Meghan Goff: Good stories evoke feelings.

Iñaki Escudero
The Real Hero
Published in
7 min readMar 8, 2024

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Meghan Goff

At the intersection of impact and inspiration, you’ll find Onword Communications, the brainchild of Meghan Goff, who left her full-time job as an advancement and development writer in 2020 to blend her passion for storytelling with a greater purpose to help mission-driven organizations leave their mark on the world. At Onword, she advises nonprofit organizations on how to connect with donors through human stories that drive engagement and inspire action.

As a pandemic-era entrepreneur and mother to three young children, her journey has been anything but straightforward. But every hurdle, obstacle, and challenge has only reinforced that while things rarely go as planned, there’s always a great story to tell!

Iñaki: It’s so good to finally connect with you. I think you are one of the best storytellers I know and I’m really happy to have you on the blog. Please tell our readers where you are and what you do.

Meghan: What a compliment, thank you! I live just outside Philadelphia with my husband and three children (ages 7, 5, and almost 4), and for the past four years, I’ve worked as a development communications consultant, which, recently, has evolved into more of an impact storyteller role. I’ve found that this shift has allowed me to better serve my clients, realizing that my interests, experience, and skills align with sharing stories of human experience.

In my role, I help nonprofits identify and share the stories that strengthen relationships and inspire action. Most of my clients operate in the realm of fundraising, so “action” is often a financial investment. However, it’s important to remember that engagement extends beyond monetary contributions, as nonprofits also need champions, volunteers, and advocates.

That’s why I encourage my clients to tell real stories about real people and real outcomes. Rather than only presenting quantitative data, we focus on illustrating impact through stories that demonstrate their mission and vision at work.

My background is in communications, but when I entered the world of higher education advancement and development, I discovered that storytelling was a common thread in donor relations and fundraising.

Storytelling isn’t just about conveying information; it’s about motivating people to take action and make a positive change in the world.

Everyone knows a good story when they hear one, but that’s different from utilizing storytelling as an effective tool. In fact, many of my clients have misconceptions about what it means to tell a great story, or they feel limited in the stories they have the ability to tell.

My role is to guide them through the process, helping them identify impactful stories and choose the best medium for sharing them. It’s about empowering them to recognize the abundance of stories at their disposal and identifying the shared experiences that will resonate most with their audiences.

Iñaki: I think I encounter similar challenges. It’s amazing to me when people doubt that there are plenty of stories to be told because basically, every customer we have is a story waiting to be shared.

Meghan: I couldn’t agree more. The most powerful stories are the ones that move us so deeply that we must do something; buy that product, donate to that organization, vote for that candidate, champion that cause. I’m constantly challenging myself to reimagine impact and how to convey the most powerful messages.

Great storytelling requires an open mind, because impact is all around us, oftentimes in the most unlikely and unexpected places.

It’s not always about dramatic stories; sometimes, it’s about sharing real experiences that speak to others.

In the fall of 2021, in the midst of a terrible wave of COVID-19, my 18-month-old son spent six nights in the pediatric ICU with a respiratory infection.

When I took to my own personal Instagram to write about what a challenging and emotional experience it was, I was blown away by the response I received — it really struck a chord with people. I don’t think a lot of people could relate to my very specific situation, but it resonated so deeply with others because what they could empathize with were the underlying feelings of worry, anxiety, fear, and helplessness.

This illustrates the power of storytelling — it’s not about sharing identical experiences, but instead, it’s about tapping into universal emotions that connect us all. Good stories evoke feelings of joy, fear, sadness, or hope that transcends the individual. They remind us of our shared humanity and the common challenges we face, which makes storytelling incredibly rewarding.

Iñaki: Where do you get your inspiration?

Meghan: More than one person or group of people, I’m drawn to authentic experiences and perspectives. For example, as a mother, I know that parenthood is complex. It’s fulfilling and rewarding and a privilege, but most days, it’s also messy and exhausting and kind of a headache. So I appreciate honest reflections and representations of that — even if it is just a silly Instagram post. And that’s the storytelling ethos I try to instill in my clients; real impact isn’t always perfect, but it’s honest.

In storytelling, whether you’re talking about nonprofits or for-profit, it’s not about the organization, it’s about the audience. When you place people at the center of your storytelling, you have an opportunity to tell even more effective stories, ones that humanize your cause or issue.

One of the most challenging projects I worked on was a story that required me to share the impact of complex, scientific research in a compelling way. Despite feeling intimidated by the technical aspects, I focused on the human aspect of the story, like the donor’s personal connection to the research, which made the story relatable and impactful.

Despite working almost exclusively in fundraising and development communications, I don’t have any direct fundraising experience. But I’ve actually found that to be a strength, because I can approach impact from a storytelling lens, not a financial one, and it has served me well.

Once you find the story, the rest will follow.

Iñaki: Meghan, as someone with advanced knowledge in storytelling, how would you tell your own story?

Meghan: When I was in my early 20s, I started a blog. It felt like a great creative outlet and a way for me to talk about things that were on my mind, both lighthearted and serious. When I mustered the courage to hit “publish,” not only was I blown away by the engagement I got from my friends and family, but I got a charge seeing the impressions and knowing that what I wrote resonated with people. What I thought would be a fun exercise actually turned into a challenge: to find new ways, new topics, and new avenues to connect with people. To find the common ground we could all relate to.

Years later, in the isolation of COVID-19 as a new mother of three, I revisited my blog. While I couldn’t devote as much time to it as I would have liked, it ignited something in me. It was a forum to speak freely, share my story, and hopefully, make people feel seen and heard. To share what I was going through and invite my readers to feel it with me.

While I didn’t write much, there’s one piece I come back to often because it’s a snapshot of such a specific time in my life. And when I close my eyes, I’m there again. It’s like I can feel the confusing mixture of joy and exhaustion and fear and honesty and hope all at once.

I didn’t really know I was capable of that — bringing a feeling to life — but once I figured it out, I knew I had to use it for good.

Iñaki: If an organization or a brand wants to leverage storytelling in a more powerful way, what advice would you give? Where should they start?

Meghan: It sounds simple, but the best, first step is to answer this question: what story are you trying to tell? It’s like that old saying, “You can’t be everything to everyone.” Your storytelling efforts should be focused, with a clear idea of what you’re trying to convey.

Do you want to express gratitude, or share an urgent need? Do you want to inspire hope, or educate your reader about a challenge or an issue? Do you want to present a problem or a solution?

Once you understand what story you are trying to tell, you can identify the right voice — or “find the people,” as I like to say — and begin to think about the most compelling delivery or medium for your message.

I guess that’s my “golden rule” for impact storytelling. People invest in people — don’t leave them behind in your stories.

Thank you so much Meghan, your work telling stories for good causes is inspiring!

We can help your company become a Purpose-Driven brand. Do well by doing good.

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Iñaki Escudero
The Real Hero

Brand Strategist - Storyteller - Curator. Writer. Futurist. Marathon runner. 1 book a week. Father of 5.