From The Team: Lessons from the Ethical Storytelling Report

“What do I do if the people I serve have sensitive stories that they might not want to share?”

Last month, I had the pleasure of leading an educational webinar that stemmed from this exact question – a question that numerous nonprofit professionals ask themselves every single day. 

This session, “From Survey to Solutions: Insights from the Ethical Storytelling Report,” is just one part of our ongoing effort to educate and empower nonprofit storytellers to share authentic narratives that do no harm to their communities.

Didn’t catch the session? No problem! Just fill out this form and I’m more than happy to send you a copy of the recording:

In today’s world, nonprofits are held to unreasonably high standards. Not only do they need to compete alongside massive corporations for a small slice of attention, but they must do so while also upholding the highest standards of integrity and respect. And here’s the thing:

58% of nonprofit professionals struggle with wanting to collect stories from their community while doing no harm.

This is just one of the countless insights we discovered while creating the 2023 Ethical Storytelling Report, and that I discussed during the session. I find this statistic so striking because the information gleaned is both negative and positive.

  • Negative: Nonprofit professionals are finding it extremely challenging to balance the need to tell impactful stories while adhering to ethical standards that ensure their communities maintain their dignity.
  • Positive: Nonprofit professionals are aware of these challenges. And with awareness, comes the initiative to prioritize, emphasize and implement ethical storytelling practices at their organizations.
  • (Double) Positive: You are not the only one doing it “wrong”. If you find yourself worrying about the ethical aspects of how you collect and share stories at your organization, please know that you are not alone. We are all learning – and we invite you to join us!

But enough about my thoughts. Today, I’m excited to share with you the perspectives of my colleagues. I invited our team to share their most important learnings from the webinar, and subsequently the Ethical Storytelling Report, because I recognize that every single person has their own unique experiences that inform their specific learnings. Check out what each of our team members found the most inspiring and informative.

From The Team: Biggest Takeaways From The Ethical Storytelling Report & Session

Jade-Lynn Beltran, Marketing Intern: The commitment of the nonprofit community to ethical and supportive storytelling was demonstrated by the recent webinar. I learned how much nonprofit leaders value and prioritize their communities and how organizations are fostering these ethical discussions. It was emphasized how important it is to ensure that narratives are told ethically, even if it requires more time and work. It was suggested that ethical storytelling guidelines be developed to help simplify and organize this process throughout organizations. I also learned that gaining traction and enhancing donor retention is achieved by positive storytelling. This promotes loyalty and trust, both of which are necessary for enduring relationships.

Natalie Monroe, Community Engagement Manager: The notion that ‘positive storytelling is gaining popularity’ has been surfacing repeatedly recently. This takeaway resonated because it shed light on one of the primary reasons positive stories influence donor behavior. Carly stated: “Positive emotions inspire people to give again because it gets them hopeful for both the future and the potential of your organization’s long-term impact.” Diana Farias Heinrich echoed this in the chat by saying “positive emotions give us a dopamine boost.”

Danielle Miano, Sr. Business Development Manager: Hearing Carly talk through all the findings from the Ethical Storytelling Report provided such a vivid reminder of how important it is to evaluate if you are portraying the stories from your community ethically. Although it can take more time, effort and sometimes resources to be diligent about this, it reminded me that it’s time well spent if it means you can be proud of how you’re representing them.

Jennifer Bingham, VP of Operations: I love the idea of having an organization craft their own ethical storytelling guide. I know that for some organizations this might be a time investment, but boy will it pay off. By creating their own ethical storytelling guide, an organization can standardize their storytelling collection process across the entire organization, making it super clear for anyone in the organization to collect stories and testimonials in an ethical and dignified way. As someone who worked in multiple departments at a nonprofit, I know first-hand how difficult and time consuming it can be to collect, organize, and share stories, so having a guide would have saved me so much time and effort while ensuring our stories adhere to ethical storytelling principles. As Carly said in the webinar, “consistency and transparency are key!”

Joshua Parrish, VP of Business Development: It’s been extremely rewarding to get to connect with hundreds of nonprofit leaders over the last five years – the one thing that has always stood out to me is their universal desire to want to center the communities that they serve. It has been especially rewarding to see such an uptick in interest for ethical storytelling. Seeing all of that materialize in the 2023 Ethical Storytelling Report is just another testament to how wonderful the nonprofit ecosystem is! 

Chris Miano, Founder & CEO: It warms my heart tremendously to see how many of our most important institutions are helping drive the conversation about ethics in modern storytelling. While AI continues to shape performative product-centric marketing, it is good to know that our stories are in safe hands when it comes to nonprofit marketing & fundraising. 

The reflections of our team demonstrate a common dedication to building a strong community through authenticity, trust and the power of stories told ethically. Together, we can create stories that not only resonate with our audience but also honor the dignity and voices of those we aim to serve. 

Here are three ways YOU can stay involved: 

  • First, I’d love to send you the recording of “From Survey to Solutions: Insights from the Ethical Storytelling Report” session. Just fill out this form:

  • Second, join us for our quarterly “Narratives With Integrity” series, where we invite four experts to deep dive into one specific aspect of collecting and sharing stories ethically. Stay up-to-date on future events, and watch past recordings, here

  • Third, keep the conversation going by joining our “Narratives With Integrity” LinkedIn Group. This is an open forum for you to ask questions and receive judgment-free answers from others who deeply care about telling stories ethically.
carly euler memoryfox

About the Author

Carly Euler
Marketing Manager, MemoryFox

Carly comes from the nonprofit world ready to elevate the hundreds of nonprofits in the MemoryFox community. She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Wily Network’s Young Professionals Association, and has previously held positions at the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, the Code of Support Foundation, Kenya Lacrosse Association, and the BOMA Project, where she has specialized in marketing, communications, and fundraising. Storytelling has been an integral part of each role.