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How Building a Story Bank Program Can Help Your Organization

By Cate Bonacini,


Personal stories are one of the most powerful tools an organization can employ in its work. They inspire connection and empathy while simultaneously challenging stereotypes, humanizing policies or statistics, and illustrating facts and figures. And now, thanks to new media platforms, it is easier than ever to engage in dynamic and innovative efforts to collect and tell stories.

Organizations can engage in storytelling activities to serve a variety of purposes, from highlighting the need for social change to showcasing their work. Therefore, any organization that wishes to share or tell stories stands to benefit from building a story bank, which is simply, a collection of stories.

Our new toolkit will help get you started.

Personal stories are a powerful tool that can help raise awareness, educate the public, and affect policy and legislation. Putting a face on an issue can help make it real and drive your message home.

Once compiled, a story bank can help an organization quickly identify and connect people who have a story to tell (storytellers) to the organization’s work. It is through the process of building a story bank that organizations have the opportunity to develop protocols to ensure that storytellers are fully informed about what it means to share their story and that the information presented is accurate. These steps serve to protect both storytellers and organizations.

Our new story bank toolkit shows organizations how to build an effective story bank program.

What organizations need to know before sharing or telling people’s stories

Often, the need for creating a story bank arises because someone has the vision to incorporate stories into his or her organization’s work. Over the years, we at Families USA have heard from many organizations who want to build a story bank but are at a loss for where to start. And for those who have started this type of work, many express a need to refine their processes.

We’ve found that it helps to break down each step of the process while remembering to balance the organizational needs with the storyteller’s experience. This begins with crafting an outreach strategy that aligns with organizational goals and priorities. It continues through the organization’s interaction with storytellers at all steps of the process, from collection to development and throughout a storytelling opportunity.

Maintaining this balance is critical because asking people to tell their story often invites them to reveal personal details of their life. Sharing this story may lead to scrutiny from the public.

Organizations that choose to participate in story-based work have a great responsibility to make sure that the information presented is accurate and that a storyteller is fully informed about the process. This holds true whether an organization shares a story on behalf of a storyteller or if it is connecting a storyteller to an opportunity to share.

The five core elements of building an effective story bank program

Our new toolkit combines lessons from our 20+ years of experience at Families USA.

We identify five steps to establishing an effective story bank program. Organizations must think through what they are trying to accomplish, what types of stories they hope to highlight, the internal tools they will use, and who will be responsible for the different roles needed to see a story through from beginning (collecting) to end (publicly sharing the story).

Here, we outline the five sections in our toolkit:

  1. Creating a Plan—Why should an organization create a story bank? How can staff get organizational buy-in and support to establish a story bank program? How does an organization determine what kinds of stories to collect?
  2. Building an Infrastructure—What are the tools an organization needs to create before collecting stories? What decisions need to be made with regards to workflow and establishing clear procedures?
  3. Collecting Stories—How can an organization encourage someone to share his or her story? What kinds of information does the organization need to capture when interacting with a potential storyteller? How can an organization train staff members to help collect stories?
  4. Developing Stories—Once a storyteller has been identified, how should an organization develop the story and what it cover in an interview? How can an interviewer adapt techniques to individual storytellers?
  5. Disseminating Stories—How can an organization work with storytellers throughout an event or opportunity where the person will share his or her story? What steps should an organization take to ensure that storytelling is empowering? What kinds of storytelling opportunities might organizations undertake?

Storytelling comes with great responsibility and opportunity. Organizations should consult our toolkit for strategies, tips, and guidance for building an effective story bank program.

Contact us if interested in partnering

We’re always looking to expand our partnerships with groups who share a common interest in storytelling around issues related to health care. If you’re interested in partnering with us on story bank activities, please contact us at