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Farewell and Moving Forward: Sunsetting Change The Story

Meg and Tiff at Persist 2019

How do you say goodbye to a highly successful idea like Change The Story? You don’t. You take all of the successes and move forward.

Change The Story’s Beginnings

Change The Story, a collaboration started by Tiff Bluemle, leveraged the strengths of three organizations dedicated to women and girls in a collaboration to bring gender issues onto the center stage in a meaningful way. Combining the policy know-how of the Vermont Commission on Women, the experience of program design by Vermont Works for Women, and the funding power of the Vermont Women’s Fund—the initiative Change The Story (CTS) was born. Its goal was to fast-track gender equity in Vermont through policy, program, and philanthropy.

A hearty, sustained applause goes out to Tiff Bluemle, the founder and leader of Change The Story who with Jessica Nordhaus and Al Johnson-Kurts (and Lindsey Lathrop Ryan in the earliest days) made up the powerhouse team. After Tiff left CTS to become a State Representative, Jessica and Al carried on this culture-changing movement, amplifying issues of gender and equity statewide.

Game Changer

For the Vermont Women’s Fund, Change The Story was indeed a game-changer. For starters, it pushed us into a new level of grantmaking and strategic philanthropic thinking.

We made a three-year commitment to grant roughly half of our available annual grant dollars ($125,000/year) to seed this effort. This bold move was a major departure from our past grantmaking which distributed grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 annually. We understood that to really “move the needle,” we had to elevate our own thinking and financial outlay as well. After seeing how much was accomplished, we reaffirmed this commitment with a second 3-year grant and an additional final year to close out the initiative.

The timing of Change The Story could not have been more perfect as it coincided with the international movement for gender equity. CTS was well underway when the Me-Too movement took place, as well as when Harvey Weinstein and many others had to face the consequences for their abusive use of power and sexual coercion. The Women’s March and grassroots equity work also ran parallel to this work.

The End and the Beginning

This is not the last time we will reflect on Change The Story, in fact, it’s only the beginning. You will hear the reverberations of Change The Story for years to come. A great example of this is evident in the Women’s Fund’s work on women’s business ownership. It was only because of CTS that we discovered that no one knows how many women own businesses in Vermont. The data collected by the Secretary of State’s office is not aggregated by gender. This means that of the 81,132 businesses in Vermont, we don’t have a clear count on how many are founded, owned, and/or lead by females. We think that matters—and are proving so with our work with This Way Up: there's power in our numbers.

So this is not a goodbye but a thank you. Thank you, Change The Story for creating a platform for women’s philanthropy that would not have existed without you. Change The Story elevated the Women’s Fund’s work in many ways, providing us with clearer expression of gender, equity, and justice, as well as demonstrating the power of collaboration. Together, we are creating a stronger Vermont for women and girls, and our communities at large.

Change The Story Accomplishments

As Change The Story comes to a close on March 31st, we are celebrating the many accomplishments: