What drives humans to want to connect with one another across oceans and borders?
It’s our curiosity to know more about the ancient and more recent ancestors we’ve evolved from and our connection to the evolving cultures around us. The nonprofits and community organizations that protect and preserve enclaves of history at risk of demolition, natural disasters, or development are doing the important work to highlight these hidden indigenous histories and help restore them so we can all appreciate and support them.
During the 20/21 Vision Summit Strategy, we connected with Nada Hosking, the Executive Director of Global Heritage Fund — an organization that was founded over two decades ago to “positively transform communities through cultural heritage preservation” to hear how this impactful nonprofit pivoted visual storytelling strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her introduction, Nada shared impressive statistics about Global Heritage Fund’s worldwide impact, “Since our founding, we’ve developed and financed projects in 28 heritage sites in 19 countries around the world. We do not work in the United States; all of our projects are currently in the developing world.”
However, through this discussion, we learned how the organization was forced to pivot its content creation and distribution strategy during the pandemic due to travel restrictions that disallowed organization staff and donors from directly interfacing with the communities they serve and support. Nada shared how she and her team created animated, moving content to stop readers and engage them, and how they shifted focus toward covering more universal subject matters like food.
She says, “We are preserving the built, but we also want to highlight the intangible things that make culture vibrant and make it survive. It’s good for our mental health—there was actually a study done in Europe where it showed the cultural heritage in these buildings and these places are spaces that imbue a certain amount of well-being, so they are important to preserve. But, also everything that happens around them is important to preserve…”
Read through the takeaways from Executive Director of Global Heritage Fund, Nada Hosking and Claire Reichenbach, CEO of James Beard Foundation, then watch the full 15-minute session below.
Tell us a little bit about how you shifted your focus (strategy) this year and how things have changed?
Nada: “When COVID happened—I mean, we’re an international organization and we rely on travel; on sending teams to these places. Even in terms of fundraising a lot of our donors and sponsors travel with us to these places to meet the communities that they support, so it was a bit challenging in the beginning, but then we pivoted and shifted our focus quickly to support the communities that are, essentially, the carers for these places.
We needed to step up and show that we care and show them that we are there for them. We had to balance and prioritize which projects were going to get the most attention from us, so we worked from there to develop a short-term strategy to respond which was identifying what the need of each community was and responding accordingly. The second part is, and we’re still working through it right now, looking into a resiliency program that enables these communities to continue to thrive and also to continue to support the preservation and protection of these beautiful places around the world.”
How has this shift played out in your visual content and how does it affect the types of stories that you’re telling and the imagery that you’re sharing?
Nada: “Well, the first thing that we did was launch the solidarity campaign as I’ve mentioned, and that solidarity campaign enabled us to do targeted campaigns for each place that we work in. The first place was Colombia at an archaeological site that was devastatingly impacted by the lack of tourism. There’s a lot of indigenous communities around these places and the whole tourism industry, just like the restaurant industry, has taken a hit.
We decided that we would help them in the short term with PPE and staple food because they’re so remote and they’ve isolated themselves not to get infected and the visuals that we shared with our donors and our community are moving images.
They’re images of us delivering food, delivering the PPE and being with the community. We also needed to show that we are taking the precautions because we don’t want these places to get infected if they are not already and we wanted to make sure that anything that we bring in is sanitized and clean and so on. So a lot of the content that we were sharing in our emails and social media was active content—content that enables not to look at static images, but instead, images that connect them to these communities that need their help.”
What’s on your mind as you’re planning for your organization’s year ahead as you’re thinking about sharing your story with donors, with your community, with your different stakeholders? What’s top of mind?
Nada: “I think donors want to connect and the way they connected before the pandemic was to go to these places and meet people, eat with them and get to know them. I think it’s very important to enable them to connect still although remotely and to do so you need to show people’s faces. I was listening to the session with ESPN and it was great to hear them talk about how staged photos are not going to work—you need to show a little bit of action, a bit of movement, people doing things. For instance, we work with women in China on textiles and we show people how they do it—the process of making these things, while also giving them [donors] a little bit of hope that one day they will be able to travel again and they will be able to see these fascinating places.”
What’s your number one takeaway for other leaders of nonprofits and business leaders as they’re thinking about their creative strategies for the year ahead?
“One thing that I learned during this pandemic is that you need to plan, but you also need to pivot and pivot quickly! You don’t know what’s next. So yes, it takes planning and thinking in terms of long-term strategy, but also being nimble enough and being quick enough and just shifting gears when you need to. Even in our sector, images tend to be static because it’s monuments—they’re sites, but all of those places have so many people living around them that make them alive and that needs to be highlighted. You know, food is what unites people, food is part of cultures, food is what makes us understand other cultures, so I think just looking at a static site and thinking about the preservation of the built heritage is not enough. We need to also go beyond that and look at all of these beautiful things that people around these places are producing and changing as well.”
While social platforms have increasingly confirmed their ever-growing investment in video, we couldn’t agree more with Nada that experimenting with dynamic imagery no doubt stops people in their endless scroll tracks and engages audiences more than static imagery.
We couldn’t be prouder to enable Global Heritage Fund to do this necessary global work and we’re curious — what experimental and successful ways have you pivoted your brand’s visual content strategy during the pandemic? Reply to us or tag us on social (@psforbrands) to show us!
How Global Heritage Fund Supports Communities Worldwide During Times of Crisis is written by Larissa D Green for stories.photoshelter.com