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
606 Ms Wendy H. United States The Red Shoes
605 Ms Sarah P. Canada Bissell Centre
604 Mx. Yesenia P. United States LA Voice
603 Ms Katelyn K. United States Institute on the Environment
602 Mrs Ashley M. United States Real Escape from the Sex Trade: REST
601 Miss Martha H. United Kingdom Baca Charity
600 Miss Allie S. United States
599 Ms Brigitte P. Ghana Freelance
598 Mr Jonathan T. United States Helping Hands MB
597 Ms Lori F. United States Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers
596 Ms Caroline H. United States MENTOR
595 Mrs Brittany R. United States United Way of Treasure Valley
594 Dr. Nyah B. Practical Nicolas Inc
593 Ms Niko M. United States Sankofa Community Connection
592 Dr. Shawn G. United States Long Island Scholars
591 Mx. Dylan S. United States Pisgah Legal Services
590 Ms Cathlyn L. United States Hospice of the North Country
589 Dr. Laura M. United Kingdom Sheffield Hallam University
588 Ms Jennifer Q. United States Public Health
587 Mr Allen S. United States University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
586 Ms Jamie H. United States
585 Ms EllieLee L. United States Mountain Rose Midwifery
584 Ms Michaella W. United States UNC Chapel Hill
583 Ms Lucy R. United States
582 Mrs Doreen A. USA
581 Ms Kaitlin B. United States
580 Ms Jessica K. United States
579 Mr Olu A. United States
578 Ms Christa T. United States
577 Ms Keely B. US
576 Mr Craig G. United States
575 Ms Olivia K.
574 Ms Kathryn K. United States
573 Ms michelle s. United States OCAPICA
572 Ms Nhi T. United States OC United
571 Ms Sarah Mae M. United States Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance
570 Mr Daniel R. United States Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance
569 Ms Madison G. United States
568 Dr. Laura C. United States Eleison Foundation
567 Mr Maxwell D. United States OC United
566 Ms Alicia P. United States OC United
565 Dr. Hilary L. United States Puget Sound Educational Service District
564 Ms Chantal L. United States University of Tennessee
563 Ms Molly B. United Kingdom Earthy Everything
562 Ms Courtney K. US Families First
561 Mr Brandon M. United States OC United Together
560 Mr Jonathan M. Canada The Salvation Army
559 Mr Ross N. Australia Every Daughter Matters
558 Ms Kathleen C. USA
557 Ms Diane B. United States Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Inc. - West Allis, WI

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.