Ethical Storytelling

Ethical storytelling: definition, examples,pledge, best practices, In Fundraising. Is the practice of honoring others and ourselves when sharing narratives. It is the practice through which you can recognize stories that are beautiful with powerful representation containing more than one story.

Ethical storytelling: definition, examples,pledge, best practices, In Fundraising
Ethical storytelling: definition, examples,pledge, best practices, In Fundraising

We are all storytellers whether we realize it or not we all have experiences, and narratives that we like to share with our friends, families, and lovers, and even sometimes we share these experiences with strangers. We share these pieces of puzzles maybe for keeping them fresh and at the same point, we have the right to decide how and when our stories should be shared.

Storytelling plays an important role in many different organizations but till now we have not realized it. For example, storytelling works like currency for a true impact on this nonprofit and social world.

Simply, stories spread from one corner to another for amplifying awareness. Telling stories can also be considered a profession and one can earn a handsome sum of money through narrating interesting stories. Sometimes stories are being told for inviting others to enter one’s social circle.

One of the powerful tools in this social-impact world is storytelling. This content is used by organizations as well as individuals. On an individual level, personal stories help in leading ourselves to the work that we want to do and when you share your personal experiences as stories with the outside world they also get inspired.

They get inspired because these stories tap into their emotions and shared values. To read about a social thing on paper is quite different from what we learn from that experience by putting a voice or face to the story.

And, yet it is important to remember that the power of storytelling comes with responsibility. There is a fine line between a person telling his stories and using them for empowerment and using similar stories for exploiting someone. Increasingly, a social-impact professional is trying to correct the fine lines by exploring different dimensions of ethical storytelling.

Definitions: Ethical Storytelling

By definition, ethical storytelling is described as a movement by and for social-impact professionals. It is providing a platform where you can wrestle with several ethical questions involved in storytelling and provides strength for answering those questions.

While considering the ethical storytelling approach different question arises such as:

  • Do we have taken the person’s permission for telling their story for this medium and purpose?
  • How the story is presented and whose desires and needs are the basis of the story?
  • Who is the protagonist of the story, an organization, or a person? Who is empowered and disempowered?
  • What will be the reaction of a person after we tell the story in this way? Are we going to continue to help them or are we causing them harm?

You all may be familiar with the name of Rachel Globe, who is the CEO of the Freedom Story and co-curator of the ethical storytelling website. She describes the idealist careers that she started inspecting these questions informally with her contacts and friends.

They when began to achieve success on their path they decided to create a website where they can broaden their conversations while gathering different resources from one place with the absolute goal of creating best practices and standards for ethical storytelling.

As we have to discuss ethical storytelling, some of you might think that why ethical storytelling matters? The answer to the question is that a story carries the power to reflect the strong character of an individual and highlight his strength, dignity, hope, trying, and overwhelming storytelling. This explanation is also the golden word of Globe.

An ethical storytelling approach taps into the positive attributes and connects all the humans and the alternative to this approach is a sensationalized story in which circumstances are so strange that a lost and further marginalized human is forced to become the center of the story.

Goble further says that she feels motivated by letting the organizations know that it is okay and powerful to be at distance from pity-based marketing and toward a more human-centered approach to storytelling.


One of the greatest examples of ethical storytelling relates to non-profits and marketing. For non-profits, marketing towards sponsors, donors, and foundation ethical storytelling is necessary as it is a way to stay afloat for striving in a competitive industry.

We can give great benefits to non-profit organizations by covering their branding, marketing material, and funding work into compelling stories with the hope that it will tug the heartstrings of donors so that they can contribute to the cause.

For our stories to work, we must take care that the stories that we are telling must be accurate, empowering, fact-based, and consensual to the people that we are describing as the storytelling in the eyes of the funder is not only one lens that needs to be looked at and requires the active practice of ensuring NPO marketing is reflecting the viewpoints of both donor and constituents.

To achieve respect for human dignity and serve constituents through receiving funds these viewpoints are permanent.

In this sense ethical storytelling is something that nonprofits should take into consideration as their priority while creating the marketing material and spreading their cause.

If defined with truth and written with emotions these stories will open up hearts, evoke empathy, and appeal to ethos. It will create a connection between potential donors, and the general public to connect with clients at a personal level for a better understanding of how the organization tries to tackle issues.


While considering ethical storytelling you may think about how to embrace ethical storytelling in your work? A good first step is to take the ethical storytelling pledge. Several commitments are listed in the pledge which helps you live by the principles of ethical storytelling.

After signing the pledge, download a copy of it and paste it at some noticeable place and use it as a daily guide, something that Globe recommended and does herself. When you sign the pledge then you are also subscribed to the ethical storytelling email list on which webinars and other resources are shared.

Goble recommends that if you or your organization wants to embrace ethical storytelling, then you should begin this process by drafting a child protection policy. Even if the organization is not working for doesn’t work for children, often many of the questions will be covered in this policy such as What are situations in which someone is stepping and what counts as informed consent? are related to working with adults too.

Another place where you can start to work with is to think about the consent process for the online content that your organization produces Goble suggests going beyond the simple questions for gathering consent forms and she further adds that it is easy for us to get rid of the habits, or to answer that we have another email account, or have to post four times on Instagram and in this way we are losing human-ness.

The actual thing that we have forgotten is that human connections also encourage empathy and the wish to support one another.

Best Practices

Ethical storytelling is not only important for donors for branding but they also shape our world and humanity existing in it. All of us have our unique stories and ethical storytelling prioritizes the storyteller. It prioritizes the person whose story is being told. The second principle of ethical storytelling is to learn how to release power and you should be aware of the position and power dynamics of the listener and storyteller.

Normally, there are 7 great steps to ethical storytelling. Organizations like ours tend to share stories of different protagonists actively to exercise power and influence. When a protagonist lends us to share her experiences, she opens herself up to criticism, misunderstanding, curiosity, and sometimes even physical harm.

These 7 steps that should be selected to shape the stories ethically are

  1. “Solicit input on whose stories to tell and how from the people you serve”.
  2. Assess those stories.
  3. Is the protagonist of the story willing to share it?
  4. If so, let your story subjects know their stories will be used.
  5. Ask for your protagonists’ written informed consent.
  6. Shape stories to maintain the protagonist’s dignity and humanity.
  7. Minimize potential harm to your story subjects.

In Fundraising

People often give money and get involved with non-profit organizations because they feel they can make a difference. Connection with work and cause is at the heart of every action that any individual takes with the non-profits. The most powerful tool that you need to build relationships with prospective donors is storytelling.

The art of storytelling in fundraising can be explained through different examples such as:

I saw someone end up in a homeless shelter and I was desperately worried about the kids’ happiness then I decided to take them to a playtime project play at night after hearing it from their parents. Now, these kids are happier and calmer after getting time.

I want to donate some part of my income to important causes, but I don’t know what organizations require the most and who will be responsible for it so I gave it to worthy organizations and they worked as great shepherds of my donations and worked for lifting with communities.

Read also: Ethics in communication; What is business ethics?; What is ethics

External resource: Idealist

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