Top-of-Mind: 15 Storytelling Voices At Virtuous RNS

Three years ago I attended my very first “Responsive Nonprofit Summit” hosted by the team at Virtuous, and every year since I’ve made it a point to block off the conference dates on my calendar. Their team puts on a rock solid event: high quality content, a collection of the most forward thinking thought leaders and nonprofit practitioners, a platform that makes a seamless event experience, and a Spotify playlist that delivers all the dance jams. Then you throw in the cherry on top that sweetens this already delicious treat – the 2024 Virtuous RNS conference would be co-hosted by the incomparable Jon McCoy and Becky Endicott of We Are For Good who always show up with the most radiant energy and illuminate their stage.

In years past I’ve been drawn to Virtuous RNS sessions that I would expect of a conference that gathers together thousands of nonprofit fundraisers. Sessions like how to build a monthly donor program, strategies for stewarding donors, and live donation page reviews. This year delivered the latest trends on some of those same juicy topics, however there was one additional and somewhat unexpected theme that surfaced again and again throughout all three days. It was woven into nearly every single session. And while it is a topic I would expect to hear often at a marketing summit, I was even more pleased to hear it touted here to fundraisers and development directors alike. 


Loud and clear, event speakers unanimously voiced the importance of telling stories to engage donors authentically, to build a base of loyal supporters, to break down silos between teams, and to share lived experiences that unite us as humans in support of a cause. Here’s a round-up of voices from the conference that echoed why storytelling is critical to our missions.

15 Storytelling Voices At Virtuous RNS

  1. Tiffany Allen, CEO & Founder, Boss on a Budget: “People are moved by stories from people who look like them, have similar experiences to them. Stories from regular people, not from organizations.”

  2. Dulari Gandhi, Founder, D. Gandhi Communications: “Be intentional about the type of story you want to tell, why you’re telling it and who you’re telling it to. Appeal to a wide audience by presenting a variety of story types and storytellers.”

  3. Julia Campbell, Founder & Principal, J Campbell Social Marketing: “Authenticity over polished content. First person narratives are the most powerful. Positive storytelling is gaining popularity.”

  4. Bertrhude Albert, Ph.D., CEO, P4H Global: “Storytelling is humanity. It connects us to another human. It’s what our ancestors used to pass on values, knowledge, and understanding. Stories are what connects us to our past and propel us to our future.”

  5. Jeff Rosenblum, Co-founder, Questus: “Telling a great story is not about what you say. It’s about what you don’t say. Everyone is suffering from information overload. Strip out the extraneous information, get to the point of what you do.”

  6. Gabe Cooper, CEO, Virtuous: “Programming and fundraising should meet weekly to talk about stories. Film stories of your donors; they become faithful for life because now they’re a part of your story and because they see other people like them.” 

  7. Javan Van Gronigen, Founder and Creative Director, Fifty & Fifty and Donately: “Nonprofits need to punch their weight against for profit. We can use stories to do this.”

  8. Kyle Roosen, Sr. Marketing & Communications Director, Tim Tebow Foundation: “We ask ourselves how we communicate who we are, what we value, what our heart beats for so when people hear our storytelling or see our content they feel compelled to join our mission.”

  9. Nhu Te, Founder & Content Strategist, NTB Content: “Storytelling isn’t just words on screen. Videos are becoming more prevalent; people are tired of reading.”

  10. Miry Whitehill, Founder and Executive Director, Miry’s List: “We’re taking something that’s global and feels big and unsolvable and boiling it down into personal connections (via stories).”

  11. Viktoria Harrison, co-creator of charity: water, nonprofit coach, and founder of Mission Critical: “Make content that galvanizes community and says something about the identity of the person who gives.”

  12. Candace Cody, Director of Events, Community Boost: “Video content is king. Engage your community, source social content.”

  13. Becky Endicott, Co-Founder, We Are For Good: “Storytelling is one of the great tools nonprofits have in their arsenal. Real, human experience is scroll-stopping content. People are attracted to your mission when they see themselves in your stories. If you source directly from community, you get different voices, different lived experienced.”

  14. Dana Snyder, CEO and Founder, Positive Equation: “Biggest thing monthly donors want is communication and to know where their dollars go.”

  15. Nathan Hill, VP of NextAfter Institute: “The most practical way to increase retention may be to treat new donors like a human being.”

Storytelling Is Key To Be A Successful Nonprofit

Erik Tomalis, Chief Evangelist at Virtuous, may have driven it home during Virtuous RNS best when he explained: “Giving is fundamentally personal. Donors give to your nonprofit for a variety of reasons, but typically they have a personal connection to your cause that’s driving their generosity. As a result, today’s donors expect you to create a more personal connection with them in return.” 

It’s no longer enough to send donors an automated thank you email and a tax receipt; stories are our best tool to pull back the curtain on the faces behind the mission and to show donors the tangible impact of their dollars.

Share Stories That:

  • Inspire
  • Educate
  • Show impact
  • Paint the need
  • Share gratitude
  • Portray transformation
  • Amplify volunteer work
  • Collect event compilations
  • Showcase behind the scenes
  • Glimpse into projects in process 
  • Highlight mission alignment within community

The most engaging way to do this is by sharing stories directly from the voices of those in our circle who have lived the experience firsthand. Consider all the perspectives that can shine a unique light on your organization and consider what type of story is most meaningful for them to share. And then pass over the mic and allow those individuals to help you build emotional connections and bring your mission to life through one of the most fundamental parts of being human — storytelling.

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About the Author

Natalie Monroe
Community Engagement Manager, MemoryFox

Natalie landed in nonprofit with the military-to-agriculture movement, where she told the stories of veterans-turned-farmers feeding our country. Here she embraced content creation and the power of video messaging. When she’s not immersed in storytelling, you might find her volunteering with the local library friends in her community of Davis, California. Natalie would love to connect with you on LinkedIn!