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Community Storytelling

Community Storytelling

When I was a little girl if someone said you were telling a story that usually signaled you might not be telling the whole truth on a particular matter.  On more than one occasion I remember my grandmother looking me square in the eye and asking, “Sarah Ann are you telling your Mimi a story?”

Some people are better storytellers than others. In the context of my childhood I wasn’t too great at the stories I designed to get out of trouble.  I added too many details that made my Mimi laugh under her breath but didn’t help my case.

She was a great storyteller in the classic sense of the idea.  We spent summers together in North Carolina and there was no television reception on the mountain so we spent quite a bit of time listening to records, reading books and telling tales.  Her best stories were always those she had experienced herself and then shared with me.  She often said the best storytellers were those who could help others feel something even if they had never experienced it themselves.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of the art of storytelling in a wide variety of fields. Now both the technical and creative side of creating a compelling story is considered key to delivering messages in the private, public and social sector.

If she were still with me I think my Mimi might be surprised to learn that storytelling has become a big part of my life.  Not the yarns to get out of trouble but rather telling the stories of generous donors, community advocates and nonprofit heroes and superstars in our region.  I am always looking for ways to communicate the incredibly generous culture of Southwest Florida in the written and spoken word.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we love to tell these stories but we are equally committed to equipping and supporting the region’s nonprofits to tell the stories of their amazing work.  Each year our donors grant millions of dollars to create change through these change-making organizations and it is important their work and passions on behalf of all of us is being shared.

Effective and impactful storytelling is an art and a skill and as my Mimi taught me it has to be practiced and honed so people will listen and respond.  To that end, each year the non-profits who are awarded funding in our annual competitive grant cycles are also provided the opportunity to participate in a three-day academy presented by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications that is designed to expose these nonprofit leaders to the skills, strategies, theory and techniques required to build movements and drive positive social change using strategic communications.

Once home from this public interest communications immersion, the organizations have new insights on their brand of storytelling.  As a result, we have seen compelling grant proposals, documentary style videos, focused on-camera interviews, social media exposure and articles and columns in print.

Through a partnership with Florida Weekly the non-profits submit a column that appears in this space over the summer.

If you enjoy a good story with a cause as much as I do, you won’t want to miss it.

If my Mimi were alive today and could ask me if I was telling her a story, I would answer, “yes-mam I sure am.”

As always, we would love to hear your community stories at [email protected].


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit or call 239-274-5900.









Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More