UPDATE: At the time of this recording, the show was called The Your Voice Podcast. Since this recording, Kay has has rebranded to Life and Mission.
Rachel Goble is the CEO at The Freedom Story, and Heidi Burkey is a documentarian and director. We’re talking about the Ethical Storytelling community and what it means to tell stories ethically.
[00:01:04] How the Ethical Storytelling community began.
[00:05:50] Heidi began to ask, “What is the human experience in this person’s story that someone on the other side of the world can understand?”
[00:08:04] It’s not only about making the person feel at ease, but also about explaining how the story will be used. This can include explaining what “online” means. The person to whom the story belongs should always have a voice in the process. We talked about how that process works and what it means.
[00:13:48] Rachel: “The goal is not to create pity stories that involve donors, but the goal is to create stories that show our youth or constituents how strong they are.”
[00:14:09] Constituent first, donors second stories
[00:16:31] The Ethical Storytelling framework and pledge
[00:20:10] There are several powerful words we hear a lot in non-profit storytelling. I asked Rachel and Heidi for their thoughts on a few of these.
[00:28:15] Heidi “The only stories we own are our own.”
[00:29:43] Rachel: “We’ve geared most of our content towards nonprofit practitioners and storytellers. And the more that I’m having these conversations, the more I’m seeing a desire from donors and foundations to really understand how they too can participate in supporting organizations to these higher ethical standards of storytelling. Through the questions that they ask, or how they consume the media that might be given to them. And so we’re starting to develop a webinar and podcast series and some training material for donors, which I’m really excited about, and it’ll be kind of a new realm for us to enter into.”
[00:01:38] Vanessa says she always wanted to be a writer, and she’s been journalling since she was seven years old. “I have a passion for personal narrative and this idea that being able to give voice to story is a way that we can process things in our life, in a way that we can heal things in our life. And there’s that element that’s really powerful and really interesting to me.”
Working in the non-profit world, she wanted to tell stories that could connect donors to what was going on in the organization. There weren’t a lot of resources available. The things she was doing seemed to work, so she started to share those things with others.
[00:03:11] “I wanted there to be more equity and accessibility and in what I shared. And I think that still drives a lot of what I do to a large extent. So I think it’s a combination of both of those things are both very powerful for me in terms of drivers of that passion and that focus that I have around storytelling.”
The Purpose of Storytelling
[00:05:18] Storytelling is a powerful tool for building culture in an organization. “I think it just allows for that greater flow of information throughout the organization.”
[00:08:57] We talked about asking good questions, and how to approach an interview. “I always tell folks that it’s much better to incrementally ask questions to understand the story rather than asking them one sweeping question in the hopes of getting all the information you want.”
[00:10:45] In non-profit storytelling, there are several factors to consider as you tell a story. The organization is telling someone’s story, and that person is often in a vulnerable position. “I often wondered, if our clients read these stories would they be happy with the way we portrayed them? Is this how they would tell their story? And does that overlap with what we know to be true about successful principles in fundraising?”
[00:14:58] Storytelling can be an important part of healing. Vanessa shared how she saw this at work in a rape crisis center, she says, “it’s just incredibly powerful and I think speaks to the breadth and depth of what storytelling can offer to people.”
[00:17:22] We spoke more about interviews: “I try to think about them more as like a conversation, and I try to show up to that situation thinking about the conversation. I’m there to engage with someone. I’m there to have a conversation; to be a really deep and empathetic listener and to just be present for what’s happening. I think those are those are really important to me.”
Storytelling on Social Media
[00:20:18] With so many tools and channels available now, non-profits have to think strategically about how and where they use stories. It can be easy to get distracted or to spend energy chasing everything that’s out there. Vanessa’s key piece advice is to have a strategy. “It hopefully will ensure you’re not spending a lot of time on things that are not supporting the goals that you have.”
[00:28:40] “I always come back to data. That’s always my steadfast decision maker.”
[00:33:10] We talked about donor-centered messages. the main point is to remember that your organization is not the star. The donor needs credit for what he or she has done. The language of an appeal can alienate donors.
[00:38:12] “I think it’s just a matter of understanding what your goal is, and who the audience is, and trying to find that sweet spot of what the best story is at that time.”
UPDATE: At the time of this recording, the show was called The Your Voice Podcast. Since this recording, Kay has rebranded to Life and Mission.
Allison Mayer is a photojournalist, using images to tell true stories and to help us understand the world. She describes herself as witness, storyteller and artist. She reminds us not to get so caught up in the story we want to tell that we miss the story unfolding before us.
[00:00:33] Allison describes her role with nonprofit organizations and NGOs across the world. She helps collect media for fund raising and awareness, and develops complete marketing plans.
[00:02:38] It’s important to capture the full story, even if that story is never told in public. “To me it’s all about making that connection and really treating everybody I meet with the respect that they deserve.”
[00:03:45] “I want people to authentically share what they feel is their life.”