Funders Collaborate on StoryGrowing

In the spring of 2016 eleven organizations began a nine-month learning program called StoryGrowing, a new initiative to build nonprofit and community capacity in storytelling. What's next for the participants? Learn More »

At a workshop in May 2015 Andy Goodman taught us that stories are our single most powerful communication tool. If we collect and utilize them effectively, they will help shape our identity, influence others, and strengthen advocacy, recruiting and communication efforts.

Over the past year the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, the Central New York Community Foundation and the Gifford Foundation communicated at length with the 63 nonprofits that attended Andy’s workshop “Change the Story, Change the World.” With their input the three funders designed StoryGrowing, an initiative to build nonprofit and community capacity for storytelling.

StoryGrowing launched in April 2016 and featured:

  • Seven 2.5 hour workshops featuring a curriculum designed with nonprofit input,
  • Access to a variety of experts in the field to serve as individual coaches to each organization,
  • And a final celebratory event in the fall, designed and presented by the participating organizations. Learn more about Celebrating Stories in our Community.

In this pilot year Andy Goodman acted as an informal advisor to the project, and might possibly utilize our learnings in a book he is writing. In October he was the keynote speaker at the celebration.

A total of 11 organizations that attended the Goodman event were selected out of 19 applicants. Each fielded a 4-person team to participate in the free program, which included a commitment to attend all six workshops (a seventh on social media was added at the request of the StoryGrowing teams). The organizations represented a wide range of budget size, geographic location and focus areas. In addition staff from the funding partners participated as well.

Local professionals from the nonprofit, performance, marketing, media, literary and university world taught on such subjects as appropriate, ethical techniques for interviewing, gathering and sharing stories; best practices for presenting stories (live, video, etc.); ensuring that stories are told internally; culturally appropriate storytelling; working on a budget and many other topics.

Following the workshops organizations availed themselves of coaching from their instructors, supplemented with other local professionals. The unique Coaching Clinic model offers flexibility for organizations of varying capacity to select and switch between trainers that meet their specific needs and timing.  Between July and December each organization was provided up to 20 hours of access to the StoryGrowing coaches.

A recent evaluation indicates the StoryGrowing was a success! Over 2/3 of the participants believe they now have a strong or very strong storytelling culture, an improvement over the 20% who felt this way prior to the program. Comments and examples of change abound.

If you have questions please contact Heidi Holtz at the Gifford Foundation, which is coordinating StoryGrowing. She may be reached at or 315-474-2489 x12.

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