Storytelling workshops help nonprofits further their missions


BENNINGTON -- Five years ago, Middlebury College lecturer Barbara Ganley left teaching to share her expertise in storytelling with organizations who need a way of telling their stories.

"My students over the past few years worked in communities to help use digital storytelling for change: How stories that you tell digitally connect people with one another," Ganley said. "They were so successful that I decided that I needed to leave the classroom and head into communities."

Ganley started a limited liability company, Community Expressions LLC, to work with nonprofits in storytelling strategies. For three years, Ganley has worked with the Vermont Community Foundation to offer free workshops to leaders of nonprofit organizations both large and small.

Partnering with the Ben and Jerry's Foundation, Ganley and VCF are offering a series of 12 workshops around the state this year. On Thursday, she gave a four-hour introductory-level workshop, teaching individuals from an array of nonprofit organizations in southern Vermont how they can tell their stories effectively and see the outcomes they desire.

"The Ben and Jerry's Foundation gets proposals from a lot of the same organizations we do. We felt like we'd love to see (nonprofits) tell their stories in a much stronger way," said Jen Peterson, vice president for program and grants for VCF.

People from the Pettee Memorial Library, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, the Safer Society Foundation and more, came to the workshop hoping to learn how they can have a media presence and how they can connect with their donors and their clients.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont helps communities save historic places. Its communications director, Meg Campbell, said she has already developed a digital presence. She went to the workshop to learn "how we can best use what I've created and what I continue to create to raise money for our organization."

Part of the workshop focused on how storytelling can be used in grant proposals and in reaching out to donors. "Nonprofits could use some support learning how to tell their stories so it's clear that what they are doing is effective, valuable work," said Peterson.

More advanced workshops will continue around the state this summer. In those, Ganley will go more in depth with different mediums and specific techniques as they apply to different nonprofits.

Ganley said the work she does helping nonprofits is rewarding. "A lot of nonprofits have stories that they've collected from their clients and they're not sure what to do with them, they're not quite sure if they have done them in a way that can be of use to their clients, communities and donors this will show them how," she said.

For more about Ganley's nationwide nonprofit storytelling work, visit To register for a storytelling workshop, visit

Contact Tom Momberg at Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg


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