Give Back by Doing What You Love and What You're Good At: An Interview With Katie Prentiss

By Randi Zuckerberg

February 21, 2017 6 min read

Katie Prentiss is breaking the ugly stereotype that millennials don't care about their country. Through hard work and compassion, Katie has found what she loves most: helping people.

That's why I support Katie Prentiss' work.

Katie Prentiss is a documentarian and executive producer with Small Forces, a media production company that provides professional video and media services for people and organizations taking a stand in their communities.

1) You have a background in journalism, so how did you first get involved with video production and executive producing at only 25 years old?

While in journalism school at Northwestern, I was craving a deeper connection with the people I would interview. That deeper connection happened when I took a class on reporting about refugees and immigrants in Chicago and met Fatima, an Iraqi refugee and mother who was mobilizing her community to help incoming refugees. I decided to feature her work in a documentary and was able to see firsthand how documentary filmmaking could have a direct impact because somebody who saw the completed film was moved to give Fatima's daughter a scholarship to a prestigious private school in Chicago.

I was motivated by that ripple of impact and spent the rest of the time in undergrad seeking out documentary opportunities. I traveled to Tanzania with a reporting grant to film women's empowerment projects. I co-directed a documentary film about the first three months of refugee resettlement for a family from Congo. I sought out opportunities to shadow female directors and producers. As a senior, I interned with Picture Show Films in Chicago and really learned a lot about the technical aspects of video production and editing, as well as the importance of storytelling.

After some time in the field post-graduation, Picture Show Films brought me on full time to work on content for "The Telling Well," which is an amazing program funded by the family foundation of Chicago's John and Pat O'Brien and created specifically to put good media out in the world. The pieces that focused on nonprofits would eventually become the program Small Forces.

2) How can other millennials become activists within their own passions?

It's important to start with two key questions: What am I good at? And what do I love? Once you know the answers to those questions, it's much easier to figure out the best way you can contribute to causes you care about. Not everyone can — or wants to — be the activist marching with a bullhorn or a person who gives significant amounts of money to nonprofits. We all have unique skills. Let's harness those to help our communities.

We see this practiced in real life every day at Small Forces. A professional boxer uses that knowledge to help Parkinson's patients. An Ultimate Frisbee player brings the game to the Middle East to bring together youth from differing backgrounds and find common ground. A photographer taking head shots for city officials decides to start a photography program for inmates at the jail. A singer travels to homeless shelters around the city, bringing inspirational music programming for men, women and children. It doesn't have to be a large-scale organization with a lot of funding to make a difference. All it takes is love, passion and hard work.

Personally, I love video production, so becoming a producer was a natural fit for a job, but to take that one step further and use my skills to help nonprofits was important to me.

3) What advice do you have for those who work in nonprofits or want to help nonprofits flourish?

For people working in nonprofits, my advice is to take a little bit of time to focus on honing and amplifying your story. Many of the executive directors we work with are incredibly busy people working hard towards their mission. At Small Forces, we are strong believers that a well-told story can have a ripple effect, resulting in increased fundraising, volunteer recruitment, partnerships and more. A little bit of effort upfront crafting a passionate story that highlights the good you do can really usher in a period of growth for you and your mission.

For those who want to help nonprofits flourish, my advice is to think beyond just major national organizations. For example, if you care deeply about women's issues, it's certainly a good idea to support large nonprofits, but also think about how you can help in your community. If you love to bake, you can volunteer for an organization like The Floured Apron, which helps at-risk women get jobs in the food industry. If you love acting and theater, you can work with The Viola Project, a camp for girls centering around Shakespeare. There are countless local and specific ways to help your causes.

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a weekly business show on SiriusXM, "Dot Complicated." To find out more about Randi Zuckerberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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