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Searching for Sasha: Ukrainian Grantees on the Frontline

Entered in Storytelling


The Rockefeller Foundation storytelling keenly highlights the human impact of our grantees' efforts to enhance their influence with policymakers and potential donors, in this way providing non-monetary support to underpin our grants.

In Searching for Sasha: Ukrainian Grantees on the Frontlines, our goal was to bring attention to critical sub-grantee work to find missing Ukranian children at a time when fundraising for this work was difficult, and the subgrantees were often working without pay.

Some 19,500 Ukrainian children have disappeared since the start of the full-scale war in February 2022, creating deep anguish for the country as a whole, which is why we focused on efforts around the missing children. Our story was released on the first anniversary of that Russian invasion. We measured success through the data of our engagement rates and the assessment from our primary grantee, the German Marshall Fund of the United States.




The strategy behind the Ukraine children's story was to identify and highlight a human story that others could identify with easily. This required numerous interviews that had to be rescheduled due to internet outages or insecure conditions on the ground. One of the teachers I had hoped to interview, for example, had passed away during the course of the war. I used her written words instead.

The most significant challenge of that story was locating Sasha's mother, whom I found on Instagram. Since her son played a central role in the story, we knew it was crucial to connect with her and share my story pre-publication. We exchanged several messages, and she eventually provided the photo of Sasha that we featured.

The story was promoted on all of The Rockefeller Foundation's social media channels and in its newsletter. It was also amplified by the grantee. Additionally, eight months after its publication, it was singled out on an episode of Washington Post Live that included an interview with the Foundation's president, Rajiv Shah. (link below)



The Ukraine piece had a 75.97% engagement rate, higher than the site average at 42.33% and the industry benchmark at 50%, and an indication that readers were immersing themselves in the story.

Response was also strong from the grantee.

"We are thrilled and our grantees, who are working under such pressures, are thrilled too—thanks so much for this opportunity!!” the German Marshall Fund of the United States senior development manager, Alex Wilson, said at the time.

More recently she wrote us the following: "I'm pleased to note that GMF has increased its grantmaking in Ukraine, as well as our overall Ukraine-related work, over the past year, in part because of our ramped-up efforts around human-centered storytelling that you led off." 



Entrant Company / Organization Name

The Rockefeller Foundation


Entry Credits