with the question, “Is it needed?” and “Is this really making a difference?” And remember, this isn’t just a needs-based issue. Merit scholarships have a huge impact and if looked at from the right angle, there is a challenge. Sometimes it’s about attracting the best and brightest to career choices they would not have otherwise been able to make. There is always a challenge. Otherwise, no lives are being changed, no futures are being altered, no hope is being secured, and no compelling story is being told.
  • Send in the champion—here’s where the scholarship saves the day. At this point, your audience will likely be reaching for a tissue (or blinking back emotion of some sort). Even in the most upbeat videos, you need your audience to experience an emotional shift, and this is where it happens. Without the challenge presented in step “b”, this moment can’t happen.
  • Paint a picture of the future—let your audience see this new vision for the future. Demonstrate the 2nd and 3rd degree impact this scholarship can make by sharing with them the promise that the future holds.

As a general rule, it is the voice of the storyteller that gives a story its true power. And sometimes, with a clear focus on the art of the story, it can be made even stronger with multiple voices.


Check out ways in which Advancement Resources can assist your organization in creating powerful video.