Storytelling Secrets and Secrets in Storytelling

Based on the YNPN Des Moines Discussion Group: Confidentiality in Storytelling on November 8, 2018

During the past five years, the marketing world has woken up to what writers and readers everywhere have always known: People crave stories. And storytelling is often way more effective than data when it comes to convincing donors to give, because it builds on emotion, empathy, and trust—universal human values.

In our number-centered world, that means stories have real ROI, as this chart by Michael Brennan, CEO of Marketing Insider Group shows.

In the nonprofit world, stories are extra effective, but they can also be extra tricky, especially when you’re writing about people with lived experience of poverty, trauma, or abuse. You must walk the fine line between telling a good, true story and respecting the wishes and safety of your subject.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

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Member Spotlight: Meghan Smith

Meghan Smith is the RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Program Director at EMBARC. She has a Bachelor's in Business Administration and Economics from Wartburg College.

Interesting Facts: My first two "jobs" after graduating from college were first to be a camp counselor in rural Iowa and then to serve as an AmeriCorps member in New York City. Very different experiences, and going straight from one to the other was a bit of a culture shock.

Love/Hate: I love finding connections, whether it's an actor from an old favorite turning up somewhere unexpected, meeting someone with whom I have an unexpected mutual friend, or something deeper. I can be impatient, so I hate waiting - I always have a book or my phone handy to distract me when I can't avoid a wait.

Passions:I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had in my life, so I'm passionate about others having opportunities to thrive and removing the barriers to success that too many people face. Also tea - I always have some nearby.

Food: I don't really like cake, so for special occasions my mom always makes mint chocolate brownies going back to my elementary school birthdays. My favorite time of year is whenever I have a pan or two of these in the fridge to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Anything else: I love learning new things, so I'm always reading, listening to podcasts, or watching documentaries. If you read/hear/see something interesting, let me know! (and I'm always happy to share what I've been into lately if you are interested)


Member Spotlight: Jaclyn Wulfekuhle

Jaclyn Wulfekuhle is a Corporate Engagement Manager at United Way of Central Iowa and graduate from University of Northern Iowa. Jaclyn currently serves on the YNPN of Des Moines Board of Directors.

Interesting facts:
Last year, my husband and I traveled to New Zealand and lived in a van for two weeks. Also, we host Airbnb from our home in Beaverdale and have welcomed nearly 150 guests.
What do you love and hate:
I love the outdoors, I am a master as soaking up the sun. I love going hiking and biking all summer. I love seasons and holidays and traditions. I love vintage chairs so much that I have one (at least) in every room. I hate ants, I can't stand the idea of the thousands of ants crawling around.

I am passionate about shopping local and supporting our community. Additionally, I am passionate about affordable housing for all community members.
I hate ketchup, I can't even pass you the bottle. I love all seafood, especially octopus.
Additional info: 
I am currently the co-chair for the Social Committee. I love meeting new people in our community especially through YNPN.


Member Spotlight: Steph Ferguson

17972002_10208710263220028_2898348728260039737_o_(1).jpgSteph Ferguson is the Digital Coordinator for HCI Care Services and Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa. She attended Iowa State University where she studied Culinary Science and Journalism & Mass Communications.

Interesting Facts:
I was once a food writer and recipe developer for Cuisine at Home magazine, hence the culinary science degree. And I attended a culinary school in Spain! I'm a native of Des Moines and have recently returned to my hometown after a two-year stint in Omaha. I rescued my border collie, Beans, from the Nebraska Humane Society in 2015 and we have been inseparable ever since.

Kindness, reliability and empathy are all traits that I love and try to use in my day-to-day life. I am at my best when I'm involved in a cause I believe in and allowed to be creative. I have very few things that I hate in life - it's a waste of energy for me. I do dislike the mall during the holiday season.
I am passionate about being engaged in activities around me, my dog and speaking for those who may not have a voice. Oh and coffee! I love being able to connect people together by way of social media. Reputation management is my forte.
Least and Favorite Food:
I absolutely hate anything truffle flavored! As far as favorite foods go, I can eat almost anything. I'm always down for a good charcuterie board, or a hearty breakfast at any time of the day.
What else you should know:
I love meeting with new people and sharing ideas. I'm a learn-on-the-go type person. I'm always willing to dive in and tackle a new task I may not have experience in. Show me a picture of your pet and we'll become fast friends!


Member Spotlight: Mary-Kate Lange

Mary-Kate Lange is the Volunteer Support & Wish Assignment Coordinator at Make-A-Wish Iowa. She has a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communications with a Public Relations emphasis and a minor in Child, Adult and Family Services from Iowa State University
Interesting Facts: 
I love a good gingham pattern, running for a cause, and listening to live music with a Chardonnay in hand.
What she loves and hates:
I am a big fan of all things Iowa State. My dad and I attend every home football and basketball game. On the other hand, my dislikes revolve around the Iowa Hawkeyes; anything black and gold gets a hard pass.
What she's passionate about:
I am passionate about the city of Des Moines and bettering the lives of all who call it home. I love supporting local businesses and can be spotted shopping at the Downtown Farmer's Market or sipping on a cup o' joe at Scenic Route. I dream of one day being a small business owner and applaud those who have taken the leap!
Favorite and least favorite food:
My favorite food is a good protein pancake, and being lactose-intolerant, anything dairy lands on the least favorite list.

What else you should know:
I'm a big believer in YPs and their involvement in nonprofit organizations; I feel strongly that we make a difference in our communities by donating our time and talents. As the volunteer coordinator for Make-A-Wish Iowa, I seek out opportunities to engage young professionals. I live my life with this quote in mind and encourage you to do the same... "Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so."


Member Spotlight: Amber Wallingford

YNPN.JPGAmber Wallingford is the Jasper County Coordinator at IMPACT Community Action Partnership. 
Interesting Facts: I have seen Taylor Swift 9 times, I hate ranch with an extreme passion and I was a Sims addict in a previous life.
What she loves and hates: 
I love live music! It connects people in a magically way and makes you feel good. I hate rude people because life is to short to be walking around with a negative attitude.
What she's passionate about: 
I am passionate about spreading positive energy. I want to see my community thrive and the people I am surrounded by happy. All humans deserve respect and dignity and I love getting to know people's story.
Favorite and least favorite food:
Love TACOS! Hate Seafood!
Other things to know:
I am a sucker for a good Pun.

Member Spotlight: Tiffani Brendeland

Tiffani Brendeland is an Account Executive at (C)3 Marketing. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.A. in Advertising.

Interesting facts: She likes to hunt (2nd shot gun season on deer) and fish (mainly walleye); she's a wanna be runner (5K, 10K and Halfs) and; a closet nerd- give her all the books!

What she loves and hates: Tiffani loves her husband Case, children Elsie and Elijah and Jesus. She enjoys sweatpants, Starbucks Skinny Mocha with soy milk and reading while drinking wine. If she's comfy, caffeinated and surrounded by family, she is happy!
Life is too short and too important to waste on hate. There are things/people I dislike, but that is life.
What she's passionate about:
"I am passionate about helping people. I just want to live life knowing that I tried and did the best I could for those around me, so I help."

Food favorites:
She will try anything once and hasn't met a food she doesn't like. Favorite foods include lobster and chocolate cake.

What else you should know:
It took her five years of courting Andrea Love to hire her. She knew she wanted to work for (c)3 Marketing because she liked their mission. "I have never worked with a group more passionate, caring, smart or silly as the ladies I work with now and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not a lot of people can say they have that, I am lucky enough to be one of them!"
To become a future YNPN Member Spotlight complete the online form. Email a photo to

Member Spotlight: Kristen Corey

Kristen Corey is a Program Planner at the Iowa Department of Human Rights' Office on the Status of Women. She has degrees in M.S., Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture; B.S., Sociology and Environmental Studies (minors: Agronomy and Psychology). 

Interesting facts and Kristen:
I love being outdoors doing almost anything (even weeding and mowing my lawn). If I had all of the money in the world, I would buy some land in Northeast Iowa and run my own fruit and vegetable farm. I have two young children - ages 2 and 4, and they are my world. Some people are surprised by the fact that I'm a very introverted person and would prefer to sit home and read a book or be outside in my garden over going to parties or social events.
What she loves and hates:
I love kindness, peace, honesty, nature, and people. I hate injustice - period.

Her passion:
Social and environmental justice. My job - equality for women is especially important to me.

Least favorite food:
Least favorite: canned beets. Favorite: too many to mention, but briefly - Thai food, pretty much anything that's spicy, Mediterranean food (love Greek flavors), fresh fruits and vegetables, the taste of a ripe, local tomato. I love to eat fresh, local food.
Additional info:
I'm an open book and wear often my heart on my sleeve.
To become a future YNPN Member Spotlight complete the online form. Email a photo to

Member Spotlight: Kristin Huinker

Kristin is the current chair of YNPN Des Moines and works as the Community Development Director, Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS). Kristin has her Bachelor's in Social Work. 

Interesting facts about Kristin:

She is one of of four sisters, including a fraternal twin ; she is a proud Wartburg College graduate and she doesn't use a smart phone!

What she loves/hates:

Love: Sports, nature, coffee, live music, a well-cooked ear of Iowa sweet corn

Hate: Confrontation, tornadoes (generator of nightmares since June 18, 1994), Creed (no explanation needed)

Kristin's passion

Improving children's welfare in the state; Iowa State athletics; Casey's Pizza

What is your least favorite and favorite food?

Least: cottage cheese; Favorite: Homemade apple pie

Random insight about Kristin:

She mentally recited the entire movie Hocus Pocus while detasseling a field of corn that took over an hour to go down one row. 


Interested in being a future member spotlight? Complete the form here and email your photo to

The No Asshole Rule

Guest post by Amy Alesch.

The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton, phD, is one of those books you read and think to yourself, “I’ve always felt this and finally someone put it into written form with the backing of research.” I feel a sense of relief when this happens…this time I felt vindicated in my decision a couple years ago not to engage with people Sutton defines as assholes. The premise of the book is very neatly summed up in the title. Sutton advocates that organizations not tolerate “assholes”. If an organization must, only one or two must be allowed and those assholes essentially provide an example for other employees as to how not to behave and as an example of how assholes within the organization are punished.

Sutton begins by defining what the characteristics of an asshole are. He gracefully acknowledges that we all have our asshole moments (states). He outlines asshole behavior as a consistent pattern (traits), not a one-time episode. A simple test to assess if someone is acting like an asshole is 1) if an interaction with the alleged asshole leaves the other individual is left feeling humiliated, oppressed or belittled and 2) if the alleged asshole directs her or his malice toward people s/he perceives to have less power, rather than more. Sutton goes on to list the “Dirty Dozen” methods assholes generally use to demean their targets.

Sutton presents convincing evidence of the economic costs to an organization/business that hires and retains an asshole. These costs materialize in the form of high employee turnover, an unwillingness for other organizations or businesses to work with the “asshole”, reputational damage and the propensity for otherwise good employees to act out (stealing, decreased effort) in the presence of an asshole. Sutton goes on to assert that companies would do well to entwine the no asshole rule into hiring and firing policies and organization mission and vision statements. He repeatedly advocates for action behind the words, in these cases…in other words, do not say what you do not enforce.

Sutton ends with counsel on reigning in your own inner asshole (whether it be states or traits) and on how to deal with an asshole if you are in the unenviable position of working with one. The book provided a lovely archway through which we (book club participants) could walk through and commiserate about past experiences, provide feedback on current situations and talk about what we’ve done in the presence of an asshole. For me, personally, as I’ve said, it’s validated what has become a personal and professional mainstay for me. I highly recommend this book…to assholes, non-assholes and occasional assholes. There is definitely much to think about…the way we treat people, the way we like to be treated, what is actually the most effective organizational strategy and what we want and deserve from our professional and personal interactions.

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