2023 Sessions - Nonprofit Storytelling Conference

Nonprofit Storytelling Conference
Session Topics for 2023 

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. 

And to celebrate, we're bringing you more sessions than ever! ... over 54 sessions!

At this year's Nonprofit Storytelling Conference you're going to learn about:

  • Finding new donors
  • How to use stories to raise a lot more money
  • Board development
  • Social media strategies to grow your community
  • Grant storytelling strategies
  • Leadership and team building
  • Storytelling at events
  • How to make powerful Asks
  • and so much more...

We'll be releasing the session titles over the next few weeks as we finalize them with our presenters.

The Conference runs from November 2 - 4 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, CA.  Sessions start at 8 am and end at 5:30 pm on November 2 and 3 and 12:30 pm on November 4.  A more complete conference schedule and agenda (with days and times) will be available on July 5.

Read below to see what sessions have been finalized:



Geraldine Zamora

Let's Go Viral: Spark Engagement and Ignite Your Community for Fundraising Success

If you want to create a campaign that rallies an online audience around your organization, this session is for you.

You’ll see how a campaign rooted in your community's needs and beliefs can drive engagement, grow awareness of your organization and attract new donors.

Come get the campaign strategies and tactics used by more than 1,000 nonprofits to craft a campaign that resonates with the community, so you can generate buzz around your work and find more donors.

Chris Davenport

Grow Your Donors and Audience with a Viral Storytelling Campaign

This session is the start of an amazing and fun journey for your organization.

During this session, you’ll discover the secret of how a viral campaign can significantly expand your donor base and deepen community engagement.

Chris Davenport will share case studies of viral campaigns and introduce you to the "Viral Campaign Builder", a game-changing tool designed to help you construct your own high-impact viral campaign. Get ready to connect, captivate, and grow like never before.

Hawwa Muhammad

Ditch the Dullness: Amp up your story and data collection with focus groups

If you’re relying on paper or electronic surveys to collect stories and data, you’re missing out.

In this session, Hawaa Muhammad will help you unlock the storytelling goodness that comes from a well-designed focus group.

Focus groups can be a much more dynamic and effective tool for gathering data and stories that show how your organization is impacting your community.

You’ll get creative strategies for creating engaging focus groups for diverse audiences (youth, vulnerable populations). And Hawaa will share her tips for overcoming objections from your colleagues (read: boss).

Come to this session and say goodbye to traditional surveys and hello to focus groups!

Diana Farias Heinrich

Consent is Key: Revolutionize Your Organization’s Storytelling

In this interactive session, you'll gain insights into how to craft inspiring narratives that prompt your donors to take action, without violating the privacy or dignity of your clients.

Diana Farias Heinrich will guide you through her well-structured "Informed Consent Conversations" framework. This will help you grasp the ethical way to tell stories. She will also show you how to integrate this into your organization's storytelling routine.

When you adopt this method of gathering narratives, your clients will feel appreciated and comfortable sharing their genuine experiences. Simultaneously, your donors will witness the direct influence of their generosity.

Josh Meyer

Transform your Relationships: How to Turn Volunteers and Donors into Super Supporters

Volunteers are the lifeblood of so many nonprofits.

They can also be some of your most reliable and consistent donors. Research shows that volunteers are 80% more likely to donate and make larger gifts. (And donors who volunteer? Their retention rate is through the roof!)

In this session, you’ll see how you can turn your volunteers into loyal and engaged donors. You’ll learn how to pinpoint what motivates your volunteers and donors, tips for segmenting your volunteers (so you tell them the right story!) and how to double down on your storytelling to volunteers.

So if you’re one of the many nonprofits who are reluctant to ask their volunteers to become donors and their donors to become volunteers – come to this session and stop leaving money on the table.

Frank Velásquez, Jr.

Change Your Transactional Ask to Transformative Storytelling to Unlock Unrestricted Gifts

Discover the storytelling secret that leads to transformational giving.

In this session, Frank Velásquez, Jr. will unpack the storytelling secret that leads to more meaningful donations.

Many organizations ask in a way that makes donors feel more like a transaction. And who wants to feel like that? Learn how to make your donors feel great about giving to your organization (and not feel like another transaction).

With this storytelling skill at your side, you’ll develop deeper, more authentic relationships with your donors.

And that means more donors will say yes to unrestricted giving when you make the transformative ask.

Chris Davenport + Joshua Alcorn

Storytelling Techniques: From Politics to Hollywood

This session is different.

You’re going to gain insights into powerful techniques from a whole new perspective.

Join Chris Davenport, a Hollywood veteran, and Joshua Alcorn, a veteran political fundraiser. Together, they will reveal transformative techniques that will help you grab attention, capture hearts and grow a stronger base of supporters.

You’ll learn storytelling strategies that make your stories resonate more deeply, evoke empathy, and inspire action. Gain insights from real-life examples from movies to politics and leave with actionable strategies that work for any kind of nonprofit.

Don't miss this opportunity to learn from these two experts who, in addition to teaching you new techniques, will also make you laugh. This is a fun session not to be missed.

Melissa Kruse

Crafting an Irresistible Gift Catalog: The Power of Mini Stories in Fundraising

Create a captivating and irresistible gift catalog.

In this session you’ll learn the art of storytelling, design strategies, and donor-centric approaches that can make a gift catalog for your nonprofit an irresistible piece of fundraising.  Witness firsthand how these story-driven catalogs captivate donors and inspire action.

Join Melissa Kruse from The Better Fundraising Company as she reveals the secrets behind creating “gift catalog” stories that drive donor giving.  You’ll discover how to craft little stories for gift catalogs that resonate with your donors' hearts and minds.

Gift catalogs are sweeping the fundraising world.  If you want to get in on latest trend and tap into your donor's generosity, this session is for you!

Marc A. Pitman

How Simple Storytelling can Transform Your Team

Do you struggle to keep cohesion with your team? 

Maybe you have a high potential employee who simply isn't living up to their potential. Or a high performing direct report who feels they are underutilized because they don't have your job yet.

Or maybe you said "I just don't understand this person!" - and hoped you only said it in your head.

If so, this session is for you.

Let leadership expert and nonprofit coaching superhero Marc A. Pitman help you pinpoint the best ways to get the most out of your team.

He'll show you how storytelling can easily transform your relationships with your direct reports and make sure the passion YOU have for your organization lives on even after you've moved on.

Oh, and if you have a boss you just don't understand, you should definitely come to this session too!

Steven Screen

Getting and Using Matching Grants

Matching grants tap into a core donor story.

And they can help you raise significantly more money.

In this session, Steven Screen will show you how to get matching grants and how to use them. You’ll learn the strategies for securing matching grants from mid and major donors. He'll provide you with effective scripts to use when making your request.

You’ll also earn how to create a matching grant fund that entices your donors. And you’ll discover the hidden concept that gets more major donors to contribute matching grants.

Steven will guide you through using the match across various channels including direct mail, email, and your website's homepage and giving page. He’ll also share the most effective “matching” phrases to use with your donors.

Additionally, you'll learn strategies to maximize the impact of your matches, encouraging more donors to contribute generously.

This session will have you raising more money with your very next appeal or direct ask.

Jim Shapiro

The Storytelling Secret to Finding New Major Donors

Finding new major donors just got a whole lot easier.

In this session, Jim Shapiro will share the secret recipe for a ‘Vision Meeting’ – a storytelling journey that’s proven to attract more major donors.

And to make your next Vision Meeting as turnkey as possible, Jim will share a process and templates for you to use to get potential donors to the meeting. Jim will make setting up and putting on a vision meeting extremely easy for you.

You want more major donors. And when you come to this session, you’ll learn exactly what to do to get more major donors.

Jim Shapiro

5 Stories to Tell to Raise the First 60% of a Capital Campaign

Imagine you had a team of major donors all working toward one goal: raising all the money you needed for a capital campaign – with no drama.

What do you think it would take to build that team?

Would you be surprised to learn that all it takes is 5 stories?

In this session, Jim Shapiro will share five stories you need to tell your capital campaign donors from the first feasibility discussion to the groundbreaking to the ribbon cutting.

Whether a capital campaign is in the works or just a big hairy audacious goal you’ve got, you need to know these stories and how to tell them.

Beth Ann Locke

Storytelling + Storylistening + Storyweaving = Meaningful Relationships (and Meaningful Giving)

You know a good story can inspire a donor to make a gift.

In this session, you’ll learn two pro-level storytelling skills – storyweaving and storylistening. When you know these skills, you can transform your relationship with your most important donors.

Beth Ann Locke will show you how storyweaving can help you tie your donor's values to your nonprofit's mission.

And you’ll learn how to leverage the power of storylistening. Once you have the skill of “storylistening” in your fundraising toolbox, you can tap into the story your donor tells themselves – this will help you have profound and authentic conversations with them.

If you want to inspire a level of connection that leads to meaningful giving and enduring partnerships, this session is for you!

Cindy Wagman

You don’t have to be stressed and burned out to make a difference in the world

So.  How’ve your last three years been?  

If you’re feeling burned out after putting all of your energy into your 9 to 5 since March 2020, you are not alone.

Here’s a truth-bomb for you: you do not have to sacrifice yourself for the ‘good of the work’ if the work means long hours, low pay and lack of control.

If you’re curious about consulting or a side hustle, this session is for you.  

Cindy Wagman will share her no-compromise framework to help you get clarity on what your career path or consulting journey might look like.  And she’ll help you prioritize the things that are most important to you (goodbye pro/con lists, hello pro/pro lists!).

This session will help you expand your thinking and discover new ways to write your own future.  You deserve nothing less 💪.

Amy Lazoff

Family, Corporate and Private Foundations!  Oh My!

A good story can be the difference between a grant acceptance letter and a ‘try again next year’ letter.

But how do you find that story? And then tell it to vastly different funders?

In this session, Amy Lazoff will walk you through a proven process to pinpoint the best story to tell funders – and then integrate and adapt that story to meet the needs of family foundations, private or corporate foundations … even government entities.

Once you know Amy’s process (and learn her simple skills for telling stories to funders) you’ll know the storytelling secret great grant writers use for applications where every word counts.

These skills even work for those pesky funders who provide little guidance on what they are actually looking for!

Steven Screen

$X to Verb a Noun - The fundraising formula that raises the most money

You get a little nonprofit envy when you see a piece of fundraising that says:

$2 feeds a family for a day! Or $17 provides clean water for a month.

You’ve always wanted something like that for your organization. But you maybe you thought it was impossible for your organization to have such a simple ask with a dollar amount. 

Now you can have a simple ask that more donors will respond to.

In this session Steven will teach you a system for finding the most compelling asks for your organization. And you can apply this “Ask System” to your very next piece of fundraising!

And he’ll workshop your ask with you!

So whether you do something easy to understand (like feeding kids healthy lunches) or something more abstract (like running a quilt museum, or providing therapy services) this session is for you.

You’ll walk away with a simple ask that has a dollar amount.  An ask like this helps your donors see the meaningful difference they can make with a gift to your organization… and it gets more donors to give.

Dana Snyder

Your Story is Worthy Too!

As mission driven nonprofit leaders, we’re REALLY good at talking about our organization’s work. 

So good, in fact, that we sometimes lose sight of what makes us great and influential in our own right.

In this session, Dana Snyder will show you how to build meaningful connections within your community (whatever that may be!) by telling your own unique story. Because when you tell that story, you can take yourself – and your organization – to new heights.

A gifted storyteller herself, Dana will help you step away from internal self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and comparison mentality so you can become the thought leader you deserve to be.

Tania Bhattacharyya

The Storytelling Secret to Connecting Your Mission with Your Community

If you’ve ever felt like a small fish in your community’s big philanthropic pond – this session is for you.

Tania Bhattacharyya was once in your shoes. Her organization made transformative change happen. But the movers and shakers in her community had no idea.

Then she discovered this storytelling secret and used it to find new donors, get attention from the local media and get referrals (for new clients, volunteers, even board members!).

In this session, Tania will share her storytelling tactics for using LinkedIn to create a bridge between your mission and the community you serve.

You do such important work. And after this session, you’ll know exactly how to leverage the power of LinkedIn’s platform – so your community notices.

Tammy Zonker

The Applied Science of 'Awe' in Storytelling & the Donor Experience

Capture your community's attention.

If you’d like to forge strong bonds with your donors, nurture relationships, and inspire profound acts of generosity, you need to create 'awe' in your community.

In this session, Tammy Zonker will demystify the science behind awe (there’s a LOT of science) so that you can inspire your donors to do big things.

You’ll discover how awe impacts our brains, bodies, and emotions. And you’ll gain practical techniques to create awe-inspiring moments that ignite action.

Prepare to revolutionize your strategies and embark on a journey of awe that transcends boundaries, connects souls, and transforms lives!

Jen Love

Cultivating Your Curiosity and Confidence as a Storyteller

All great storytellers have a storytelling mindset.

In this session, you’ll learn how to develop your own storytelling mindset.  So you can find compelling, courageous stories and tell them naturally, joyfully and (eventually) effortlessly.

Jen Love will show you how to connect the dots between your own curiosity and the conversations you have with people in your community (beneficiaries, colleagues, donors).  

You’ll learn techniques for preparing for and interviewing clients and community members and tips and tools for curiosity-driven conversations.  And you'll also learn how to confront the concerns and barriers stopping you from having authentic conversations.

Jen will share just about everything you need to develop and nurture your own storytelling craft!

John Lepp

Creative Rule Breaking for Direct Mail Nerds

Tired of sending the same kind of donor communications year after year after year? 

Get your donor's attention and interest with something unconventional that's proven to work.

This session will help give you a fresh perspective on your direct mail -- so you can feel confident breaking rules and raising more money while you do it.

Your donors love it when you step beyond the normal nonprofit speak.  And they'll reward you by sending more (and larger!) gifts.

So if you want fresh ideas and new perspectives on how to fundraise, join John Lepp for this session.  

Pocket protectors not required for entrance (but strongly encouraged 😀).

Kristin Steele + Samantha Swaim

Please Just Tell Me What to Do With My Event

Do you want your event to raise the most money and bring the most awareness to your organization?  If so, COME TO THIS SESSION!

Events have become more complicated since the pandemic. If you’re not doing a hybrid event, then you are not raising as much as you could be.  And you’re not engaging as many of your donors who would like to support your organization.

In this session, Kristin Steele and Samantha Swaim will demystify the hybrid event format for you.  They’ll also give you three different event plans you can implement right away.  And because the plans are ‘good, better, and best’ you’ll learn something no matter how much time or flexibility you have.  

Oh!  And there’ll be actual event case studies, too!

So if you’re looking to raise the most money and engage the most donors at your next event, come to this session.

Kristin Steele + Samantha Swaim

What Do Fundraising Events Look Like Now?

Event fundraising has changed a whole lot in the last three years. 

And if your organization raises money at events, you need to be in the room when Kristin Steele and Samantha Swaim break down what makes a fundraising event successful in 2023 (and beyond).

You'll see how old event fundraising systems are being rebuilt and how hybrid events can create a more inclusive and more connected community.

There will be a lot of pre-pandemic event fundraising myth-busting in this session!

Jeff Brooks

My 5 Worst Fails (and What You Can Learn from Them)

Ordering pineapple on a pizza.  Driving away with your coffee mug still on your roof.  

Mistakes are embarrassing. 

But fundraising mistakes?  Those can cost you dollars and donors. 

Jeff Brooks has made every fundraising mistake under the sun.  And in this session he'll share 5 mistakes that you're probably making, too.

So stop losing money.  Stop losing donors.   

You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  And you’ll learn as Jeff helps you put the coffee mug back in your car and order the right kind of pizza!

Reuben Herzl

Creating Powerful Videos for Fundraising Galas

If you want a powerful video for your fundraising event, come to this session.

With Reuben Herzl as your guide, you’ll discover the process behind authentic storytelling that he’s used to create powerful documentary videos for gala fundraisers. You’ll learn his secret to working with creative partners AND pinpointing the story that will resonate with your donors.

You’l learn how the best visual storytellers find and tell the most compelling, authentic stories. And how can you apply their process even if you’re on a limited budget and have to create the video yourself.

You don’t need to be a filmmaker to benefit from this session – in fact, it’s better if you aren’t!

Captivate your audience with a video at your next event. Come to this session to learn how.

Reuben Herzl

The Future of Nonprofit Video is Human

Newsflash: Video ain’t just for fundraising any more.  

And in this session, Reuben Herzl will take you on a journey into the future of nonprofit video, where human-centered content creates deeper connections between your organization and the communities you serve.  

You’ll discover the tools and platforms you can use to create personalized and interactive experiences for your donors, staff and community. That means using video to onboard volunteers, train employees, build community and cultivate trust among your donors.  

Want to unlock the full potential of video?  This is the session for you.

Rachel Zant

A Different Perspective: How to Tell Your Organization’s Story Using Multiple Points of View

Donors love a good story.  And you love telling good stories.  

But what do you do when your storytelling starts to feel a little .. stale?  You ask Rachel Zant for inspiration!  

In this session, Rachel will help you identify new perspectives or points of view for the stories you tell.  

You’ll learn how to use different voices to tell authentic and compelling stories.  And you’ll learn Rachel’s interview tips to help ‘dig deep’ to find the most emotional part of your storyteller’s story.  

All of this adds up to better, fresher stories and deeper connections with your donors! 

Lori L. Jacobwith

What Every Fundraiser Needs to Master: Your Origin Story

Quick – what’s your origin story?  

A compelling origin story can be a powerful tool for engaging donors, beneficiaries, community leaders … everyone.  

An origin story is an exercise in being vulnerable, and it can help establish rapport and trust with other people.  And it can help reduce the fear we all have when meeting with donors.  

You need an origin story!  

And in this session, master storyteller Lori L. Jacobwith will walk you through a simple process to help you create one – or improve the one  you already have.  

When you leave this session you’ll have an origin story AND the skills and confidence to tell it.

Erica Waasdorp

How to Upgrade and Keep Your Monthly Donors

Learn the strategies that will help you bring in larger and more consistent donations.

In this session, monthly donor fundraising expert Erica Waasdorp shares the magic combination of stories and tools to apply to steward the monthlies you have.  You’ll learn the best ways to keep them and to ask them for an extra gift or upgrade.

If you don’t have a strategy for asking your monthly donors to upgrade their giving, then you need to come to this session.  

You’ll leave the session with simple ways you can start raising more money right away.  And you’ll leave the session with strategies for how to keep your donors giving to you longer.

Jen Love + Steven Screen + Leah Eustace + John Lepp + Tom Ahern + Jeff Brooks

Storytelling Masterclass

What do you get when six all-time great direct mail fundraisers get together on the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference Stage to talk shop and share?

A whole lot of storytelling goodness, that's what. A masterclass of this magnitude has never happened before. There will be myths busted and best-practices unpacked. You're going to laugh a lot and leave smarter!

Kristin Sukraw

Story Finding: 3 steps for Finding Your Best Stories... Even if you don't think you can get any

If you don’t know where to start in finding your best stories, this session is your roadmap.

Whether you are a nonprofit with frontline access to your storytellers or an organization that is a few steps removed, this is for you!

Kristin Sukraw will walk you through how to craft a purposeful storyteller list, conduct insightful Discovery Interviews and ultimately how to choose the best storyteller for your initiative.

Steven Screen

How to become a Million Dollar Organization

If your organization only brings in a few hundred thousand dollars but wants to cross the million dollar threshold, then this session is for you.

In this session, Steven Screen will show you what skills, strategies, and processes you’ll need in order to move to the next level of growth.  You’ll leave with an action plan that will help you become a million dollar organization.

Reuben Hertzl

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Fundraising Videos

Step into the world of fundraising videos and discover the process behind authentic storytelling.

Drawing from his experience in creating documentary videos for gala fundraisers, Reuben will share the best strategies for finding powerful and authentic stories, as well as working with creative partners to create compelling content. 

Whether you're a nonprofit fundraiser or a non-filmmaker, this session will provide valuable insights into creating successful fundraising videos that resonate with your audience.

Amy Lazoff

Charting Your Course: Creating a Annual Membership Plan

Membership has a lot of moving parts, from acquisition to renewals and upgrades, working to turn members into donors, and more – how do you blend all these pieces together?

Cruise into this session where you’ll sail away with templates for an annual membership communications plan, stewardship grid, membership appreciation month ideas, and more.

Check back as more sessions get listed