Intro to Case Studies for Charities


Maya Angelou “People will forget what you tell them, but they will never what you make them feel”

Maya puts it best. Case Studies are stories we can use to identify with people, or a cause we wouldn’t otherwise. We don’t connect with figures on a page; we connect with people and their stories. Alan Kurdi is a case in point. You may not know his name, but he’s one of hundreds of Syrians who died in 2015 trying to reach the comparative safety of Europe. He’s the child whose body washed up on the shore of Turkish beach on 2 September 2015. Two days later, Nick Logan of Global News noted that “Photojournalists sometimes capture images so powerful the public and policymakers can’t ignore what the pictures show.”

This image moved politicians, and citizens across the globe, inspiring people to action. For others, this image was totally debilitating, moving them to despair. In fact, this image of a German town welcoming refugees is far more positive and motivational.

Syrian Refugee Welcome

Here are 3 ways you can use a Case Study to tell the story of how your organisation makes a difference

1) Simplify A Complicated Story

Seven years ago, Ben was standing on a ledge on Waterloo Bridge, contemplating suicide, when a stranger approached, offering him a chat and coffee. This stranger kept Ben chatting until the police showed up and were able to take him to hospital. Fast forward six years and Ben’s #FindMike Twitter campaign to find his mystery Samaritan is successful: turns out his name was Neill. A fuller version of this story is available here. But it was the broad strokes, simplified version of this story which caught the imagination of millions.

2) Show the Difference you Make

As in, don’t fall into the hole of just describing your project: highlight your impact! Here’s where I gently say that although you and your team may eat, drink and sleep your new project, NO ONE ELSE DOES. Yet. So you need highlight the why and how you’re making a change. “We gave free wifi to block of council flats” then becomes “Mhairi given new lease of life with free WIFI” (or something). Make it personal, use real people, and where possible use real names and photos so that people can identify with them.

3) Reach out

Ok, hands up, this is a non-judgement zone. Who has a case study section in their website? Labelled case studies? Buddy, you need to use the stories that lovely people spent their time sharing with you in a more worthwhile way. Use them inventively: record audio clips; make a simple video; try stop-motion animation. And then put these stories out there: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube. Got a younger crowd? Try Snapchat or Instagram. The press love real-life stories, especially with a photo.

Want to develop more skills in using case studies, or experimenting by using video or audio? Rosie is delivering some of our upcoming workshops: Social Reporting using video and audio on 25 August 2016 and her next workshop on Using Case Studies is 8 December 2016.

Words by Carrie Webb

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