Bringing A Narrative Eye to Philanthropy – Part 1

Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Jorge Cino, Social Media Fellow, at the Levi Strauss Foundation .

by Jorge Cino

“You’re here to connect storytelling to social change,” Daniel Lee, Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation, bluntly told me during our introductory work meeting in January.

It was a tall order. He believes––as he states on his blog post, “Mutual Frontiers”––that, in the context of social media, storytelling can serve as a handmaiden to advance the Foundation’s goal of communicating its work in original and better ways.

Program staff knew their portfolios were brimming with compelling narratives. They were eager to shine the spotlight on the pioneering work of the foundation’s grantees.

The challenge was how to tell these multifaceted stories in an accessible, succinct and engaging way—no doubt, in a manner that resonates with my “Millennial” peers, who are defining the zeitgeist of the online social marketplace.

We initially held a series of meetings to introduce me to each grant manager’s portfolio. Daniel urged the entire team to attend each session and collaborate on the vetting process.

As the Foundation’s writer, my first charge was to ease the team into “storytelling mode”—in short, to persuade each member to begin talking about their work as they would to family and friends.

In two forthcoming posts, I’ll detail how this project is coming to fruition. Next up, I’ll outline how I helped grant makers parse their portfolios and enter the “mindset” of storytelling.

I would also like to welcome the input, comments, or questions of any and all readers. Is your organization interested in entering the social media space? What are some of the strategies and practices you’re implementing?

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Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

2 responses to “Bringing A Narrative Eye to Philanthropy – Part 1

  1. Thank you, Daniel! I hope we can learn from each other, during COF and beyond.

    I love that audio slide show for Irvine! It asserts your transparency, as well as a firm desire to continue to improve. I’ll be sure to share it with the rest of the Levi Strauss Foundation team.

    In LSF’s case, we’re focusing on sharing the work of our grantees through blogging—mainly, LS&Co.’s company blog, Unzipped. A couple of weeks ago, Aaron Cramer, President & CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, shared the work of HERproject, which advances women’s health education programs in factories around the world.

  2. Daniel Silverman

    Hi Jorge,
    I look forward to reading your posts about storytelling at the Levi Strauss Foundation. We have waded into social media at the Irvine Foundation relatively recently, and are still figuring out how to tell good stories (in 140 characters or less!). We posted our first audio slide show on our website last week, which you can see at You can see our main Twitter feeds at @IrvineFdn, @JCanales and @DanielOlias I look forward to learning from you!