What is a charity animation?

The use of animation in the charity sector has grown in recent years as its versatility as a means of achieving a variety of communication objectives has been proven.

Animation is a broad brush term to describe films for the charity sector that utilise drawn elements – both by hand and using a computer – that move, or are animated, on screen. They range from motion graphics pieces comprising moving vector objects, to character animations right up to stop motion.

Whether it’s an ‘About Us’ for a social enterprise, a policy explainer for an NGO, or a fundraising film, animation is an engaging yet economical way of producing a piece of content that will grab attention both on and offline.

While charity communication was once the sole preserve of the short film, animation now offers a realistic – and often better value – alternative.

How charity animation can help

Charity animations are created for a whole host of reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the main ones:

Fundraising – there are many different ways to entice people to hand over their hard earned cash for a good cause, and many of them can be done using animation: from telling a heart rending story, to a straight up bold and brash ask for a donation.

Awareness – most charities have a great back story, and animation can be a great way of telling people just who you are. Or you might have just gone through a rebrand to better connect with your stakeholders; again animation can be a great way to communicate the aims and objectives of the organisation and to provide visual continuity with your new brand. Finally, you might just been looking for a piece of content to ensure your charity gets the attention its due during an awareness week or month.

Campaigning – many charities will embark upon campaigns to improve conditions for the people they have been set up to help. A charity animation can be an excellent way of drawing attention to the campaigns aims and objectives, whether they are seeking change at a local, national or international government level, or to improve corporate behaviour. Using an animation on social media with a clear call-to-action can be an effective way to drive large volumes of signatures to a petition, for example.

There are many other reasons for producing a charity animation, such as to improve engagement levels on social media, but generally these three cover the main underlying objectives.

Why an animation can be better than a video

If we’re being objective, there are scenarios where there is no substitute for an emotive live action film. 

But that’s not to say animation can’t be emotive, while also being more economical and logistically easier to produce in a lot of circumstances. Let’s delve into some of these practicalities:

Travel costs – filming will often involve travel, which can be expensive, especially if multiple filming days and hotel stays are involved. And that’s assuming your charity’s operational sphere is in the UK. If it is international and in some hard to reach rural part of Africa, then you’re either relying on local camera crew or volunteers to film, or a hefty travel bill.

With animation the world is your oyster; we can transport viewers from Milton Keynes to Mozambique, all without the need for you to lift a finger in organising.

Case studies – finding service users who are prepared to act as case studies is difficult, asking them to appear on camera is doubly so. Plenty of charities work with vulnerable people who may not be able to appear on camera, or only with their identity disguised.

Again the versatility of animation comes to the fore here, with first and third person character animations and voice actors all avoiding the need for people to appear on camera.

Organisation – we’ve touched on this already, but it’s worth repeating because organising even a relatively simple film shoot creates a large organisational burden, and – unless the film company is undertaking the research and finding people to appear on camera, driving up the cost – that burden will inevitably fall on you. So put your feet up and let an animation do the work for you.

There are plenty of other reasons why a charity animation will be better than film, including:

Diversity – ensuring your communication output reflects the diversity of the stakeholders you’re communicating with, or the people you are representing, is critical. With animation, this is something that can be easily be integrated into the design of the characters who will appear within the video.

Tonal flexibility – there can be times when you don’t want to show harsh realities, yet due to the subject matter it would be extremely challenging to do through film. Again, with animation, you have complete flexibility over the tone: the addition or removal, for example, of facial features on a character can have a big impact on how they are perceived.

Award winners

Despite the dominance of film, it’s not unusual any longer to see animations nominated in the Charity Film Awards and other similar charity sector awards.

In 2017 Christian Aid were nominated for their animation Theodor: The refugee who never forgot.

Cats Protection went one better and won the People’s Choice Award at the Charity Film Awards for their animation about Kozal the cat, who struggled to find a home in time for Christmas.

How we can help

At Senate Media we have worked on numerous charity animation projects over the years, with clients including the Terrence Higgins Trust, the YMCA, Scleroderma & Raynauds UK, Kidney Care and many more.

We have a well-established production process, drawing on our expert team of copywriters, graphic designers, voice artists, producers and animators. We treat each project on its own merit and will devise a bespoke visual style to both meet your objectives and stay within your brand guidelines and budget.

To start the process, simply send us a brief for your video content. We will host a kick-off call involving our creatives to discuss your key messages, potential storyboard ideas and the type of voice-over you require.

We can send you moodboards to help narrow the visual style you’re looking for, before getting to work devising concept graphics, a storyboard and a draft script. We work collaboratively and are happy to go back and forth with you until we get it right; and once we do we’ll move onto creating a first draft of your animation.

Ahead of the project, we will also talk to you about producing shorter versions of your animation for different social media platforms, and are more than happy to provide help and advice on hosting and distribution to ensure you get maximum return on your outlay.