Hundreds learn storytelling

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“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” – Mother Teresa

A great workshop offers not just knowledge, but practical guidance and coaching. A lot of laughs and lively visuals helps as well. On May 5 the Gifford Foundation and the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York brought The Goodman Center’s Andy Goodman to Syracuse for a 4-hour workshop entitled “Change the Story, Change the World.” Offered free to Central New York nonprofits, over 210 representatives from 63 nonprofits, hailing from nine counties, gathered at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. They represented a variety of disciplines including arts, health, disabilities, county and social services, environment, animal welfare and education. Staff members from area foundations attended as well in hopes of facilitating a community-wide conversation on building storytelling capacity.

Goodman led the group through the data and history of storytelling, and then put all to work sharing their personal stories at tables and to the group. From there the workshop participants learned about story structure, the types of stories that nonprofits need to tell and some common pitfalls. All groups worked individually or together on developing a specific story about their organization and then five nonprofits bravely stepped up for a group critique: Friends of Wildlife, Kids Oneida, Elmcrest Childrens Center, ACR Health and the Cuse Pit Crew. After the latter told their story from the point of the view of the dog, the crowd was gifted with Andy’s own amusing interpretation of how a pit bull would tell his story of hardship and eventual adoption.

By the end of the morning the energy and excitement remained as high as it was in the beginning. Some of the comments we received immediately following Andy Goodman’s departure included: “Useful”, “Fun”, “Awesome”, and “Couldn’t stop talking about great new storytelling ideas.”

And this particular story has no ending yet. Using the Twitter hashtag #StoryGrowing the foundations began a conversation that day that we hope will continue. Gifford, the Health Foundation and the other foundations that participated on May 5 are eager to hear from both participants and others on how we might become a stronger storytelling community. Please share your ideas on how Central New York nonprofits might exercise those storytelling muscles and in what ways they might share their stories. You can post your ideas on our Facebook page or via Twitter (@GiffordCNY, #StoryGrowing), or email Heidi Holtz at Here’s to growing CNY stories!

About The Gifford Foundation:
The Gifford Foundation is a private foundation supporting community needs in Central New York since 1954. Through its grantmaking, they fund organizations in an intentionally transformative and flexible manner. This is based on a fundamental belief that change at the individual and/or organizational level holds the potential to institute change at broader community levels. For information visit

About the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York:
The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York is an independent private foundation that sparks lasting change in health and health care across western and central New York, with a special focus on young children, vulnerable older adults and the systems serving them. For more information, visit


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