Take the Ethical Storytelling Pledge

Thanks to the digital age, we live in a new era of storytelling and fundraising.

Whether through blogs, emails, social media or video, using story to highlight an organization’s impact is an engaging way to invite people into the good work being done. From the complexities of social issues to the benefits and downsides of nuanced solutions, great stories not only inspire but educate. Yet, all too often, organizations view stories as merely a way to raise funds. This reduces stories to a mere transaction, when they are so much more.

Stories have the power to show someone a mirror-image of their best self. To encourage people to hold on when going through difficult times. And to inspire others to act. Stories change our world.

We are a community of practitioners engaging the messy yet beautiful conversation around storytelling in the social impact space. At Ethical Storytelling, we believe people’s stories are more than emotion-generating machines. That story consumers are more than guzzlers of emotion. And that stories should always be constituent first, donor second. We aspire to tell stories that are truthful, nuanced, educational and empowering. Not just for donors or for branding, but because stories shape our humanity and our world.

This pledge is an aim to focus on the HOW not only the WHAT of the stories we may encounter – but maybe should not always tell – in the work we do.

As storytellers and non-profit practitioners shaping the way the world sees people’s lives:

We pledge to:


  • Tell others’ stories the way we want our story told.
  • Always put people first.
  • Explain to constituents the purpose of the story, where it will be used and answer any questions they might have before photographing, filming or recording.
  • Find an able translator if we speak different languages.
  • Ask the constituent if they wish to be named or identified and act according to their wishes.
  • Use all images and messages with the full understanding, participation and permission of the constituent or the constituent’s legal guardian.
  • Uphold the dignity of our constituents through empowering imagery and messages that motivate engagement and inspire hope.
  • Truthfully represent a situation or story to educate our audiences of the realities, complexities and nuances of the issues we advocate for.
  • Not use images, footage or words that sensationalize or stereotype a person or a situation.
  • Ask for feedback from our constituents and incorporate this feedback into the final story.
  • Abide by international law, standards and protocols related to vulnerable persons, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  • Listen to our constituents’ voices and respect their decisions, story and journey.
  • Hold a posture of humility and learning, recognizing that failures can be our biggest educators.
  • Seek advice if we question whether a particular story, message or image is not in alignment with ethical storytelling practices.
  • Not tell the story, despite the resources invested, when the story cannot be told with the integrity of this pledge.
  • Take ownership of our responsibility to uphold integrity in our storytelling and messaging.

As a community of nonprofit practitioners and storytellers we commit to learning from the past and integrating a new standard of storytelling as we journey together into the future.

Sign the pledge

I pledge to be a bridge builder, working to tell better stories that respect and honor all people involved.

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Latest Signatures
283 Sydney K. Indiana Sari Bari
282 Jodi H. USA SlaveFree Today
281 Lauren S. USA Atypical Artists
280 Brylyn F. United States Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
279 Steve H. United States World Vision
278 Amelia H. United Kingdom
277 N N. United Kingdom Noort Filmworks
276 Marlena H. United States GlobalGiving
275 Kate L. USA
274 Pete K. United Kingdom No More Traffik
273 Fiona G. New Zealand Habitat For Humanity , Auckland
272 Jen R. Canada Sarah McLachlan School of Music
271 Kate P. Canada Western University
270 Lucy S. United States The Food Project
269 Doug R. United States Center for Creative Media
268 Christina F. United States East Texas Human Needs Network
267 Darlene F. United States Soroptimist/LiveYourDream.org
266 Tiffany M. United States Habitat for Humanity Capital District
265 Emma G. Thailand For Freedom International
264 Alicia C. South Africa Thanda
263 Megan M. United States Advocating Opportunity
262 Mollie D. USA Abide Family Center
261 Elizabeth Q. Cambodia CBE- Voices of Color
260 Aleks P. UK
259 Cherri S. US Pro Voice Exhale non profit organization
258 Laura Joyce D. United States
257 Rachel D. Cambodia Penh Lenh
256 Wellon B. Congo Mwana Villages
255 Nicole E. USA Operation Underground Railroad
254 Meghan D. USA
253 Gabriele C. Sweden GC Productions
252 Graciela G. United States Heartland Alliance
251 Jim W. United States 9034624311
250 Sophie R. New Zealand Tearfund NZ
249 Lea G.
248 Bob D. Uganda
247 Melanie K. United States Stories Without Borders
246 Brittany D. Panama Seedling Media Productions
245 Franko P. Austria Light for the World
244 Bryon L. Thailand Sharingdots.org
243 Satvika K. India
242 Heidi K. United States New Horizons Healthcare
241 Krista L. United States Arizona State University
240 Elisabeth R. United States Elisabeth Rapport Communications, LLC
239 Kayla T. USA/Lebanon Cedars Network
238 Kelly G. Australia
237 Anna H. United States individual
236 mike g. usa Your Mission Matters
235 Ginny C. Thailand
234 Ben C. USA Ben Crenshaw Inc.

Join our Ethical Storytelling 101 Workshop to hear from filmmaker Heidi Burkey, The Freedom Story President Rachel Goble & others as they lay a foundation for what it means to tell story ethically in our non-profits.