Nonprofit Storytelling Conference 2019 – A Manifesto

I’ve just returned from San Diego from the 2019 Nonprofit Storytelling Conference.  It will take a lot of time to process the information, the incredible sessions, the learning and the re-ignition that came out of it.

It’s an incredible conference.  I’d had the opportunity to attend in 2016, which I blogged about here and here.  (Editor’s note:  that conference was also the birthplace of the idea that became @fundraisingdogs).

What really made this year’s conference stand out – in addition to the incredible sessions hosted by some of our industry’s top thought leaders and practitioners – was the throughline of the journey for our three days together.  We were trail buddies, learning and growing together and each plenary speaker managed to tie together the themes of the conference in a beautiful, seamless, team building/affirming way.   Started by Rachel Bearbower on Day 1, who encouraged us to stand up for each others’ fears, our trail culminated with a stunning encouragement from Peter Drury and Tammy Zonker.

Tammy and Peter shared deeply personal stories of their own journeys – their fears, triumphs, failures.  They reminded us that, as fundraisers, we’re not alone – that the work is hard, but it’s vitally, critically important.

They shared their own manifestos for the work and defined a manifesto as:

Your personal manifesto is a declaration of your core values.  It’s like a mission statement and owner’s manual for your life . . . the idea is to read your manifesto regularly to reaffirm those values and remind you of what you’re committed to.

Thought-provoking and powerful – like the conference as a whole.  I think we all left a little lighter, a little more encouraged – and a heckuva lot smarter.

Tammy and Peter gave us the tools to start writing our own manifestos as we headed back out into the world.

Here’s mine:

I BELIEVE in the equity and inclusion of fundraising.  All donors, all fundraisers at all levels welcomed, encouraged, uplifted.

I BELIEVE in the hard work of fundraising – learning, testing, adjusting, adapting, growing.  Our beneficiaries deserve it.

I BELIEVE our stories – beneficiaries’ and donors’ – are too important NOT to share.


I LOVE telling a donor how they’ve made a difference and telling a beneficiary they’re getting what they needed, that they’re getting hope..

I LOVE the process and systems of fundraising.  The hard work in the details that make the system function better.  The processes that allow more donors to be involved.

I LOVE telling and hearing stories.


I’M COMMITTED TO excellence in fundraising – and always looking for what that means.

I’M COMMITTED TO teaching and leading transformation.

I’M COMMITTED TO telling excellent stories, especially for those whose voices have been muted, silenced, or need to be amplified.


The next Nonprofit Storytelling Conference takes place in Chicago, Illinois at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.  October 29-31, 2020

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