Digital Journalism

COM466 – University of Washington

Seattle Habitat For Humanity : Story Ideas

Your story ideas for Seattle Habitat For Humanity


No post:

  • Aaron, Brianna, Fereshta, Gwen, Tom

Ideas that work well as text/stills stories:

Location: High Point

  1. High Point Phase 2A & 2B – Currently Habitat is building 20 homes in the development phase of High Point in West Seattle. This is a better text story as it should include more details than visuals of the builders. Perhaps a map would help to show the area in development.
  2. Story on the current project underway – High Point Phase A and B – including the process Habitat for Humanity goes through to build the home, and the process a family undergoes to eventually own a home.

Location: West Seattle

  1. Humanity is currently working in West Seattle to build a urban mixed-income community with 1600 units of housing. The story could focus on this project and how it came to be, and include some still pictures of it being worked on.

Location: Federal Way

  1. It might be interesting to do a text/ still photo follow up story on the houses that were dedicated in September 2009 in Federal Way. It might not be visual enough for a video story but quotes from a family settling into their new home would transfer well through text.


  1. A story explaining the selection process for families to receive a home through Habitat for Humanities. There is a lot of criteria that would be best explained directly through text and because there would be limited stills, the story would probably not have enough photos to fill up an entire audio/visual slide show.
  2. The families – Lastly, I think a story profiling one (or more) of the families that have been given housing from this organization would be a great story.  People like human interest stories that they can relate to.  Additionally, people like stories about overcoming obstacles, and this would be both.  I think plain text would work well with a few photos of the families and their new home.  The story could also include information about how to volunteer a family.
  3. A story about the Jarbah family, who moved here from Liberia and are now having their home built by Habitat for Humanity, would work well in text format. Since they’re no longer in Liberia it wouldn’t make much sense to do a video story on the war there and the nonprofit organization that the Jarbah’s set up to help families there. There wouldn’t really isn’t a side of the story that seems visual enough to hold a viewers attention for several minutes.
  4. Follow-up: How are things working out for the families who have chosen to be assisted by this non-profit?
  5. Habitat for Humanity understands that it is not enough to make a house–a homeowner should know how to keep a house. For this reason, it requires its selected families to attend educational sessions on maintenance and budgeting. Such lessons hold value for more than Habitat families; especially with the current economic strains on society, budgeting and a do-it-yourself attitude are valuable skills. Therefore, a written story (written so people can take the tips with them in an instructive and meaningful way) on several of the major lessons from Habitat’s workshops is a great way to raise interest in other aspects of the organization, as well as elevate people on a broader scale. I would attend these sessions, speak to the people at them, and of course summarize some key takeaways.

Other Profiles

  1. A profile of a Volunteer, a day in the life type of story: Who are these people and why have they decided this is how they would like to spend their time and energy.
  2. Profile of those running the non-profit
  3. I would also like to see a text story on what it’s like to work at a construction site for Habitat for Humanity. A video of this might be too much like just filming an interview so it would probably be boring. Text and still photos could easily portray how the workers feel about their jobs and how it benefits them.


  1. HFH Home Improvement Outlet Store — This would be a great text and still image story simply because it is more of an information piece about how HFH maintains an outlet store that sells useful items for 50% off or more.
  2. An interest piece on Habitat for Humanities home improvement outlet. It sells new and lightly used building materials for a discount in an effort to help HFH and the community. Stills could be of the outlet itself, and people from the community buying the tools.
  3. A story about the Habitat for Humanity Home Improvement Outlet. The text would explain the purpose of the Outlet and provide information on what people can donate and so forth. A few pictures of the outlet would accompany the text.


  1. Budget shortfalls threaten affordable housing – As in the first story, this is also one that has no ‘visible action’.
  2. The effects of the economic downturn on the organization. This would be could for text as it could explore the figures and percentages of how the economy has been effecting HFH positively or negatively.
  3. How the dip in the economy has effected the non-profit sector, particularly with Habitat for Humanity in Seattle. For example, have the number of volunteers declined over the years (in a time when they are probably more needed)


  1. The General Overview: Some may be unfamiliar with exactly what HFH does. This story would cover that information along with how they do it. Interviews with volunteers, familys, and workers would be used to help readers understand the human impact. This is best kept a text story (likely with accompanying pictures) because it’s another story that’s best for readers to consumer non-linearly. Being able to pick and choose what information a reader doesn’t already know about is key here.
  2. A general story about what Habitat for Humanity does. Because the story would encompass a lot of varying information, text would help really explain the story while a few accompanying photos would add to the text.
  3. How to volunteer– I thought it would be useful for some people to simply find out how to get involved and what opportunities are available.  I know my parents have always wanted to join a project, but they’ve never actually gone through the process.  If people are presented with multiple avenues for getting involved such as time, money donations, etc., they may be more willing to help.  Since this story is more of a “how-to,”  I think plain text would suffice.  There aren’t a lot of illustration opportunities that go along with it.


  1. How the local communities feel about low-income housing being built in their neighborhoods
  2. Habitat for Humanity operates in a new “enlightened” world. How have they handled the pressures to go green, especially as Earth Day approaches? What have they done to embrace this idea, and how has it affected their organization? (Specific visits to sites like Rainier Vista, High Point, etc. are a possibility. Also, contrasting these sites with Holly Park, built years ago, in terms of environmental considerations.) Megan’s Meadow project, to createLEED certified housing, will begin in mid-2010, so references to this project will be one aspect.
  3. Three year recap — Another story idea would be a three year recap of the major accomplishments at HFH. As I scanned their news section I noticed that there would be a couple of good projects to include in this story and it would be best told as text and stills. The text and stills  could capture the event very effectively.
  4. WinEstimator donates to local Habitat for Humanity – In September, WinEstimator, Inc. donated over $35,000 in software and support services to Seattle/South King County Habitat for Humanity. This would be better as a text story b/c it there is no visible action that would be told better through visuals.
  5. In September of 2009, Habitat for Humanity received a boon from WinEstimator, Inc., “an award-winning cost estimating software solution provider,” in the form of $35,000 in software and support services. This is a great jumping off point to investigate the inner workings of Habitat for Humanity, both as a business and as an organization aiming to help as many families as possible. How has the software been implemented and what did it replace? What is the cost to Habitat for their projects? How have projects been affected by the economic downturn? Has Habitat continued to try to reduce costs by renovating existing houses and building multiplexes (their new focus, as of January 2009)? How does Habitat for Humanity Depot fit in? Beyond that, what does such a donation of software mean for Habitat?
  6. Volunteer Process: A large deterrent for many people doing community service can be the difficulty of just getting out there and doing it. This story would be written in a first-person perspective following my volunteering. It would cover the initial application all the way up to the first day actually doing work. This story is suited for text because a reader may want to take it in non-linearly, scanning the middle or end section instead of consuming the entire story.
  7. Upcoming Events: A traditional story to just promote awareness that a noteworthy project is about to occur along with information about how to get involved (The Recent Benefit Breakfast would have been an excellent fit for this).  Well suited for text because it hasn’t happened yet so audio/video of the event is non-existent.
  8. Habitat for Humanity’s emergence with online media sources — HFH seems to be trying to push some of their efforts to online media sources. Although their link to their facebook page was broken, I’m sure they are trying to develop this social media presence to gain more support from a larger more targeted niche. The reason text or still would work best with this story is because it there isn’t much video or images to support the idea of online marketing and their online presence. Also, since the events have taken place in the past their may not be a good way to capture this via video.
  9. Help with Haiti – Since January, Habitat for Humanity has been collecting money and aiding in the relief efforts in Haiti.  I think it’d be interesting to write about what kind of difference volunteers have made and to tell others how they can help with that project.  Donations are still being accepted.  Like the above story, this works best with just plain text since it would be mainly historical/instructional.  However, a few still photos of the Haiti earthquake aftermath would be effective as well.

Ideas that work as audio/visual stories:

  1. Seattle Seahawks auxiliary teams with Lowe’s on Women Build House – This will work better as a visual story as many people volunteered on this project and that ‘community togetherness’ is better told through photos/videos.
  2. Benefit breakfast raises $205,000 – As in the Seattle Seahawks auxiliary story, this is also a community event in which many people participated. Again, ‘community togetherness’.
  3. Volunteers build playground at Westway neighborhood – As this is a very ’simple’ story that doesn’t involve a lot of research or details, it works well as a human interest piece and nothing is better at tugging on heart strings than visuals with audio (music).
  4. A human interest piece on some of the families benefiting from this group. It could be a video of the families and their new homes, talking about how they have been effected and interacted with Habitat for Humanity. It would be much more personable to see this rather than read it in text.
  5. An audio story about the volunteers who build the homes. This could potentially be an audio story of interviews with volunteers on why they donate their time and energy to this group and what it’s like. There could be a slide show of images showing the volunteers at work.
  6. A video story on one of the events posted on the organizations website. The video could show the event and maybe talk to some of the attendees about what’s going on and what it’s for. Having the visuals of this would be much more exciting than just writing about an event.
  7. A selection story: this would almost in my mind be a round table type element, how are these families chosen. What is the overall process like. I see this more a pitch meeting, which would only work if this is how the process is actually done.
  8. A profile of the family. Where were they living before, what is their everyday living like. In General, who are they?
  9. An overview of the organization. photo slide show.
  10. I think a story about High Point, the Habitat for Humanity housing development in West Seattle, would work well for a video piece. Since the project is already in it’s second phase there should be lots of construction action to film. Construction on the Megan’s Meadow project in Pacific, Washington has started too so that development would also lend itself to a construction oriented video or slideshow. A build-a-thon would also make a great video story, but I’m not sure if there are any coming up soon. Volunteers on construction sites and in offices and are sponsored by their friends for each hour of time dedicated to Habitat Humanity for a two week period. The volunteers would probably have a lot to say about their involvement with Habitat for Humanity.
  11. Megan’s Meadow – Megan’s Meadow is an upcoming project that Habitat is working on in Pacific, Wash.  The volunteers want to build single-family housing units that are LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).  I think it would be cool to do a video interview with a couple of architects and designers to find out exactly what being LEED certified entails (why is it better for the environment, what’s the difference in cost, etc).  A video interview would be more interesting for the “reader”.  Lengthy scientific explanations in written form can be difficult to get through.  A lot more organizations, including the University of Washington, are taking advantage of this new design trend.
  12. High Point Phase 2B – Habitat is currently constructing duplexes and two single-family homes in West Seattle in High Point.  I think it would be neat to do an audio slideshow of the construction progress (start with framing, to siding, painting, etc).  The “reader” could see the whole project from start to finish through photos and learn about the process through voiceover narration.  Showing the progress would be more difficult with video.
  13. Rainier Vista Phase C – Similarly to High Point, I think an audio slideshow would be neat to do with the homes being built in Rainier Valley so the “reader” could actually see the construction process.  Readers would be impressed and may be more apt to volunteer.
  14. The Life of a Volunteer — This story about the experience of being a volunteer at HFH would be best told through a video presentation to fully capture the essences of working for HFH. I think it could capture happy emotions, positive energy and all around goodwill of HFH.
  15. Where does my Donation go — Instead of just telling people where their donations go, why not show them? This would be a great video piece if we could make a video clip that is compelling enough to make people want to donate their money because they know exactly how its being used within HFH.
  16. About HFH Philosophies — This story would include capturing the philosophies of HFH through the eyes of its people and the people they help. By gathering video clips of what people think about HFH you could support their values and create a moving piece that demonstrates their core philosophies, something not as do-able with text.
  17. A story on site at one of the project sites (currently High Point in West Seattle) about the work that goes into building a house. There would be plenty of opportunities for ambient and natural sound (the sounds of hammering, saws, workers talking, etc.) as well as photos of the work. The people working on the house (the family and volunteers) could be interviewed on location about what they are doing on site.
  18. A personal story about a family that was selected for Habitat for Humanity. It would be necessary to locate a family that was willing to share why they selected Habitat for Humanity and how it has affected them. The voices of the family members would lend itself well to audio as well as pictures of the family.
  19. A tour through a Habitat for Humanity house. Pictures and video could be taken through the house, with audio of the family living in it or workers who built it narrating a tour through the house. The family members or workers could tell their own stories about things that occurred during building certain portions of the house.
  20. Habitat for Humanity uses the phrase “sweat equity” to describe the personal contributions of hands-on work that families and volunteers donate to each project. An on-site photo story to capture and document this process could go a long way to show the accessibility of involvement, and give a face to the idea of Seattle community. What is “community?” Photos would attempt to capture this idea in action, while also conducting mini-interviews to add sound bite captions to portraits of participants.
  21. Combining the on-site photo story with context, a great story would be a visual documentary of the entire process of one Habitat for Humanity home. “One Home” would cover the family selection process, how the building site was scouted, and all of the background context in addition to the physical action of building the home. Comprehensively, such a photo story can shine a light on Habitat’s work behind-the-scenes, using contrast photos of other neighborhoods to document rising land values, as well photograph the involvement of volunteers from our community.
  22. So often, we walk away from what we deem “finished” and never look back. Sometimes the things we build are sandcastles that are left to rising tides, and sometimes they are so sturdy we take their strength for granted. In this spirit, a story for Habitat would interview and focus on a Habitat family a year (or more) after receiving their house. What was their original story? How has this home changed their life? Photos would include a then/now contrast, as well as hopefully include portraits of family and even volunteers who had helped build the site. (Similar or alternative idea: Photographing Holly Park, created in 2005.)
  23. The Build: Let’s start with the obvious, a video following the progression of a house build from beginning to end. You really need to see the process come together to have the full impact, text wouldn’t do this story justice.
  24. The Build (In Surround Sound): This story is a copy of the above but using an audio slideshow. Construction sites offer great distinctive sounds (a hammer, saw, boards being dropped, etc…) Combine these with a few one line quotes from the volunteers or the family the first time they see the house can make for a very compelling auditory experience. The Seattle Times did a fantastic slideshow like this following Pike Place.
  25. Interview with John Merlino: Merlino is the new construction director for the Seattle chapter. This would be an audio story/interview that would cover Merlino’s past related experiences, what led him to the job, and what his future plans are. This would work best as an audio project because using his actual voice adds a lot of personality compared to having someone just read a dictation.
  26. Feature a family that was able to get back on their feet, and go through the process with Habitat for Humanity to own a home.
  27. Feature an “Apostle Build Project,” where churches come together to take on a project for their community (Three currently being formed: two houses in the Pacific, South King County and one house in Rainier Vista)
  28. Feature on a group of volunteers, ones that are seasoned with volunteer work with Habitat For Humanity. “Why we serve” – interviews with volunteers explaining why they volunteer their time, what they get out of it, what they hope to see come out of the time they put in.

Filed under: Assignments

3 Responses

  1. kegill says:

    Ganelle –
    * Money story – low-interest loans
    * Going green
    * Human interest
    * Day-in-the-life

    * Economic downturn
    * Profile a year-after (change)
    * Current project (video) on site
    * Playgrounds (video)

    * Profile – just settled
    * Profile – volunteers – why/goals
    * Economy impact on nonprofits ($ and volunteers)
    * Application process – apply and decision

    * Outlet – what stuff, where does it come from, where do profits go, customer base
    * Economy – how many applicants
    * Beginning to end of a singular build (or multiple locations)
    * Different sounds on the build – here’s the day from beginning to end – with sounds – accompanying a text story

    * How are donations work? Like the RSS feed video or the commentary — with info graphics
    * How H4H is addressing environmental changes in housing markets (LED certification)
    * Home improvement tips from their workshops (can you get them at the outlet)
    * Day in the life – maybe video journals from a volunteer (personal transformation)

  2. maurinefink says:

    Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast!
    What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate hyperlink on your host?
    I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

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