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
642 Ms. Kyla T. United States Project WET Foundation
641 Ms. Angelica W. United States International Institute of Buffalo
640 Mx. Christa O. United States Wingo Fundraising Studio
639 Mr. Mike B. United States The Family Table
638 Ms. Melissa S. Australia Cancer Confidence
637 Mr. Jeremy A. United States CWORK
636 Mr. Jonas R. Germany
635 Ms. Abigail E. United States The Rebecca Bender
634 Ms. Lorraine R. Canada Jewels of HOPE
633 Ms. Maria Ofelia A. Canada
632 Ms. Diane Joyce T. Philippines Eleison Foundation
630 Ms. Chilou B. Philippines Eleison Foundation Philippines Representative Office
629 Ms. Melissa B. United States Operation Fresh Start
628 Ms. Sofia J. Canada
627 Mr. Buti K. South Africa
626 Ms. Elizabeth L. United States Westminster Economic Development Initiative
625 Mrs. Dana P. Romania Brigada de Comunicare Nonprofit
624 Ms. Erin K. United States Westminster Economic Development Initiative
623 Mr. Alex N. United States International Institute of Los Angeles
622 Ms. Suhailah W. United States Giving Geeks, LLC.
621 Ms. Rakhi A. United States
620 Dr. Nicole R. United States The Global Good Podcast
619 Ms. Augustus Moo Ler L. Thailand
618 Ms. Penelope D. United Kingdom Stimulus Limited
617 Ms. Helen J. United Kingdom The National Lottery Community Fund
616 Ms. Anna G. United States UNC Gillings School of Public Health
615 Dr. Wayne C. United States New Hope Church and College
614 Mr. Braiden L. United States OC United
613 Mr. Ronald W. United States Legendary Legacies Inc
612 Ms. Carmina Charmaine D. Philippines Eleison Foundation
611 Ms. Melanie C. United States Latin American Association
610 Ms. Bulkhia P. Philippines Eleison Foundation
609 Mr. Justin H. United States University of Minnesota Foundation
608 Ms. Lexi R. United States Believe in Dreams
607 Ms. Carolina F. United States Catalyst Miami
606 Mr. Chris W. Canada Catalyst Foundation
605 Ms. Mari L. United States Lane Gewecke Consulting
604 Mr. Shaun F. United States Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation
603 Ms. Sheila M. United States Children's Mercy Hospital
602 Ms. Dallas G. United States
601 Mrs. Megan-Drew B. United States Hope for Life
600 Dr. David K. United States Momentum Solutions
598 Ms. Frances D. United States Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST)
597 Mr. Henry J. United States Georgetown University
596 Ms. Joannah L. United States Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum
595 Mr. Jonathan C. United States Peaks & Valleys
594 Ms. Romann J. Haiti
593 Ms Melanie K. Australia SARU

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.
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