February 2021 Newsletter
The Power of Collective Giving, Illustrated
As SOS, we believe in being a force for significant social change through collective grantmaking to support our local community organizations dedicated to improving life in the Greater St. Louis area. But being a member of SOS also has benefits that go beyond collective grantmaking. Here’s one story of how SOS helps members turn good into greater good.
In the spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the St. Louis Metro community, basic needs for food, housing, medical care, mental health support and even outfitting children with technology for virtual education became even more pronounced. Area nonprofits refocused their efforts and did what they could despite the fact that they were operating on shoestring budgets.
The magnitude of the need was felt immediately. Many individuals, foundations and businesses wanted to alleviate the communities in crisis — but how?
This was the dilemma faced by NISA Investment Advisors. While individual employees were generous to nonprofits, NISA Investment Advisors, as an organization, decided to accelerate their corporate philanthropic community commitment during the shutdown crisis. But there were challenges – how to move quickly and where to find someone to lead the charge.
As a starting point, NISA reached out to Eriko Clevenger Pope to be their new Charitable Fund Director. NISA chose Eriko after learning of her newly started advisory firm, Katalyst STL. After a long marketing career at Nestle Purina, Eriko started Katalyst STL to provide strategic business development services to nonprofits and start-up entrepreneurs.
Given the urgent need in the community Eriko didn’t hesitate when NISA discussed the opportunity. She immediately thought, “Yes let’s do this.” Although, Eriko sat on several boards and was familiar with the pieces of putting together a charitable fund, she had never administered an entire grant making process. Plus, with the critical COVID need, she had to move fast. That’s when Eriko leaned into her SOS membership.
Eriko had recently joined SOS and was impressed with the well-organized and thorough grantmaking process. Eriko reflected upon the nature of the SOS members, “who have varied, strong experiences across every kind of profession.” Eriko recognized that she could leverage SOS resources to establish her grantmaking process and reached out to the board of the Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund (SOS) to create a strategic partnership.
Over ZOOM calls, Eriko met with members of the SOS board who were all eager to help. “That was the thing that was special from the beginning. I thought some people might be proprietary about this excellent process and approach. But, the message back to me was – ‘Heck no! Take everything. Whatever you need, repurpose it to serve your needs. In the end, we are all just trying to make a positive impact.’ This collaborative attitude encouraged me to leverage the SOS process.”
Eriko leveraged SOS and the St. Louis Community Foundation for information on current and past grantees who were now working in emergency COVID relief — nonprofits that she knew had already been reviewed and vetted as well-run organizations. NISA Investment Advisors set up their charitable fund as a donor-advised fund through the St. Louis Community Foundation, and Eriko quickly got to work.
As a start, NISA Charitable Fund deployed its first grant to SoulFisher Ministries, who then distributed 12,000 meals to those in North County’s Riverview Gardens School District.
“The ability for me to rely on the recommendations of SOS and their thorough vetting process was the only way that we were able to deploy funding within 10 days of knowing about the SoulFisher opportunity,” Eriko explained.
Since then, NISA Charitable Fund has also supported grants for Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Fit and Food Connection, LifeWise STL, Midtown Community Services, the MICA Project, Youth & Family Center, St. Louis COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, Ready Readers, among others. All in all, NISA Investment Advisors invested $1 million into the NISA Charitable Fund to support those impacted by the pandemic in the Greater St. Louis area. They are on their way to fully distributing this amount with short rolling granting cycles that range between four to six weeks, which Eriko says are only possible because of “great partnerships like the one with SOS.”
With Eriko’s leadership, the NISA Charitable Fund is expanding from COVID relief into other strategic pillars such as education, access to capital, and workforce development.
Eriko’s involvement in the SOS granting process creates a virtuous circle where she will help assess worthy organizations that may receive SOS funding that could eventually be considered by the NISA Charitable Fund. The power of collective giving is amplified when active members who are attuned with community needs, share this knowledge and inspire others to be part of civic solutions to accelerate impact.
Looking for a special virtual program for your book club, church or youth group?
Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective has created a series of media productions including podcasts, poetry, music, theater, books, and dance – generated by artists working collaboratively with 16-24-year-old BIPOC youth whose lives have been touched by violence. The organization uses the arts, experience in nature, and community service in creative youth development. Take a look at www.storystitchers.org and contact Susan Colangelo, firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss available options.
5 to 6:30 p.m. March 15
Mass Incarceration: A System of Oppression with New Hope for Reforms
Please join The Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund to learn about mass incarceration, the history and hidden system of oppression that is one of the most critical issues of our time.
The evening’s presenter, Samantha Stangl, spent three years at the Clark-Fox Family Foundation working with stakeholders around the state of Missouri to pursue criminal justice reform. She will include in her presentation an overview of the system, the impact on the community, and the reforms happening in the St. Louis community. Currently, Samantha works as the data analyst for Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, helping to evaluate program and policy impact, manage partnerships with the community, and support overall office programming.
Shawntelle Fisher, a formerly-incarcerated woman and current SOS member who founded The SoulFisher Ministries, a former SOS grantee, will also present. She will share her own experiences in the system and her contributions since returning to the community. She will be accompanied by a recipient of The SoulFisher Ministries’ services who will address the impact that the agency has had on her life.
There will be a Q&A after the event.
An excellent resource to view before the mass incarceration event is the documentary “13th” available on Netflix. The film provides background and context on the topic of mass incarceration.
Welcome New Members
Mary Ellen Bruenderman
Save the Date/Upcoming Events
5:30 p.m. APRIL 14
Learn about the organizations on the 2021 Ballot then VOTE…VOTE…VOTE
It’s why you joined!
Interested in becoming an SOS member?
Membership in the Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund is open to all women. You can join anytime. Interested? Come to an informal info session on
Thursday, March 18, 12:30-1 p.m. CST
If interested please contact Katy Dowd, email@example.com.
Philanthropic FYI Corner
What is a Donor Advised Fund (DAF)?
Definition: A DAF is a philanthropic vehicle that allows donors to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax benefit from the IRS, and then recommend gifts called “grants” to qualified charities over time. Charities approved for 501( C)(3) tax status by the IRS are qualified to receive these donations.
How it works:
- A donor transfers cash or appreciated investments (stocks/bonds/mutual funds) to an IRS approved donor-advised fund portfolio. (Note: many DAFs have a minimum of $10,000 to open, but minimums vary).
- IRS approved DAFs are offered by the SL Community Foundation, Youthbridge, Jewish Federation, United Way, Catholic Charities, Charles Schwab, Fidelity and others.
- An accountant or CPA can let you know how much can be moved into a DAF in a given tax year.
- Donor receives an immediate tax benefit in the year assets are moved to the DAF.
- Funds are then invested by the DAF manager to grow in mutual fund like accounts (similar to your 401K or IRA) until you make a grant (i.e. designate a charity) to receive a donation.
- Donor gives (makes a grant) when it is convenient and meets her goals.
New Voting System for 2021!
We are excited to announce the new SOS voting system called ElectionBuddy. It’s an on-line voting system that will to make it easier for you to vote for the organizations you think should receive SOS grants.
Here’s what to expect:
- When voting starts look for an email from “Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund <firstname.lastname@example.org>” inviting you to vote.
- There will be a link in the email
- Clicking on that link will take you to a page where you make your selections – no username or password needed to access this page.
- The link that is provided is secure and unique to each member.
If you prefer a paper ballot or need help with the new system please contact Amy Conard at email@example.com.
Check out this link, it may provide a funding opportunity for grantees or potential grantees, https://mffh.org/our-focus/community-ideas/opportunity-fund/.
GRANTEES IN THE NEWS