Narratives With Integrity: Exploring Stories That Do No Harm

memoryfox december panel ethical storytelling narratives with integrity

Did you catch MemoryFox’s December Special Event? Watch it now!

This special event took place on Wednesday, December 6th. Led by MemoryFox’s Chris Miano, our expert panelists discussed ethical storytelling, trauma-informed language, privacy and consent. This panel included:

Full Transcript:

0:00people I think we can go ahead and get started um we uh have a very

0:05action-packed uh special event today so I want to make sure we make most use of

0:11the time my name is Chris Miano and I’m the founder of memory Fox and um first

0:16off I want to thank everyone for being here and thank our Steam panelists for taking the time to share their insights

0:22and of course I want to make sure I thank our fantastic marketing director Carly uler I’m putting this all together

0:29um I’m going to do some very limited table setting in terms of introductions and then we’re going to go ahead and

0:34right get right into it um the plan here is to take about 55 minutes for speakers and for those who are interested I’m

0:40just going to do a very small two-minute demo of memory Fox afterwards and see how it can Elevate the voices of your

0:46community um but in no particular order we have Maria Brian founder of Maria

0:53Brian creative and director of Storytelling at rustic Roots we have

0:59Diana faras Hinrich I hope I did that right founder of Habra marketing and we

1:07have C calop garos founder of philanthropy Without Borders and finally

1:14we have Michael Cass founder of story and spirit so again thank you everyone

1:20in the audience for submitting your questions the panel had a lot of great thought-provoking content to Wade

1:26through and I think you really enjoy the answers um we’re going to share this recording publicly and are going to wrap

1:32this all up into some really great articles that we’re going to trip out throughout the year culminating in an ebook to help crystallize a lot of our

1:39findings um Carly is going to send out a survey right afterwards to get your

1:44thoughts on a lot of these questions because most of you are all on the front lines of where this conversation really

1:49matters most and I’m sure you have a lot of great insights and uh we’ll include that in a lot of the content that we

1:55create um and share your your insights as well um so and I think I think I everyone would agree on this ethical

2:02storytelling is a living breathing conversation that needs to happen now more than ever in this vast black hole

2:08of an attention economy that everyone here has to deal with and we hope to help support that conversation moving

2:14forward so without further Ado let’s get to that first question all right so the

2:20first question is for Maria and this is more of a general question um a lot of

2:26people comment and of course anybody else can contribute on this one as well a lot of people commented they like the

2:31questions in the event description so let’s kick it off with this one what do I have to do if the people we serve have

2:39sensitive stories that they might not want to share what should I keep in mind and what are some of the best practices

2:46that you would recommend and this is for Maria but um certainly everyone else can chime in as

2:51well so I love this question so much also I’m so grateful to be in this space so thank you memory Fox for hosting this

2:59the the last last thing I want is for folks here to feel like storytelling can be so harmful that we need to throw it

3:05out with a bath water so let’s talk about how we can make it work when we are serving very vulnerable populations

3:13and one of my favorite things to do are composite stories composite stories is

3:19you see patterns for the people that you serve you see certain Transformations certain Journeys that they have and you

3:26create a story based on that and you can narrate it um there are a few and I’ve

3:33given some examples we’ll give some examples towards the end some links of really great composite stories that I’ve

3:38seen and a really good composite story means that if the story Echoes maybe

3:44your neighbor or your your friend you wouldn’t even be able to tell like there

3:50shouldn’t be any identifying information but you still get a sense of what the general transformation story is um for

3:58the people that you serve also my hope for a trauma informed

4:04storytelling future is that we feel less pressure to tell hundreds of stories a

4:10year of our clients I really hope that we can start thinking outside the box there are our founder stories our staff

4:17stories our volunteer and donor stories so make sure that you are diversifying

4:23the kind of stories that you tell in order to honor respect and most

4:28importantly protect protect the your clients or beneficiaries that may have a

4:34very very sensitive background that’s great anybody else have any anything to add to that I think

4:40it’s we’re going to hit these questions a lot more in detail but certainly at this high level if any of you have any

4:46any additional insights I might just add that always keeping in mind the implicit power dynamics when we’re asking clients

4:53for their stories because you might get a quick yes but that may come out of

4:58either a fear that services will be withdrawn or some sort of expectation of reciprocity right and so just because

5:05like if I would ask Chris hey Chris would you be willing to tell me the story of the worst thing that ever happened to you so we can raise money

5:11you might say yeah sure but underneath that is a feeling of coercion and so

5:17just to add to what Maria was saying always keeping in mind that we want to move towards greater belonging and

5:23relationality in our storytelling and away from anything transactional right

5:28and that idea of composite stories and kind of widening the universe of stories

5:33that we tell I think it can be really really powerful can I just add one thing because I love that so much Michael that

5:40kind of the science behind trauma is that we know that there is the fight flight um and fawn response I’m missing

5:48one fight flight freeze so and freeze so Fawn is the only

5:54one that’s not behavioral it’s wanting to appease and please so actually saying yes right away might Act actually be a

6:00trauma response that your clients and beneficiaries have so make sure that

6:05they’re not just saying yes but it’s just like abundant excited enthusiastic they’ve had time um to to maybe heal so

6:13I so appreciate you you saying that Michael I absolutely agree and one thing

6:18I would like to add too um in approaching people who may not want to

6:24share a story is one thing that always practically worked for me was to go through the GateKeeper

6:30those being the case managers or the direct service staff and asking them who among your clients is ready to tell

6:36their story because they’re the ones that are going to have a pulse on where in the trauma cycle you know one of

6:43their clients might be and someone who might already be ready and willing to share so I like to go that Avenue first

6:50before even approaching a client to share a story that really gets it what Michael

6:56was saying about power dynamics too being very thoughtful about who inv invite someone to share the story and when and how and if there’s a way to um

7:03have people opt in uh as opposed to being invited or in addition to being invited it makes sense in some

7:09organizations it’s it doesn’t in others but um that can also be a way of um

7:14getting at those power dynamics so people have a chance to sort of self- Select and opt in as opposed to the pressure to say yes when being

7:22invited oh can I add a quick thing to that because it just sparked this is fun Chris thanks for bringing us together I

7:28never get to geek out um right that idea of making it an optin

7:33something that can be really challenging and also really powerful on a lots of levels is crafting a a culture where

7:40storytelling is endemic in other words it’s not just something that we do when it’s time to get a Communications piece

7:46or a fundraising piece but it’s part of the like living breathing culture of the organization at every level right that

7:53way when we’re asking for stories it’s not like it’s fundraising time who’s excited to tell their story it’s just a

7:59natural outgrowth of what we’re already doing I think was it Network for good a couple years ago they did something a

8:06study with that and they found that the number one their number one recommendation was make storytelling of

8:11make like a part of your culture yeah as an organization elevating people’s stories um Dan I think you had something

8:19else yeah uh definitely I would second what Michael is saying and making it part of the culture is that everybody’s

8:26involved so one of the ways to do that practically is to have a schedule um like Maria was saying earlier right slow

8:32down you don’t need to produce a whole lot of stories but if you have a schedule and everybody knows what to expect ahead of time they’re already

8:39have that in the back of their minds where it’s like okay my turn to find a client story is coming up right and like

8:46what I would always do is again work through work through the direct service staff because they’re going to know

8:51their clients best um and then from their you know approach a client to to share their

8:57story that’s great relying on those Frontline workers a lot of lessons there

9:04um kopia this one is for you this is from um Pamela and

9:09Laura so how do you tell compelling stories about disadvantaged populations

9:15that are receiving services without being exploitative or contributing to stereotyping of that population for

9:22example one of my clients is struggling with telling stories about the underresourced children her Camp serves

9:29without making the children feel like somehow they are somehow less than yeah

9:34that’s a beautiful question it’s a it’s a really good example Chris thanks I think the framework that works best in

9:39this case actually comes from the work of trayon shorters I don’t know if you know who he is but he was um the the

9:45person who um coined asset and deficit-based Framing and I think it’s actually important to describe what

9:50those are because um they get sort of thrown out in our sector and some people think of it as oh Shifting The Narrative

9:57from negative stories that talk about trauma and harm and challenges to like positive stories that talk about you

10:02know hope and and joyful things and um that’s not quite what it is I think that

10:08um I wouldn’t just recommend that we look um at shifting everything to

10:13positive stories I think um you know as Maria talked about previously you know some of us are working with clients who

10:19are experiencing you know the worst moment in their lives right and if we try to just slap a silver lining on

10:24everything we run the risk of really minimizing their authentic experience and also minimizing some of the large

10:31systemic inequities that we’re contending with um and so it’s not just about let’s let’s put a positive spin on

10:36this asset-based framing really looks at what are the aspirations and contributions of the person you’re

10:42telling the story about that’s the important distinction we’re not just looking for the Silver Lining or the positive spin everyone even small

10:49children um have aspirations what they want to achieve and they have contributions things they’ve already

10:55done and so um with the example of of kids in the camp you know I might be asking them questions if I’m doing an

11:01interview to get a story you know what has this child already you know learned at camp that they wouldn’t have learned

11:06in any other way you know what did they do for the first time at Camp what were their proudest moments um those are the

11:13kinds of questions I might bring into an interview not looking at the specifics of tell me about you know how

11:19underresourced your family was or things like that I wouldn’t um go into those kinds of details with a child I would

11:25focus um on their aspirations and their contributions and we can still talk

11:30about the challenges but we can do that in a more holistic way so Maria brought up the composite examples um but we can

11:37talk about challenges you know in an aggregate way that doesn’t um necessarily you know pinpoint or blame

11:43anyone’s family or get in anyone’s specific circumstance right why does this Camp need to exist um there are

11:50there are macro reasons at play right lack of access to school funding means kids don’t go on field trips in the

11:55outdoors um a lot of outdoor locations are only access accessible you know by car and so families that rely on public

12:01transportation can’t access those we know what those barriers are we can talk about those in aggregate without having

12:07to get into the details of a child’s particular circumstance and we can focus the child’s story on their aspirations

12:14and contributions and I’d love to hear from others if if you have other ideas or things to add to that yeah this is a

12:20very rich question to um lift up something that you said because I

12:27think it’s so key is like focusing on specific moments instead of these like Grand stories of transformational change

12:34is such a huge part of that and also recognizing right that the nature of

12:39somebody’s challenge is the least interesting thing about them the least interesting and so finding the things

12:46that light them up is going to um make for a really powerful story the other

12:52thing I’d add is um when we lead with a deficit it creates what’s called a

12:57cognitive anchor right right which means it doesn’t matter what happens next the first thing I know about you is the

13:05trauma that you’ve been through and so then it doesn’t matter how many awards you win how many degrees you get you’re

13:10always going to be defined in my mind because it’s the way brains work by that deficit so just to to add to what was

13:18said um this isn’t just like good practice it’s it’s pivotal for any kind

13:24of social change yeah really nice that’s that’s

13:30excellent okay um we’ll get on to the third question this is for Michael Diana

13:36and certainly of course anybody else who wants wants to chime in this is from Lauren and Jody um let’s talk about

13:43consent this question has three aspects should people sign a physical agreement

13:49before sharing their story um versus agreen via email or a

13:54call or something that isn’t recorded um how can we ensure our agreements inform

14:00and protect everyone involved and finally what special considerations do we need to take for

14:07children cool um so I I’ll answer I I like this question because for me it’s

14:12one of the few like concrete answers that can be given in this space should

14:18um people sign a physical agreement yes yeah any anytime you’re sharing and the reason isn’t because it’s I I don’t

14:24think it’s be because it’s important to have something signed but because that agreement is kind of the the outward

14:32manifestation of what in my mind should be a conversation right so when I’ve been asked to share my story usually it’s oh

14:39also sign this consent form and I go okay but what what am I signing

14:44especially for video how long am I giving you my consent to use video

14:50because again right if if a video is out there online and this happened to a client of mine somebody could see a

14:56video that’s five or six years old the person in the video at the time could have been incredibly excited to share

15:02that story six years ago they no longer identify with that story but if someone

15:08comes across it today in their mind that story is present and so if they go up to

15:14the person whose story it was and this is the situation that happened and say like you know what I saw that video of

15:21you on that organization’s website and it was so moving I I didn’t know you’d gone through

15:26that suddenly the Storyteller traumatized right and put back in that place and so part of that consent

15:33conversation is very much hey here are the implications of this we want to make sure that you um remain in control of

15:40your story at all times so we’re going to be using video it’s going to be on these platforms and after six months

15:47we’re going to get in touch with you and ask if you still consent right so like

15:52that conversation to me is more important than the document itself right um the

16:01other thing I sure I’m just looking at the question the the children thing uh Diana

16:07I might I might defer to you on this I don’t have too much

16:13um experience with it because I generally uh caution people to stay away

16:18from telling stories about children that are not about how awesome the children are right so the idea is if this kid

16:25were to come across this story in 10 years would they feel good about it and if the answer is anything but yes don’t

16:32tell the story right because like you said like social media that this stuff

16:38isn’t going anywhere anymore right it’s out there and it’s findable and so being

16:44really conscious of the the forward-looking Ripple effects on the folks who are brave enough and like

16:50generous enough to share their stories so for me I like to take it back

16:57to where I started with ethical storytelling where I started with my education on it and that was um an

17:03article that was published by save the children called the practicalities of informed consent and development

17:09photography so homework for you all um but one of the things that it says in there is that informed consent is a

17:15process not a form and being informed takes priority over getting consent so

17:23here’s how I used to use forms I would have a form that was based off of what I

17:28was going to publish if I knew that I was going to publish somebody’s first name last name City

17:34location um the the name of the program they were in what city they lived in uh

17:40maybe they had kids maybe I was going to publish the kids’s first name maybe I was going to you know XYZ the form was

17:46long but it was based off of what I knew in my organization what we had

17:51determined was the best practice for what we were going to publish and I think that’s the informing piece

17:59of getting consent you have to know what you’re going to be putting out there for how long you’re going to be putting it

18:05out there so that you can actually inform your clients and give them all of the information up front and ask them is

18:12it all right if I publish your your last name is it all right if I publish your s the city that you’re from because if

18:19you’re not asking all of those details and you put them out there it was like it’s like Michael was saying once something’s out there it’s out there you

18:25really can’t take it back you know um and so that that’s really what it comes

18:33to when it’s um when it comes to forms um and then then the other part of the

18:38question ISS H how how can we ensure our agreements inform and protect everyone involved that’s how you do it you go

18:44through everything that you’re going to publish line by line and then on the back end and this is what I take folks

18:50through um in the informed consent conversations framework that I talk about is um pass back the mic whatever

18:57you’re going to publish about someone give it to them show it to them before you actually hit that publish button so

19:04that they can tell you whether or not they are happy with it because I would always tell my clients like my number

19:10one goal for you is that you are proud of the transformation that you’ve made that I am representing you how you want

19:17to be represented because again this story is going to live probably on the internet forever and even if you take

19:23social media posts down even if you you know take videos down some somebody shared it and you just can’t control

19:30that once it’s out there it’s out of your control in a lot of ways um and the other thing is too to make sure that

19:36that client always knows who to get in touch with if they want to have a story taken down because like Michael was

19:42saying like I used to work with a lot of Youth so let’s say I published this story about some adversities that they

19:48went through and then now they’re on LinkedIn they’re trying to find a job right they might not want prospective

19:53employers to find that story about them because it’s not about that anymore right it’s a piece of the puzzle of

20:00their lives but it doesn’t have to be the determining factor and it shouldn’t be the determining factor in whether or

20:05not they get hired um and as for um what special considerations do we need to

20:11take for children um I love this this premise of if it’s not positive just

20:16just don’t put it out there but also with kids um again because I used to

20:21work with youth who were young parents um we would mention the kids um and we

20:28would talk about them only in terms of going on with parents and so like let’s say you know

20:35one of the stories was like you know this young woman is graduating high school and her she just managed to get

20:41her kid to drop her pacifier you know like that’s a huge win on the Parenthood

20:47front so it’s you know well-rounded stories and it wasn’t really about the kid but for organizations that are

20:52serving children this consent this informed consent process needs to be

20:57followed through with their parent or with their Guardian right and even though they’ve probably signed in their

21:04intake form some media release Clause that says yeah you have permission to use my pictures my stories my XYZ

21:11forever however you want you know as as nonprofits we have a responsibility to

21:16go beyond that media release clause and to actually tell folks what it is that’s

21:21involved when we share their stories thank you that’s Fant any other

21:28any other um any other points to add I just want to quickly add that we need to

21:34make sure that our consent forms or conversations are language and culturally appropriate so if your lawyer

21:42drafted something that no one’s really going to understand let’s make sure that we’re putting in the effort that people who are signing or

21:50agreeing understand what they’re signing and agreeing to would you all recommend keeping like

21:56a digital record of it um you know taking a picture of it or something and uploading it to a so you have it you

22:03know so it doesn’t get lost in the in all your paperwork absolutely yeah absolutely um because the thing is is

22:10like none of us is going to stay at an organization forever right we have to be able to pass on that knowledge because I

22:16mean you might be there for a year two years somebody’s going to come after you so how are they going to know about you

22:22know what that client’s preferences were and so a lot of people ask about you know timelines how long should I publish

22:28something well that’s up to your organization to decide and whether that’s six months or a year or two years

22:33communicate that with your client how long is it going to be out there right because people come back to stories that

22:38you know they had from like you know their first year of foundation and you know they’re like 10 15 years in as an

22:44organization and you know it’s very different for that person now so you know having a a timeline for how long to

22:52use a story is really important too not a simple task but um but uh no

22:58thank you for that um d Diana we’re gonna come back to you on this one this one is from Lindsay um what is the best

23:05way to approach interviewing beneficiaries while respecting their boundaries how do you craft useful but

23:12mindful questions a little bit of tactical questions right here um yeah I love this question so going back to what

23:19I said earlier is you know the direct service staff were my best friends you know my my role is Communications and

23:25marketing development I was not a director service staff but we would talk

23:31in depth about a potential client about a potential client’s Story how ready

23:37were they what were they grow going through at the time my favorite question to ask them was are there any topics

23:43that I should stay away from when I interview this person right because while they may be you know over here on

23:50Mile 10 in one area of their lives they may be at the starting line in another you know they may be going through

23:55something and we don’t want to bring that up or bring it into the story if it doesn’t need to be so I would make sure

24:01to ask what questions what type of questions should I should I avoid right because we don’t want to give somebody

24:07you know take away the opportunity for somebody to tell their story um just because they have something else going

24:13on if they’re ready in one way but not another that’s fine and I mean each of us have pieces of stories that we want

24:19to share and that we’re ready to share so you know talking to to the direct service staff was um key for me it was

24:26essential like I wouldn’t start any kind of story about anyone without talking to their direct service Staff

24:32first yeah I mean did you find that that that served as a good anchor to make

24:37sure that you’re being ethical to make sure that because they’re probably advocating on that person’s behalf

24:44exactly um you know to have someone fill that role as an advocate for that Storyteller that’s not the marketer

24:51right exactly well I mean that goes to ethical storytelling I believe should be a best practice at every organization

24:58and if it is the best practice then there’s process involved and part of that process was to have that connection

25:05between the publisher which was me in that marketing Communications role and The Advocate right the direct service

25:11staff for that client and then finally to bring in the client and have them

25:16participate at every level up until the time of of publishing of like what was

25:22or wasn’t going to be said about them yeah that’s beautiful

25:28um great um question number five this one is for copi um from Aaron and of

25:35course anyone else can chime in as well what are your thoughts on paying people either dollars or gift cards for sharing

25:42their stories do you think there’s an ethical dilemma associated associated with payment yeah you know that the fact

25:49that it’s kind of worded as an ethical dilemma sort of implies that there’s two opposing schools of thought um and I

25:55think it’s worth um explaining what those are for those folks that come from a background in journalism you’ll

26:00probably have it drilled into you that you are not supposed to pay sources it’s actually um unethical in in journalism

26:06and in most journalism associations to pay your sources for information the idea is that in paying people um the

26:12stories lose credibility right the Insight loses credibility because people would come um you know providing this

26:18information you know incentivized by money not because it’s actually the truth or because it’s a worthy story um

26:26and and so you know that that’s kind of one school of thought and then on the other hand we have a different approach

26:31that kind of stems from us critically examining practices in the nonprofit sector where we see broadly a lot of

26:37unpaid labor board members volunteers unpaid interns all the overtime that salaried staff put in that that isn’t

26:44compensated and yes um storytellers uh and people sharing their story people

26:49giving feedback people giving speeches and not being paid so our sector as a whole has a lot of relies a lot on

26:56unpaid labor and we’re asking ourselves these questions of is this Reliance on unpaid labor right is it fair is it

27:03sustainable um and so the question around paying storytellers I think really sits in the context of this

27:09broader discussion around um these practices in our sector in general um I

27:16advise to pay people when there’s a significant contribution of time on the part of the Storyteller some of these

27:21interviews take 45 minutes one hour that’s a pretty significant amount of time um and certainly I really really

27:28encourage folks to pay people when they’re being asked to share their story like in person or on Zoom right in real

27:35time because that is such a huge emotional labor whether it’s happening on Zoom whether it’s happening definitely on a stage at your event um

27:43even in a small group like let’s say you’re bringing um donors or funders around for like a site visit and you

27:49want uh someone to come in and share their story with that small group of folks um you know when you when you look

27:55at that everyone is being paid but the Storyteller right your staff are being paid they’re working right the the

28:00foundations you know program officers are being paid they’re doing their job yeah but then the Storyteller is not being paid you know and we have to ask

28:07ourselves is that really fair and so for sure asking someone to share their Story in real time I would pay them it’s so

28:13much preparation it’s so much work it’s so much emotional labor um and if it’s a big- time commitment you know I I I

28:19would whether you know in terms of the specifics what’s the amount should it be cash should it be a gift card you know

28:25it really depends on the context I don’t want to give a blanket answer because it depends on who you’re working with um

28:31you know what the culture is uh how you’re situated within that Community you know and so this is a question I

28:38would even bring back to some of your storytellers or you know people your clients right I I would say hey we’re

28:44exploring um offering a stipend for stories we’re thinking about this amount we’re thinking about this method what do

28:49you think I would bring it back to them and get and get information from the source uh is what I would do I don’t

28:55know if folks have other things they want to add add um I love that answer I love

29:01bringing in the context of where this started in journalism and why people might feel a little gross about paying

29:06people for their stories um but I agree with everything that that you’ve said and I would also add that even with

29:13compensating story owners they still have abundant agency to choose what part

29:20of their stories they’re going to tell to decide once it’s out in the open that they want it removed we can do both we

29:26can compensate and still allow for a lot of control and agency for for those who

29:32are bravely telling their stories do you guys think that that maybe muddies the water sometimes a

29:38little bit that would be the only thing I could think of is that transactional right and want that yeah I

29:47mean I might draw the distinction between paying people for their stories and compensating them for their time

29:53right that’s a great once you pay for the story that’s transactional because now if I’m like hey um Maria can I pay you for this

30:00story there’s an expectation that that story is going to fit something I have in my mind but if I say I’d love to uh

30:07compensate you for the time and like and like we were saying you know the

30:12emotional labor of like going through this right like this is this is a a

30:18contribution then that’s relational right and we it it doesn’t really muddy the waters as much and so that

30:24languaging is actually really and even the mindset is really really important yeah I definitely agree with

30:32with that um there’s definitely two schools of thought like cop was saying um you know are you paying someone and

30:39and that’s the reason why they are sharing their story because they want to be paid or are you compensating you know

30:47someone for their time and the way that I like to think of it is if I’m going to have an event and I’m paying a keynote

30:53speaker to be there why wouldn’t I pay the client who is sharing their story who is without the title also a keynote

31:01speaker right so compensating them from their for their time is only

31:06fair well and think of it in terms of brand ambassadors I mean a in a sense they’re almost a brand ambassador to

31:13programs yes and and and certainly on the for-profit side those people are getting paid they’re getting paid very

31:19well so it’s almost unethical to not pay them in a certain sense I used to run an ambassador program right these were

31:25volunteer clients from the organization that would be invited to speak at donor

31:31events and would be invited to speak um or share their stories online or create videos and do stuff like that and they

31:37would be compensated you know it was almost like an internship type of thing that’s fascinating that is a

31:44question that I think about a lot um all right so let’s see moving on um unless

31:50anything else to share on that one that’s a pretty deep rich question I feel like we could spend a lot of time on that um this next one is for Michael

31:57and is from I I want to make sure that tovi I believe um how do you decide when

32:03an anonymous story with stock photography is worthwhile appropriate and ethical versus insisting on

32:09identifying C customers with their consent and using their actual images

32:15very interesting I mean that’s such a context dependent question I mean one I

32:20would never I would never use the word insist when we’re talking about using people’s pictures like that’s just not

32:26that that that’s a big no no in my mind um to use a sophisticated term no no um

32:33so here here’s what I’d say one uh I want to put this in the context of where

32:39we are with AI which is the Assumption within the next year is that every

32:44organization is going to be using AI to generate images and it’s terrible which means we’re in this place where there’s

32:49going to be a tremendous degradation of trust um so what I’d say is like if

32:55you’re going to use stock images great let your readers or your viewers know

33:00that these are stock images and that they’ve been purchased from stock photo

33:05or made with mid Journey whatever right to make that trust um at the center the

33:12other thing I’d say is like if there’s any chance that your your people your storytellers could come to any kind of

33:18harm if their image or name gets out there then we use some other way it can be a piece of art it can be it doesn’t

33:24have to be stock photos right there’s other visuals that can use and the example I’d use for that is I I did some

33:30work with a beautiful organization that promoted literacy uh for women in Afghanistan which is illegal right and

33:37so they were really dealing with they couldn’t tell any specific stories because even the smallest detail could

33:44put these women in danger and so we really looked at well what kind of images um that are consistent with asset

33:53framing could we use on social media to get bballs well it’s literacy so we use

33:58books right we use hands we right there’s lots of things that we can do

34:04that are a little bit more imaginative creative and interesting than just saying I’m gonna find a stock photo of

34:10somebody who looks like um calop or somebody who looks like Maria because

34:16like that’s kind of right that’s the right demographic so so that’s what I’d say it’s it’s kind of it’s a really

34:22nuanced thing that also goes to what what’s the intention of your story right what kind of visual will help support

34:30that story and build the community around your mission um yeah so for

34:35context I also used to work with young people uh who were you know experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles and one of

34:42the first changes we made is like they were notorious for using stock photos of like you know sad children looking

34:49hungry in a sleeping bag it was black and white we’re like but this isn’t our young PE this isn’t what these young

34:54people are why are we using those photos well because a consultant told them to

35:00right because that’s what was best practice I mean thankfully that’s

35:05starting to shift yeah Maria I love that um hands Silhouettes backs like there’s

35:11so many images that can be really compelling um without resorting to stock photos that you might see on three other

35:17agencies websites right anybody else have anything to add

35:24to that one I think that’s a pretty rich one especially you mentioned AI we could do a whole day on that too actually yeah

35:30I wanted to say about the AI I recently came across an article that was talking about the use of AI images to depict the

35:37Israel Palestine conflict um and my my litmus test is like what is the

35:44intention behind using either an AI generated image or a stock photo because

35:50essentially it’s not real it’s not actually representative right so what’s the intention behind it what is that

35:57photo adding to the conversation that whoever the Storyteller is can’t add it in a different way um you know there’s

36:05all of these questions and then um Michael mentioned you know telling people that their their photography has

36:12been purchased or that it’s been AI generated you know telling your supporters why you’re doing that if it’s

36:19safety reasons it’s educating them about that you know and it’s something that you can’t just say once you have to say

36:25it over and over and over and over again because while we’re all involved in this nonprofit space and ethical storytelling

36:31and all of these things supporters of nonprofits are this isn’t their bread and butter this isn’t what they’re doing

36:37every day so we have to repeat the message constantly in order for them to start to understand why we might do

36:43things the way that we do yeah yeah oh this will be this will

36:49be something we talk about next year if we do this again because I think it’s only going to get more complex um as AI exper banss all right

36:58this question is for everybody we’ll start with Maria um this question is a

37:03challenging one but as come up uh time and time again let’s discuss what some refer to as and I’ll say it poverty porn

37:11um where you see someone’s desperation being exploited for the sake of raising funds for the cause how can nonprofits

37:18be sure they’re avoiding this type of exploitation and how do you recommend standing up to stakeholders who might

37:26request these types of stories I think that last part is very interesting yeah I always

37:32think of um Sally Struthers and the save the children commercials back in the 80s

37:37and 90s and the amount of money that they raised and unfortunately poverty

37:42porn does work for fundraising and fortunately we are moving the direction um of telling stories more ethically and

37:50with dignity and I say as a lens if you can try to tell a

37:57story that evokes empathy instead of saviorism so this could be you this

38:05could be your uncle this could be your neighbor and that’s a practice right I mean that takes time um but again as a

38:11storytelling lens in practice um also I think it’s very key and all of us have

38:18have talked about this in one way or another pain exists and we don’t want to skirt around the pain that the people we

38:25serve have experienced but we have choices on how much of that story we’re going to focus on the pain

38:32how much of the details we’re going to focus on versus how much of that story we’re going to focus on the

38:38transformation and the bright future that is ahead of them right um so that’s

38:44something that I that I often talk about is let’s focus on let’s give people

38:50agency over their stories and let’s talk about their transformation um and focus on the transformation

38:57um I think it was Kopi that mentioned context like let’s not just make it about this one person and the decisions

39:03that they’ve made but there are greater socioeconomic and cultural racial all

39:09kinds of things that are going on that have that lead to this story um and to

39:15answer how do we lead up for these kinds of conversations and I say you know you

39:22have um four people here that are that are really trying to pay the way in this and we all do like trainings and and

39:30teachings and so like instead of um I I will say throw us under the bus and and

39:36tell you know bring bring this recording to them or say hey Farah the next board

39:41retreat or the next staff Retreat I think it would be great to have and I’m not just doing this to pitch my services

39:47but I really think that that when I give Retreats for boards and for leadership I know that having a trauma-informed

39:53organization is top down it really is it’s not something you can do in a silo it’s not something that the marketing

39:59director can decide or the fundraising director can decide it’s something that as a whole an organization needs to

40:05decide I think that’s going to come with training and with um you know in in

40:11investing leaders investing and in in this kind of worldview shift so I I I

40:16just give so much grace and empathy to those who have frustrations in their role that they they feel like they’re um

40:24being pushed to tell stories that doesn’t feel good to them and I think all of us here and Out Diana and I have

40:31spoke about how we’ve been in that role working in house um and you know let’s just take one step forward every day in

40:38trying to um shift how we are telling

40:44stories I think for me um we have to be looking at the way I

40:50Define ethical storytelling is telling the story the way that the Storyteller wants it told it’s not the way we want it told it’s not how how tell my story

40:57you know what if it was me it’s not about me it’s not about what another organization is doing it’s about how our

41:03storytellers the people who are experiencing the impact of our missions want their stories told and if we’re telling them in that way and we’re in

41:08Integrity with them um then it’s not exploitative because we’re honoring their own desires for how they want

41:14their story to be um to be out there um you know I I think that like poverty

41:20porn that term you know it has this element of voyerism right um which I I

41:25think is is really different and um you know like Maria kind of how you said it

41:31works I think there’s been a lot of studies because you know poverty porn um gives a feeling of guilt you feel guilty

41:37that you’re seeing you know someone so disadvantaged and that you want to give but I want to remind folks here because

41:42I’m looking at fundraising more holistically it only works in like Mass Market acquisition that’s where the research studies have been in let’s send

41:49out a blast to all these people who’ve never given before and see who gives for the first time I come from major gifts

41:54we don’t use guilt to Inspire donors to make a million dooll gift we don’t use guilt in those conversations right and

42:02so um look more broadly at the kinds of stories that you know your organization is telling if you’ve ra raised even one

42:09major gift you’ve probably used an inspiring story um and those that those are inspiration that you can draw from

42:16you know don’t just read the studies that are focusing on mass Market acquisition um it’s so much more

42:21holistic than that it’s a beautiful distinction I I appreciate that you shared that I’d like to add just because

42:28I’m seeing in the chat from Pamela it often takes on a racialized component as well which is which is really really

42:33true and it’s it’s worth when I’ve worked with people who resist kind of ethical storytelling usually it’s

42:40because they’re like well the best practice is X we do it this way and it’s worth understanding the context within

42:46which that exploitive storytelling evolved which is philanthropy was never intended to create systems change it

42:54just wasn’t originally philan was intended for wealthy people to give taxfree gifts to make sure that people

43:01with less still had less but felt better about it that and that that comes from a

43:06lot of different sources right so we’re talking about systems change right and so one and when I tell people that

43:13sometimes they go like oh and I’m like yeah so it’s not just unethical you’re actually perpetuating systems of

43:19Oppression with these stories they go oh how can I do it differently usually sometimes they go like I don’t care um

43:25it’s also wor saying that uh there is until last year this past year there

43:31wasn’t really a study that showed how effective participant Leed storytelling is in fundraising now there is um in a

43:39study it was done in international Aid participant Le storytelling was shown to be 35% more effective than traditional a

43:46traditionally designed fundraising campaign right so there is kind of like am mounting data yes Frank I’m just

43:54looking at the chat that that comes from De colonizing wealth right by Edgar villan NOA where he talks about using

43:59money as medicine in my mind ethical storytelling is using story as medicine

44:04right it’s not just doing no harm it’s it’s healing how can we work with story

44:10even fundraising stories to facilitate healing in our organizations in our sector and in our communities right no

44:18big deal just little things hey you’re you’re you’re talking my language now

44:23yeah and if we think about it that way uh to Michael point it’s like well if we’re thinking about it from that

44:29perspective of decolonizing wealth then why not compensate our storytellers time

44:36right yeah that’s great I mean consider also the mediums that these things are shared not so much email or in person

44:43but social media platforms I mean they’re designed to be exploited the whole reason they you know that’s what

44:48makes them work so um you got to get those likes right um okay great all

44:55right well let’s go on to the next question we are 3:55 is Eastern time is when we were going to kind of do our

45:01last question um so we have a little more time um all right so Diana this is

45:08for you and of course others to contribute as well this is from Monica is it important to consider that every

45:14donor will read the story with a preconceived bias are there strategies to overcome or address biases while

45:22still ensuring the client’s exper experience remains at the Forefront of the story

45:28interesting so let me tell you what my philosophy is with storytelling My Philosophy is that instead of telling

45:34stories about your clients we need to be telling stories with our clients

45:40and to the to the biases we all have biases every client is going to read

45:47something or or every donor is going to read something with a bias we are going to approach clients for their stories

45:52with a bias we are watching this webinar with a bias we all show up with biases

45:58every single day of our life so it is important to consider so I think where I

46:03would go with this is what are what story are you subliminally telling in

46:09the language that you use to describe the client or to describe the donor’s

46:15role in the story because you hear a lot about uh donor Centric storytelling

46:21where the donor gets to be the hero of the story I don’t advocate for that I

46:27advocate for the client being the hero of Their Own Story because nobody told that client to show up and say yes and

46:33do something they had to do it for themselves right we helped them along the way with what they wanted and what

46:39they needed hopefully um so I would say be careful of your language even in just

46:45some of the questions that we’ve seen here today using words like disadvantaged

46:51population right underresourced children think it was calop who was talking about

46:56assets and deficits based language if we’re already putting that label on

47:01someone then we’re already telling the donor this is H you know your bias is

47:07fine because we’re reinforcing it with this type of language right so you have to look really critically at what you’re

47:14saying how you’re describing people how you’re describing your mission um so

47:21that you can essentially fight against those biases that are not helpful to anyone they’re not helpful to the donor

47:27because they’re keeping them in the dark they’re not helpful to the client because it’s it’s you know sticking them in in one little box right and they’re

47:35not helping us move our missions forward either I love what you said about about

47:41versus with we talk sell stories with our clients that’s a that’s a great way to think about it anybody else at all on

47:47this topic I would love to touch on donor Centric um stories I think

47:54traditionally do donor stories where it’s actually the the client stories but

48:00then the donor’s funds help to transform their life but I think we forget that donors have their own story and their

48:07own journey and their own transformation in the context of your organization and I have Journeys where I um watched a

48:16film and I learned about something I never knew before and then I became a lifelong advocate for that cause a a

48:23monthly donor that’s my journey and it’s a it’s a beautiful Journey that I’m grateful for um think about donors who

48:31have the opportunity to be a role model for the role model for their children how they can teach their children to

48:36give back how they are able to um and if you have um donors who maybe are

48:42retirees how you’re giving them an opportunity to to Mentor or to leave a legacy um so I think we can still honor

48:50donors through stories as long as the story they’re the hero of their own story not the hero of somebody else El’s

48:57story I want to kind of add to that and and put a slightly different lens on it

49:02which is um if we know right that our audience has a certain preconceived notion about our work about the people

49:08we work with whatever there’s a couple ways to shift that one is to say like hey you’re wrong what a jerk um do

49:15better our people are amazing the other is to tell and this comes from uh a net Simmons who’s kind of like one of the

49:21the god parents of modern organizational storytelling uh she has book called The Story Factor she talks about something

49:28called and I know what your thinking story where you have your Storyteller instead of telling a client story you

49:34could have a volunteer tell a story about how their mindset shifted through interaction with your organization

49:40knowing that your readers or listeners or whatever have that same preconceived notion and so instead of telling them

49:46they’re wrong or trying to convince them you simply present them with somebody just like them who went on a Learning

49:51Journey or a journey of transformation and it opens up a doorway to shift right and curiosity for connection which

49:58is really all we’re trying to do we’re just trying to build connections and build communi so that’s that’s another

50:03way to work with it right if we know for sure like when I worked with young people um experiencing homelessness in

50:11Los we knew that the preconceived notion was these kids are gangbangers they use drugs they’re um you know engaged in sex

50:19work sometimes that was true but also they were wildly creative like incredibly powerful brilliant young

50:26people so we would have volunteers share their stories about their bias shifting

50:33and every time we’d get feedback we’re like huh I never thought of it that way can I come for a tour which is all we

50:39wanted right so it’s another another way of working with that that’s

50:44phenomenal that’ss very phenomenal K anything to Jo anything to add to that

50:50oh I I just really agree with what everyone’s saying yeah yeah okay the

50:55next question is for you then I I Rosio r o c IO I should have asked beforehand

51:02I I don’t I I apologize for not being a to pronounce your name but your question is fantastic um we want to kind of

51:10expand a little bit um on that on that preconceived bias so how do you prevent

51:17checklis this work as Dei versus taking it one step further and committing to

51:23these principles to how all Communications should be done so how to actually make it part of your organization rather than just like oh we

51:30are committed to DN and here’s the boxes we check yeah it’s interesting there’s a

51:35couple layers to the this question and I get a version of it that’s more like I really important but I’m not sure my

51:41boss does or leadership does how do I get their Buy in so that we can roll this out organization wide the way that

51:48this question is framed um it’s hard for me to answer because there there seems like maybe in this organization there’s

51:54an assumption that like Dei work is sort of narrow or siloed or on the side of like you know adjacent to the mission

52:00but not integral to the mission and I actually view Dei work as being integral to um to our sector’s very existence and

52:07to the work of of every nonprofit um here and so I can’t answer the question

52:12from the standpoint of here’s how to make sure ethical storytelling doesn’t get lumped under Dei I actually think

52:18it’s very much a part of Dei um but I also think Dei is very much a part of a nonprofit’s mission and I think there’s

52:24kind of an interesting parallel which is that you know some people think that Dei work is really just about not

52:31offending people we have these rules in these policies because we just don’t want to offend anyone but actually it’s a very like not offending people is good

52:38but it’s kind of the bare minimum it’s like the Baseline and really um I view Dei work as us in our organizations

52:45creating a microcosm for the world that we want to see there’s so much we can’t affect outside of there’s so much we

52:51can’t control or affect outside of um in the in the great world but you know as decision makers in an organization we

52:57can create a microcosm we can influence that and and create in a small way the world that we want to see the future

53:02that we want to see um and so ethical storytelling it’s the same way if we’re leading with we just want to do no harm

53:09we just we want to make sure we’re not harming our storytellers that’s good but it’s also the Baseline it’s the bare

53:14minimum it’s the least we’re doing it’s not an inspiring vision um ethical storytelling is actually also about

53:20creating the world that we want to see um like Michael mentioned earlier our stories have the power to perpetuate the

53:28systems of inequity that are actually necessitating our work and and making our work more difficult they have the

53:34power to undo those systems as well we can actually change beliefs and behaviors um of our audience you know of

53:41you know of large populations through our stories and so it’s really about creating the future we want to see that

53:47is the Grand Vision that is like the potential of ethical storytelling um and then practically to come back to that

53:53question of you know how do I influence others in my organization to roll this

53:58out find those people that are aligned with you it’s really hard to do this alone um find the folks that agree with

54:04you and start with small changes but lead with that big Vision right keep the

54:09big vision in mind um but start with small changes and find who your allies are and grow that network over time um

54:16and I’d love to hear from others kind of what your advices as well yeah Cal OPI I’m right there with you um so ethical

54:24storytelling I think we would all agree is a best practice but the only way for it to survive any of us in any

54:30organization is to make it an sop standard operating procedure these are the steps that you take to ensure that

54:36your stories are as ethical as they can possibly be step number one what are you

54:42publishing step number two have you talked to the direct service staff about

54:47their client and what not to ask step number three you’ve involved the client you’ve informed them as to everything

54:53that they need to be doing or or I’m sorry everything that you’re going to be publishing and and have gotten a permission to as granular as it’s okay

55:00to post on Facebook but it’s not okay to post on link um and then did you review

55:05that that piece that you came up with whether it’s a video story whatever with the client did they give you approval

55:12did you ask them is there anything that you want to add edit or delete right

55:17these are the steps to follow and did you give them that contact information about how they were going to um you know

55:23contact someone if they wanted that story taken down or retracted or changed or whatever right there is a process to

55:29follow and that’s what I talk about in informs consent conversations it’s a best practice it’s a it’s a standard

55:35operating procedure and it’s doable and what you said calop about um getting

55:40your allies together that’s where you start because often times it’s you know like middle managers that are like oh

55:47yes you know this is really important or your direct service staff this is important and they’re pushing back on something that you’re doing with

55:53development or communication because they’re seeing that it’s having an adverse effect on their clients so take

56:00that there’s your allies right there right form a committee you know present your findings to your leadership and

56:07then have your leadership you know schedule some time with you for you at the next board meeting to present your

56:13findings and why you should make this the best practice once people understand the why behind why you need to stop tell

56:20stories ethically it’s really hard to say no right it’s is really hard to say

56:26no then you just work through the actual you know like implementing it so that no matter where we all go in the future

56:33that’s still there that’s a legacy that you left behind at that organization right I mean well there is a business

56:39outcome like you’re gonna make more money you’re gonna your content is going to be better a couple of a couple of

56:45thoughts one like in addition to the operating procedures like create an actual double bottom line for your

56:50storytelling in other words and that double bottom line might be does this adhere to the principles of dignified

56:57storytelling whicher at dignified right you don’t need to make any of this up over the past 5

57:02years other people have done this for you all over the world right the other thing I’d say is like if you’re not

57:08telling stories internally as an organization and honoring each other’s stories internally the likelihood that

57:15you’re going to be able to do it with your clients is almost nil it’s not going to be sustainable because you

57:20don’t know if I don’t know what it is to share my story and feel how vulnerable that is right even a story about

57:27something great is vulnerable um then it’s going to be really really difficult

57:32for me to honor the stories of others and so when we talk about building a culture of Storytelling that’s part of

57:37ethical storytelling because otherwise it gets siloed off into development and Communications and that’s where we get

57:43to that that checkbox type situation R anything to add otherwise

57:49we’ll go to the last question and we’ll finish we’ll we’ll finish up you can go ahead to the last question okay cool

57:54okay okay great last question is a nice one some practical advice for people of course I have like 20 windows open um

58:03all right so this is for everybody um what organizations have you seen do

58:10quote no harm storytelling unquote um really well and where should we look for

58:15good examples that we can use I want to say that everybody well

58:22this is a journey not a destination so I don’t know anyone who’s doing it perfectly but I think uh and I put a few

58:28Links of of organizations I think that are really making strides in this Sanctuary for families in New York who

58:35works in um domestic violence gender-based violence are doing really wonderful jobs um emerge Lanka I think

58:44and I put their website in there too in as far as images are doing a really fantastic job of you seeing images that

58:50are ethical and Trauma and formed and thistle Farms which works

58:56with women who have formerly been trafficked um oh my goodness talking about processes and procedures they have

59:03set so many processes and procedures in place to protect um the women they serve

59:10specifically for storytelling I could talk about it forever but I will say there are organizations out there that

59:16are doing it I I’ll add to that list for folks who are interested in like what it looks

59:23like to own how terrible your storytelling has been and uh want to shift it Doctors Without Borders has a

59:29great anti-ra they’ve got issues internally but they have a really well done video that says hey we’ve been

59:34doing a terrible job here’s the harm we’ve caused we’re committing to doing better and here’s how so if you just

59:40look up Doctors Without Borders anti-racism that pops up um in Los Angeles is a tremendous

59:49organization that not only tells incredibly ethical stories but also has

59:56um uh decolonizing wealth built into their organizational DNA such that their

1:00:01starting salary is $85,000 starting for anybody in the organization uh my friends

1:00:09where I used to work does a beautiful job of this um and then there’s a amazing organization in Tanzania called

1:00:15Thai that does community-based um animated films uh about really deep

1:00:21systemic issues in their communities so and that’s a really creative approach to participatory

1:00:28storytelling I love that I would also add that the organization I used to work with uh shine together we took this

1:00:34thing from like that concept of oh we really need to do things better and it started because uh I published a story

1:00:41about someone who’d been in a domestic violence situation and I had published her photos out there everything was out

1:00:48there about her and at that point I realized oh there has to be a better way to do this so we formed a committee

1:00:55and we we went through the entire process and it takes a really long time and to Maria’s Point earlier none of us

1:01:00is perfect in this not one of us no organization is perfect if you if you

1:01:06dig under the surface we all make mistakes the point is that we have to

1:01:12recognize them right and do better put put the systems in place so that we can

1:01:17prevent those U mishaps in the future those mistakes in the

1:01:23future hope anything anything to

1:01:29add no I think this was was just great I’m reading comments in the chat that’s really this has really been

1:01:36excellent that that’ll be our last question for today this will definitely be a continuing conversation um I

1:01:42definitely want to thank everyone who attended and submitted questions our panelists were really really nice event

1:01:49um like I said we’re going to be continuing to dive deep into this subject over 2024 and karly’s going to

1:01:55put together an ebook um that has a lot of the insights from both um from you guys but also from

1:02:01attendees um so thank you all thank you all very much for your time for those who want to hang out I’m going to give a

1:02:07quick demo of memory Fox I think it can help with your ethical storytelling but but but you know feel feel free to hop

1:02:15off but thank you all so much for your time and thank you all for what you do

1:02:20yeah cool all right real quick I’m just going to show everybody how memory Fox

1:02:27works on it is a really cool platform a lot of work went into it to help with your

1:02:33storytelling needs so if I can get this going of course webinar there we go all

1:02:40right so just real quick at a high level memory Fox is a DIY software that helps

1:02:46you collect stories from your community keep them all organized in one place and

1:02:52design that content into all kinds of cool amazing ways either using our video editor story presentation tools or our

1:02:58canva integration um everyone hopefully loves canva we definitely love canva

1:03:04it’s amazing and it’s free so if you don’t have it I definitely recommend checking out it will definitely help with your storytelling needs in terms of

1:03:10how to package the content and then get it out into the world um so memory Fox is an endtoend storytelling solution

1:03:17that streamlines the entire storytelling process for you from collection to

1:03:22consent to keeping all organized to designing it and then getting it out into the world to help you fundraise so

1:03:29um thank you so much for your time Carly’s going to drop a link oh she already dropped the link in the chat you can learn more and schedule a session

1:03:36with one of our team members um but feel free to reach out to me directly at any time my email address is Chris memory

1:03:43fox. and I look forward to hearing from you all and continuing this conversation moving forward so thank you all very

1:03:49much for your time thank you for what you do and have a great day