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Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling
Krisitanne Clifford
Antioch University

Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:15 AM

Comment [1]: Love the title, Clifford. :)

This is so insignificant, but after page 1,
the title needs to be in ALL CAPS in the

So dumb... but it's APA

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

Weaving a picture through storytelling is a highly effective tool for non-profit

organizations. This is evidenced by the billions of dollars donated every year to the
multitude of heart tugging organizations that use writing to persuade its audiences to give,
give, give. Alternatives to Violence (AVP) uses storytelling to structure their writing to

appeal to funding organizations, inmates, and community members; which is effective

because it includes a balance of head and heart.
In the not-for-profit world, persuasive writing is key to funding programs that can
assist in helping communities in a variety of ways. Recently I have had the opportunity to
interview Pat Hardy, Director at the AVP, who has been instrumental in supporting this
non-profit program expand from four to 18 prisons in the state of California. Here is a story
being told, common thread throughout the writing artifacts that Pat graciously handed
over, with an ever fluctuating balance between Pathos (empathy) and Logos (logic). This
story includes heartfelt quotes from inmates whose lives have been changed, and words of
transformation. Inmates arent the only stakeholders in this weaving of tales; it is
community members, families and staff in the state correctional system. AVP serves as an
example of how nonprofits use storytelling to support their mission and help transform a
community, no matter where that community might be.
I have known Pat for a few years and have known of her for over a decade. While I
was incarcerated at Valley State Prison for Women from 1995-2011, I participated in AVP
over the years and eventually became a facilitator, a job which included planning workshop
agenda and coordinating logistics with prison administration . Pat and I exchanged a few

Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:16 AM

Comment [2]: I like this opening hook -it gets me jazzed up about reading this, it
lets me know "this shit is important," and it
gives me an idea of what I'll be reading
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:17 AM
Comment [3]: OK, remember the
hyphen rule: if you need both words to
"stick together" to form a compound/superadjective, then they need to be

If one of these doesn't make sense, you'll
know you need a hyphen.
-heart organizations
-tugging organizations.

They don't really make sense, so.... heart... [1]
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:19 AM
Comment [4]: This is coming up a bit
outta the blue for me -- AVP hasn't been
introduced at all, and now it's just being
thrown in the the thesis statement. ... [2]
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:20 AM
Comment [5]: No semicolon here -- a
comma or dash. Google those concepts +
"UNC Writing Center" for some good
handouts on the intricacies of these pieces
... [3]
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:21 AM
Comment [6]: OK, so after reading
sentence 1 here (the paragraph's topic
sentence) I was thinking to myself: alright,
I'll be reading about persuasive writing
... in
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:22 AM
Comment [7]: What do you mean by
"here"? In the artifacts? By Pat? In the

... [5]
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:23 AM
Comment [8]: Is this different from
storytelling? It seems like this might be
detracting a bit from your overall
... [6]
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:23 AM
Comment [9]: What story?
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:24 AM
Comment [10]: I love this. Nice job.
Very insightful and thought-provoking.
Shows how interconnected life is.
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:26 AM
Comment [11]: OK, so right now I'm
thinking about your organization/structure.

Is this the best location for this info? ... [7]

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

letters and after I paroled she invited me to facilitate some local workshops. I have a
tremendous amount of respect for her and how she has assisted in the expansion of AVP.

Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:27 AM

Comment [12]: Very cool.

My interview with Pat was relaxed and comfortable. She sent me some writing
examples prior to our meeting that included a California Department of Corrections (CDCR)
grant application that quite honestly was very interested in. When I needed to find
someone to interview Pat was the first person that came to mind. The reason for my
seemingly quick decision was that I knew Pat had written and submitted a grant request to
CDCR. The Foundation I work for also submitted a request for this grant and while we were
denied, Pats grant request was rewarded with $250,000.00. That is exactly how much my
Foundation requested. So its no coincidence that I totally took advantage of this
assignment to get my hands on that winning grant! My efforts were rewarded right away,
when I received an email from Pat with attachments, one of them being the coveted grant.
Telling a story through facts and statistics are what help with acquiring funding and
have more logos and less pathos storytelling. When analyzing arguments through a Logos
lens, it is important, Kinkade (2010) informs, you look at how they are supported by good
reasons and reliable evidence. Telling a story through facts can draw in the right audience,
especially when that audience is CDCR and looking to fund volunteer organizations at the
tune of a quarter of a million dollars. The proposal narrative presents the needs and
benefits creating a sense of urgency for underserved correctional facilities. Quotes are used
throughout highlighting the program's success. AVP was already an established volunteer
program, which was just one of the requirements. From the onset, AVPs credibility as an
established program is highlighted in the first sentence, Due to its success in the past 10

Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:28 AM

Comment [13]: Is this the only
artifact/document you collected? Is it
worth providing an overview of all the hard
evidence/data that you'll be using in this
paper before moving on and analyzing
each one? (I think so... but not
necessarily... there are different ways to
approach this -- just want you to consider
the possibilities.

Also: you're doing an excellent job so far.
Nice job, Clifford.)
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:29 AM
Comment [14]: Is this foundation called
The Foundation? If not, you shouldn't
treat it like a proper (capitalized noun.
Zack De Piero 9/10/2015 6:29 AM
Comment [15]: OK, so when you
explained this to me in person (Week 4 or
something), it was a lot clearer. Can you
find a way to clear this up a bit?

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

years. The grant is laid out in sections, outlining the need, benefits of the program and
AVPs years of experience. AVP was started in New York in 1975 and by 2013 was offering
programs in 28 states, with a total of 15,760 inmate graduates. What a powerful statement
of facts to blow up CDCRs ass. While there is a great deal of facts like these throughout the
grant, lets not leave out the powerful one-two punch that is delivered with the quotes Pat
used. Quotes from an inmate facilitator and CDCR staff member are the only ones in the 14-
page document that are heartfelt and touching, but the true piece de la resistance was the
references she used, they were all Wardens!
Pat said that writing a grant is fairly straight forward because they tell you exactly
what information they want and how to format it. She had help from someone the used to
be on the application committee that edited and made suggestions. She also requested
permission from CDCR to change the format and fonts. Instead of double spaced she was
able to use single space and intent more to make the quotes really stand out to the readers.
She also used this when writing components of the AVP workshop manual. but the editing
support she said made all the difference.
Despite the tedious work of crunching statistics, updating the website and grant
writing, Pat is grateful for how much she has learned. While composing the grant request,
Pat had many drafts that she would pass on to a couple people for editing and feedback.
She hates to proofreading and edit and admits that she sucks at it. She states most
people don't know how to tear a writing apart and rebuild it They look at things from
either a grammatical viewpoint or an ideological viewpoint, rarely is there a person who
has a fluid balance between the two. Another writing pet peeve is that people make

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

changes and dont want to share what they have done or dont know how to use a tracking
system. At this point in the interview Pats tone of voice went up and her body language
demonstrated her irritation. most people dont even track changes! She reflects on a
recent experience she had where she wrote something, had someone proofread and the
idiot didn't use track changes so she had to go through every line to see what was it he
actually changed. She is more than okay with having her writing torn apart. Her writing
process over the past 30 years has taught her to set aside ego and just let it go, she cant
own it.
Website appeals to the egos of the prison administration, who have the power to
allow volunteer organizations such as AVP into their respective institutions. The AVP
website provides plenty of statistics for those who are more excited about the numbers and
outcomes. Pat loves facts and numbers but says she realizes that most people think they
are boring, except for the Wardens. There is a graph on the website that breaks down the
number workshops, graduates and facilitators for each prison. Each prison has its own
color and the graph itself is eye catching. The Wardens get excited about where their prison
is positioned on the graph and how they rate compared to other institutions in the state of
California. Pat said this is a great tool to gain support from the prison for the workshops.
We talked about how Wardens have big egos and if something helps them and their prison
look good to Sacramento then they're more likely to support a particular program over
another. I called this blowing ego smoke up their ass, and Pat and I giggled about this
because we have both experienced the truth of this. Although there is a big audience that is

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

logos focused, an even larger audience is more responsive to a heartfelt, emotional--ethos--

Because of this, amore intentional use of storytelling is used to appeal to the donors
and volunteers that sustain AVP, by means of using pathos to speak right to their emotions.
This is where personal stories touch a chord with donors, volunteers and community
members. The website that Pat designed offers a variety of visual and auditory examples of
how AVP uses pathos in its sharing, with drop-down menus presenting primarily fact-
based information, as well as the more heartwarming stories of transformation. Pat has
been doing extensive research on stories that have to do with nonprofit fundraising,
brochures and website material. Building a whole collection of how to write that
information and how to best utilize it.
The beauty of story telling is it really gets you to hone down on the information and
that it requires doing more research on the individual and their experience, asking
questions regarding how something happened and what it was like. One of the conventions
of storytelling is to include descriptions of personal experiences, which allows the audience
to connect to the person on a deeper level. By the use of imagery and detailed, personal
stories, the audience tends to become less judgemental and more compassionate that they
would looking primarily at fact-based information. Pat shares an example regarding as
inmate, Sara Smith, who had been through the process Sara and I were sitting on this cold
bench, and we were talking, she was wearing her state blues, that was all she could wear.
We were conversing about what it was like to be a mom in prison, Sara told me about the
last time she saw her 2-year-old. Simple and powerful. While sitting in the office looking at

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

the numbers and statistics, Pat admits that it is hard to remember that those numbers are
people, just like the rest of us.. Many of the quotes and transformational stories are the
source for fundraising and outreach, but where do these stories originate?
AVP is about helping inmates transform their lives, supports rehabilitation and most
importantly instills hope for a better way of living. This audience isnt interested in the
statistics and numbers-they are more focused on going home to live a productive life far
away from prison and the criminal justice system. They want to learn how to nurture
broken relationships and connect back into the community. Storytelling in this forum is
about sharing specific experiences with the tools and processes of the AVP workshops. The
workshops consists of two volunteer facilitators from the free-world and two-three
inmates facilitators along with 20 new inmate participants. There are a couple exercises
that are done halfway through each workshop, and are outlined in the AVP workshop
manual that Pat created. While everyone is sitting in a circle, each person answers the
following questions, What I learned most about myself during this workshop is.. and,
Something you dont know about me is (Angell, 1992), this exercise inmates hear
others stories of transformation through this workshop, a powerful tool indeed. This
creates a platform where they mentor each other and open doors of possibility and hope.
Pat gets emotional sharing about this particular exercise and says it is her favorite, it's what
motivates her to work harder to help others find transformation.
The quotes and stories referred to throughout this paper are gathered at the above
mentioned workshops. Participants fill out feedback forms, Pat reads them and pulls from
statements from participants like Violence took my freedom away. AVP gave it back

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling

Golden nuggets like this reminds me of a statement by Kinkade (2010) which claims that
emotions can add real muscle to arguments (p 99), since it is clear that personal
statements from inmates definitely draw the community, volunteers and prison officials in.
Inmates are offered the opportunity to tell their own stories and experiences by
writing and sending them to Pat for consideration to publish in the AVP newsletter, the
Transformer. Pat is responsible for formatting and choosing the stories that will be
included in each edition. She briefly proofreads the letters to decide what will be used and
then sends the letters and her suggestions to someone else, she says that the prison
dialect, like cuss words, slang and sentences that highlight criminal activity, needs to be
tweaked, and usually, she has one of the volunteers to proofread and rewrite. Even with the
rewrite she states that it is important to maintain essence of the letter, needs to be
maintained. The newsletter is finally sent to the prison officials and electronically sent to
volunteers and donors. They are also distributed to the inmates who have participated in
the workshop.
These stories help others believe that something other than anger and violence is
possible. Identifying a story and telling it through different genres evokes empathy and
compassion and touching the heart of donors, volunteers and inmates is key for
fundraising. However, the writing must have a balance of emotion and facts to support its
claims and to appeal to an audience where the logos speaks to them more than the pathos.
Using it in a logical way through graphs and statistics supports funding, and can bridge a
gap that rebuilds relationships and reconnects communities.

Conventions of Nonprofit Storytelling


Angell, S. (1992). AVP, Alternatives to Violence Project: Manual, Training for trainers course.
New York, NY: Alternatives to Violence Project.

Kinkade, J., & Lunsford, A. (2010). Everything's an argument with readings: Instructor's
notes (5th ed., pp. 99-103). Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.

Note: need to add something more about Conventions and site it