New Report: Foundations, Tell Your Stories!

The Center for Public Interest Communications recently released an important new report, “Philanthropy’s New Voice”, sharing research into common perceptions (and misperceptions) about philanthropy. The report offers six recommendations for trust-building actions foundations should take individually and as a sector, and spoiler alert: four of these actions are about telling stories.

Cover to report: Philanthropy's New VoiceFrom our experience working with foundations over the past 25 years, we’ve seen that many already recognize the power of story. Foundations often bring us in to work on storytelling with their grantees to help them maximize their impact, build relationships and coalitions, connect with other potential funders, and change narratives about the work they do and the people they serve.

What foundations do less often, however, is seek assistance to tell their own stories. And there are many stories to be told – about how they decide which issues to work on, how they choose the organizations they will support, how they have developed their expertise to apply their resources in the most effective ways. In the absence of such stories, most Americans have little understanding of or trust in foundations. Even nonprofits that work with foundations on a regular basis often have an opaque understanding of how and why certain decisions are made.

“Philanthropy’s New Voice” is a useful (and free) resource for assessing the current “narrative vacuum” we are in, and, more importantly, providing guidelines to fill that vacuum. It offers specific, actionable steps to help foundations tell stories ethically, replace jargon with concrete language, build transparency, and more. You will even find a few choice words from my favorite expert, Andy Goodman, Director Emeritus of The Goodman Center.