21NTC Session

From Exploitation to Empathy: Ethical Representation in Fundraising Communications

This is a resubmission of an accepted 20NTC session proposal.


Since the term “poverty porn” first appeared in 1981, much has been said about the exploitation of human suffering to inspire charitable giving. Yet for all that we’ve learned over the last four decades, many organizations still struggle to communicate their impact in a way that authentically represents the issue and preserves the dignity of those affected by it. How do we portray our beneficiaries as their own agents of change, while admitting that they also need our help? How do we emotionally connect our donor to our clients, without simplifying their challenges or minimizing cultural differences? In a refreshing take on this provocative issue, Caliopy Glaros  invites attendees to move beyond shifts in lexicon and imagery and to embrace methods that both challenge assumptions and inspire empathy.

Session Type

30 minute session

Learning Outcomes

  • understand how exploitative fundraising communications impact our organizations and program participants
  • tell the difference between exploitation, sympathy, and empathy in fundraising communications
  • apply 5 actions to tell more ethical and equitable stories

Target Audience

Development, marketing, & communications staff who are responsible for creating and sharing stories about their program participants


Content MarketingOutreachSocial MediaStorytelling


Caliopy Glaros


Philanthropy without Borders

Caliopy Glaros is an independent consultant with expertise in ethical storytelling and donor engagement. Her work is informed by her experience as a front-line fundraiser, cross-cultural trainer, and as a former recipient of nonprofit services. She has worked in close to 60 countries around the world, and has delivered workshops on ethical storytelling to small volunteer-run organizations as well as large multi-national charities. Her mission to deepen the critical consciousness around ethical storytelling and to provide actionable recommendations that are applicable to organizations of any size, budget, and mission.



March 23, 2021


11:00am – 11:30am