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.

**your signature**

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Latest Signatures
526 Ms Anna S. United States LISC Philadelphia
525 Ms Shannon H.
524 Ms Christie V. United States International Institute of Minnesota
523 Mrs Ashley D. United States
522 Mrs Anneloes D. Netherlands Neighborhood Feminists
521 Ms Lidia H. United States Youth Eastside Services
520 Mr Philippe L. United States Plant With Purpose
519 Mr Paul M. United States Feeding America
518 Mrs Nadine N. Australia CAN DO! Content
517 Ms Betsy S. CA Alabaster International
516 Miss Emily T. United States Brain Recovery Project
515 Mr Adam G. United States US Peace Corps Volunteer
514 Mrs Amanda M. United States Kingdom Causes Inc.
513 Miss Caroline B. United States Kingdom Causes, Inc.
512 Ms Helen Z. United States
511 Miss Caroline B. United States City Net
510 Ms Georgia W. United States returned.org
509 Ms Laura S. Dominican Republic Peace Corps
508 Mr Yazan F. United States Kapadia Education Foundation
507 Ms Madeleine D. United States City Net
506 Dr. Kunal S. India Srinivas University
505 Ms Astrid C. United States Adoption Mosaic
504 Ms Sophia F. United Kingdom
503 Ms Sara Y. United States
502 Ms Francesca T. United Kingdom
501 Dr. Rosemarie P. United States
500 Mr Jay M. USA Foster the Future
499 Mrs Liz V. United States Army of the Kind
498 Mr Zachary W. United States A Lee Dog Story
497 Mrs Alyson R. United States
496 Mx. Katelen K. United States Pride Foundation
495 Mr David A. United States
494 Ms Rosa R. United Kingdom Frame Collective CIC
493 Ms Joy M. United States Doorways for Women and Families
492 Mrs Megan C. United States Hope for Life
491 Dr. Lisa D. United States SUNY Empire State College
490 Mr Felix K. Kenya Baobab Media Limited
489 Ms Tina S. United States Breaking Free
488 Mrs NylaN N. United States Breaking Free St. Paul MN
487 Mr Adam J C.
486 Mrs Claire R. United States Claire Rodahaver Photography
485 Ms Stacy C. US
484 Ms Sheila B. United States IAPMD
483 Ms Melissa K. USA
482 Mrs Jessenia P. United States I Am Adopted
481 Mrs Marina S. United Kingdom Clay and Sage
480 Ms Emily L.
479 Ms Belinda B. United States One Million Thumbprints
478 Ms Dana K. United States
477 Ms Carrie W. United States

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.