CASE FOR SUPPORT | The Importance of Ethical Storytelling

publication date: Jun 8, 2022
author/source: Sofia Janmohamed

In this excerpt from “Excellence in Fundraising in Canada – Second Edition” contributing author Sofia Janmohamed reviews the importance of ethical storytelling in your Case for Support.

Stories are critical to convey emotion within the Case for Support. Through stories, we have the tools to inspire empathy (rather than sympathy) and understand what it may be like to be another person’s shoes.

Storytelling allows us to connect a donor to the future state of their commitment and fully understand a challenge and the impact they can have with their support. I have been part of many asks where the power of an individual story was the only reason the donor decided to make the gift. When used effectively and written powerfully, stories bring to life the problem we are trying to solve and the opportunity we are trying to create.

One of the main challenges around storytelling, however, is that even with the best intentions, fundraisers, writers and others engaged in case development are not always aware of their blind spots. Likky Lavji shares in his book Death by B.S., “Our blindspots are rooted in our own insecurities, our own experiences, and our belief structures. There are a number of biases that can explain why we interpret situations in a certain way and why we are blind to the reality of the intentions or truth of others.”

Storytelling requires thoughtful reflection on how we tell these stories. The focus on how a person is represented in those stories leads to us to not only better and more powerful storytelling, but also more ethical storytelling, a key component of which is ensuring that the story itself is told from the perspective of the person that the story is about. According to, an ethical story focuses on ensuring that the most vulnerable person is at the foundation of story in terms of being able to present the information in a truthful, open, and respectful way.

Caliopy Glaros from Philanthropy without Borders provides support on how to assess storytelling language in a Case for Support. By ensuring we are clear on whom the story is really about, he argues, we can move from exploitative to more ethical language, as described here.



Speculative, generalized opinions

Statements supported by evidence – “represented truth”

Exaggeration or extreme example 

Representative case, accurate expectations

Centres an outside hero

Centres the people at the heart of the issue

Procured and promoted without consent

Procured and promoted with informed consent

Harms or retraumatizes the contributor

Heals or empowers the contributor


Key questions to consider when writing stories in the Case for Support

  • Who is the story about?
  • Are we telling the story from that person’s lens or our own?
  • What kind of language are we using as we describe the person and the situation?
  • What is the purpose of the story? Is it inspiring? Educational? Or does it create fear?
  • What kind of images are we using?
  • How are people represented in the images?
  • Did the subject(s) give informed consent?

*This is an excerpt from Chapter 3, Case for Support, in the Expanded Second Edition of “Excellence in Fundraising in Canada, Volume 1.”

Home page photo by Osarugue Igbinoba Unsplash.

Sofia Janmohamed, MBA CFRE is the VP, Leadership Giving & Stewardship at Canadian Cancer Society and has more than 22 years of experience in the fundraising sector.



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