President's Message

Hindsight is 2020 

What did the pandemic of 2020 teach us? I came away with some thoughts from the annual Philanos conference in Baltimore, which I was privileged to attend last fall with a group of SOS members. Philanos is the nation’s largest collective of women’s giving circles, and our membership provides SOS with opportunities to learn and network with like-minded women from across the country.

During the conference, we attended sessions on topics ranging from giving “beyond the check” to creating racial equity learning agendas. Participants shared stories of successes and struggles, which we have all experienced to some degree. One takeaway for me was that the pandemic, for all of its challenges, created pathways for building trust. During a period with so much uncertainty, we were faced with extending trust – to peers, organizational leaders, and the community at large – as a way to move forward.

But trust is hard without demonstrable impact, right? As SOS members, it’s easy to feel positive about our collective giving efforts when we can see the impact of our dollars. What if we couldn’t? Would we still have trust? The Philanos conference helped me to dig deeper into the concept of trust-based philanthropy and what it might mean for SOS going forward. 

What if we rethought our approach to gathering grantee impact? What if we trusted that our grantees – not us – own their impact, and our role is to help provide the resources they need to drive their success? SOS has come a long way from pre-pandemic operations, and from my perspective, one positive outcome has been the strengthening of trust in our community partners. 

There’s even more room to grow, and I’m looking forward to seeing how SOS continues to reimagine our relationships, and build even greater trust, with the groups we support.

Ally Melvin

Board Approves Change to SOS
Grant Cycle

In November 2023, the SOS Board of Directors approved a plan to move to a two-year grant cycle. This decision followed a comprehensive review of opportunities to make the SOS grant process more effective and impactful, both for the non-profit organizations we support and SOS members, and included input from SOS members. 

Under this new plan, grants will be awarded to approximately eight to ten agencies every two years. Awards will range from $20,000 to $50,000, payable in two installments. 

The full grant process will take place over six months in Year 1 and grantees will receive one-half of their grant award. In Year 2, grantees will receive the second half of their grant award. This will be the “engagement year” where SOS members can create deeper and more meaningful relationships with grantees through SOS “Grantee Connections” programs and community visits. 

We ask for your support as we begin the implementation of the new grant cycle. Our thanks to the Grants and Impact committees for their recent work in developing an implementation plan, which was recently reviewed by the SOS Board and will be communicated directly to SOS members soon. During its first year of implementation, this new process will be continually reviewed so that, if necessary, revisions can be made in subsequent years.

Philanos Webinar Introduces Personal Philanthropy Planning

SOS members are already engaged in the practice of collective and intentional giving. But there are other ways to make charitable donations that may not be as obvious. With some reflection and advanced planning, individuals can craft a personal philanthropic strategy to give now, over time, and/or into the future. 

In a Philanos webinar recorded in early January, business and financial consultant and SOS member Nina Needleman introduced the concept of a Personal Philanthropy Strategic Plan. This highlights different types of charitable vehicles and accounts (such as Donor Advised Funds), and offers ways to help think through your personal and family giving priorities.

View Philanos Personal Philanthropy Planning Webinar to gain more understanding of this concept, or to get started on a new personal philanthropy journey in 2024.

Meet the Board: Joan Gallagher
Chair, Grants Committee

Newly retired in early 2020, Joan Gallagher joined SOS at the height of the pandemic “and didn’t meet anyone face to face for a year.” But even via remote meetings, she experienced a connection with SOS’s mission and members, and found herself wanting to get more involved. 

“I attended several committee meetings via Zoom, which helped me decide where I felt I could best contribute,” Joan recalls. 

After working as a member of a grants review team in her first year, she went on to lead a team the following year, and then was recruited as Vice Chair of the Grants Committee. She became Chair in July 2023 and will lead the Grant Committee through the transition to a new two-year grant cycle. 

Feedback from current and former grantees played a big role in this change, according to Joan. 

“In an effort to streamline our Letters of Intent (LOI) and application process, we conducted a grantee focus group to get their input. The idea of a two-year cycle was raised and they were VERY enthusiastic,” she said. “I’m happy and excited to be part of this change, which I see as beneficial to both grantees and our members. I’d ask members to keep an open mind, and to use the ‘engagement’ year as an opportunity to truly get to know our St. Louis non-profits in a more meaningful way.” 

Kathleen Beckmann, former Grants Committee chair, has high praise for Joan’s contributions to SOS in such a short period of time.

“Despite having joined in the thick of COVID, Joan dove right into grant work and took on leader responsibilities in only her second year. As Vice Chair last year, she was a fabulous partner to work with, and I know she’ll continue to bring dedication, warmth, and a great sense of humor to her role this year,” Kathleen says.

A native of St. Louis, Joan lives with her husband in Clayton and says their house “serves as a neighborhood market for our daughter and son-in-law who live a block away.” 

Joan retired as manager of interior design and space planning for Centene Corp., and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in art history from Lindenwood University.

Why We Give: Books for Newborns

What’s the key to sparking a love of reading and learning? Simply put, access to books. This premise is the basis and the mission of Books for Newborns (BFN), founded in 2016 to expand access to books and literacy support to families throughout the St. Louis area.

Read Full Story

Grantees in the News

Congratulations to these past and present SOS grantee leaders who were recognized as “Women Who Make St. Louis Great” in the November 2023 issue of St. Louis magazine: Molly Rockamann, EarthDance Farms; LaKricia Cox, Girls In The Know; Terry Stipanovich, Collective Thread; Betsy Reznicek, Home Sweet Home; and Susan Colangelo, St. Louis Story Stitchers. 


Book Discussion: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Tuesday, February 6, 5:30-6:30 pm

Community Foundation, 2 Oak Knoll Park, Clayton, MO 63105


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Welcome, New Members

Since our last newsletter, SOS has welcomed these new members:

  • Jane Grady
  • Laura Herring
  • Linda Laferriere
  • Sarah Lavery
  • Patricia Parker
  • Kimberly Scales
  • Lindsay Skredenske

Supporting Grantees through Volunteer Events

SOS members had ample opportunity to support our grantees at these recent volunteer events. These opportunities to engage with grantees are what make SOS unique! Thanks to everyone who participated, and check the SOS website for upcoming volunteer activities.

November 2 – Created personal care kits for “Girls In the Know” 

November 15 – Prepared a mailing for “St. Louis HELP

November/December – Helped create holiday cards for “VOYCE,” an agency that advocates for quality long-term care, which were delivered to area senior care centers in December.

December 6 – Prepared window insulation kits for “EnergyCare” 

December – Made cookies for the “Welcome Neighbor STL” winter festival

January – Packed 500 bookbags for “Books for Newborns

Celebrating the Holidays SOS Style 

A big thanks to SOS co-founder Susan Block for once again opening her home for a holiday coffee on December 1, 2023. Approximately 85 members and guests enjoyed social time as well as the opportunity to hear about Lift for Life, recipient of a three-year $100,000 SOS grant, from Lauren Sauer, development director.

Education Event: Members Tour Holocaust Museum

SOS members participated in a special four-hour tour of the St Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum in November, which included discussions and explorations of the complex topics of hate crimes and genocide.

The thought-provoking experience included gaining deeper understanding about past and present historical moments so that individuals can become better equipped to create a more compassionate world. The moving program was attended by 25 members. 

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