A Philanthropic Fellowship: An Invaluable Experience

November 13, 2017

GCG Member Guest Blog post

by Tracy Sexton, Program Fellow, Missouri Foundation for Health

As I wrap up my two-year Program Fellowship at Missouri Foundation for Health, I’ve started to reflect on the diverse opportunities and skills I’ve gained through my immersion in the field. Grateful for my experience, I want to share more about what I consider philanthropy’s best kept secret – a fellowship.

I had no idea where to start my career after graduate school (in my case, a master’s in public health at St. Louis University). My passion lies in prevention and precision medicine, but because it’s an emerging focus area, philanthropic work in this area is not yet robust. I decided to apply for a fellowship to gain a better understanding as to what drives changes in health outcomes in our region.

Here are the top five reasons a sector fellowship was a valuable option for me, post-graduate school:

  1. Philanthropic Sector Experience

I went into my fellowship not fully understanding the scope of philanthropy. During my time with the Foundation, I not only learned about the field overall, but also about the inner workings of a health conversion foundation, and how impactful such an institution can be on regional health.

  1. Continuous Learning

As a Fellow, about 10% of my time is devoted to continuing my education. This includes attending local and national conferences, staying abreast of health literature, participating in webinars and much more. This aspect of the fellowship has proven to be instrumental to my professional growth. In a short time, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that has made me a more well-rounded thinker. Also, from the beginning, I have shared with my mentor where I perceive gaps to exist in my resume, and we built goals around those areas to ensure I have opportunities to refine those skills. I’m excited to use these new capabilities.

  1. Mentorship

MFH assigned me a mentor whom I report to weekly. My mentor helps me learn about the field, challenges me to help me grow, and provides me with access to both local and national networks to learn about other fields of interest.

  1. Leadership

MFH allows me to not only be a leader internally through facilitating discussions and leading projects, but also externally through outreach with the community and working with different coalitions. A rich example is serving on the steering committee while establishing a chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy for the Saint Louis Region.

  1. Systems View

Strategic philanthropy requires an understanding of your target population, the needs of your region, what’s already in place to fulfill those needs, and learning who the key players are who can help address the need. Gaining this 30,000-foot view of the health needs of our region has been a compelling experience.

For more information about Missouri Foundation for Health’s Fellowship program, click here.

While there is no comprehensive list of national opportunities, information about a multitude of philanthropic sector fellowships can be found online. Search terms like “philanthropy fellows” and “philanthropy fellowships” to learn more.


Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) Launches Chapter in St. Louis

October 2, 2017

GCG Member Guest Blog Post

by Megan Armentrout, Program Associate, Incarnate Word Foundation and Kristin Cowart, Project Director, Saint Louis Mental Health Board

New to philanthropy? If so, you might like to know that Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), an organization that empowers newer sector leaders, recently launched a new chapter in St. Louis. The Gateway Center for Giving partners with EPIP nationally, and is excited to support the local effort.

For more than fifteen years, EPIP has been a place where diverse practitioners come together to:

  • Learn about field of philanthropy;
  • Connect with philanthropic and nonprofit peers;
  • Navigate leadership challenges;
  • Hone their professional skillsets; and
  • Find a path forward as change agents.

EPIP envisions a world where people of all identities can live full and prosperous lives supported by a diverse, equitable, inclusive and effective philanthropic sector. The philanthropic sector in St. Louis has changed over the past decade. More young professionals–and other seasoned professionals who are new to philanthropy–have stepped into leadership roles in this field. As we are getting our feet wet, we also bring dedication, new ideas, and connections.

Things EPIP St. Louis wants the sector to know:

  • We bring a fresh perspective. Change first needs to start within our own organizations. We come with a new set of “eyes” and ideas to share.
  • We value transparency and authenticity. We are building connections and networks in new ways that can infuse innovative approaches to build a more just, equitable society.
  • We desire learning opportunities. Help immerse us in professional development opportunities, so we can become knowledgeable and effective leaders in our community.
  • We believe in this work. We believe in the power of philanthropy to advance positive social change in our region.
  • We have BIG dreams for the future. When we asked our peers their hopes for the future of philanthropy they said things like “disruptive” and “systems collaboration in the public/private sector” and “anti-racism, anti-bias framework infused in funding allocation” and “willingness to move beyond self-reflection into action.”

This is a critical time for our community and our chosen field. Together, let’s transform our words into action, and show the region that we mean what we say.

If you’re new to philanthropy and interested in learning more about EPIP, please contact EPIP St. Louis at stlouis@epip.org.

Fostering Regional Collaboration: Immigrant & Refugee Services

February 7, 2017

Claire Hundelt, Program Manager, Daughters of Charity Foundation of Saint Louis

Gateway Center for Giving Member Blog Post

by Claire V. Hundelt, Program Manager with the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis

The Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis has been actively engaged in supporting organizations that help immigrants and refugees with the many challenges of their new lives in America. In the spring of 2014, the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, and the Saint Louis Mental Health Board hosted three gatherings to convene area provider groups serving immigrants and refugees. The purpose was threefold: to strengthen the work provided to our region’s aspiring Americans by increasing the networking and relationships among professionals and key stakeholders; to enhance understanding of the gaps in safety net provisions available; and encourage proactive planning to prepare the community for changes to the nation’s immigration policies. The gatherings confirmed that efforts underway to serve this population were increasing as new programs were being introduced resulting in knowledge gaps about available resources. The outcome  of these gatherings was the formation of an all-volunteer community-based group of concerned professionals and citizens known as Immigrant Service Provider Network or ISPN.

With nearly thirty members, ISPN has since formalized its structure by identifying executive committee leadership, creating bylaws, and forming working groups. Since 2015, this all-volunteer network has developed membership support and strategic outreach, started a resource directory, implemented a community education and enrollment outreach designed to explain the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) programs. Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA) serves as the primary convener and fiscal conduit for project activities. With MIRA’s support, ISPN has offered free of charge educational clinics to help prepare immigration documents and delivered webinars on topics including Immigration 101, employment, and DAPA training. The coalition also created a website and developed education materials.

The funder collaborative between Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis and Lutheran Foundation continues to support the staff position at MIRA assigned to actively support ISPN outreach as well as host for the ISPN work groups. The collaborative between MIRA and the ISPN participants has led to a leadership development strategy to strengthen member and volunteer capacities for effective action.  As a result of ISPN’s work in the community approximately 450 individuals were served in 2016.

Click on one of the following links to learn more:



Putting Equity at the Center

December 13, 2016

Gateway Center for Giving Member Blog Post: Putting Equity at the Center

by Claire Schell,  Assistant Vice President, Employee Experience, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation

claire-schell-imageI’ve found that there are a lot of companies making commitments to diversity and inclusion. Because of the work U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) does in communities and because of the very real inequities that we know exist, it is important for us to put equity – particularly racial equity – at the center of our diversity and inclusion work. Part of determining our “why” also has to include an assessment of where we were starting from and where we want to go. If we really want to close the gap between people and access to opportunity, we have to know where people are now.

For us, this assessment had to start internally – applying an equity lens to our organizational practices and policies. Becoming more equitable within our own organization will help us to do better work externally. So we embarked on a climate assessment: asking our employees where they thought we fell on the spectrum of being inclusive and equitable. This has allowed us to minimize assumptions about where one or two people may have thought we were. It has allowed us to become more aware of the different experiences of different people within our organization – different racial and ethnic groups, different teams, different levels of awareness about what diversity/equity/inclusion mean. It has helped us to create a baseline for future work.

As we set out on this internal work this year, some of our major goals at USBCDC were increasing each employee’s understanding around our “why,” developing shared language, and building relationships across difference. As you might guess, these required and have led to new and courageous conversations – in anti-racism workshops, monthly racial equity lunches, in team meetings, in 1:1s, and in the kitchen around the coffee machine. Building this internal capacity around naming the issues and normalizing difficult and honest dialogues has helped to reinforce that conversations are real work. They’re certainly not the only work, but are such a crucial first step toward being able to do more of what we want to do. They help people learn. They encourage people to value different perspectives. They allow people to bring more of themselves to work. They demonstrate our commitment in a more active, and vocal, way. They help us get to know each other better. Practice makes progress, and none of us can afford to shy away from these conversations if we really want to make progress.

We’ve also had to ask ourselves the hard questions if we’re really going to make progress. Are we living up to the commitment we’ve laid out for ourselves? Do people have the right tools (language, knowledge, resources) to be successful? Who else needs to be at the table for this conversation? How do we hold each other accountable in different ways? Where are our spheres of influence? What processes do we need to change or dismantle and how do we design equity into new processes? To whom are we accountable in our decision-making? If we do X, how does it advance USBCDC’s DEI commitment? Asking these questions helps us to determine where the pain points are, where we’re moving the needle, and where we need to stop and start certain behaviors and practices.

Our work this year has helped us to create shared value within our organization, to build skills and capacity that we need for the work ahead, and to make sure that as we’re determining each day what we’re going to do, we’re clear about who want to be along the way. As we have intentionally pursued a more tangible commitment to equity, we have seen the power of change in action by aligning more thoughtfully with others and deepening relationships around this important work. This “contagious commitment” – with our employees, community partners, customers, vendors – will ensure that we continue to build momentum, excitement, sustained support, and mutual accountability for the long haul.

So –

  • What is your organization’s “why” for equity and where are you starting?
  • What important conversations do you need to be having to advance shared understanding and learning?
  • What hard questions do you need to be asking?


Note: The Gateway Center for Giving invites Members to submit guest posts that foster knowledge transfer and relationship building to help inform the work of philanthropy.

Stay tuned: USBDC’s experience, as well as that of other regional companies making a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, will be highlighted in an upcoming GCG program in 2017.

Gateway Center CEO attends Foundations on the Hill

March 7, 2014

This post was written by Gateway Center for Giving CEO, Deb Dubin, after returning from Washington DC where she advocated on behalf of the philanthropic sector.


It’s Philanthropy Week in Washington, DC, and along with the snow, hundreds of philanthropic leaders from across the country are blanketing Capitol Hill to discuss the vital role of charitable giving and its inextricable link to thriving communities.

As the Captain (and sole member!) of the Missouri “Foundations on the Hill” delegation this year, I am visiting the offices of Senator McCaskill and Senator Blunt, as well as Congressman Clay, to highlight the impact of philanthropy in our state. I’m also sharing stories and data about our sector’s collective efforts to make the St. Louis region a safer, healthier and more inclusive place to live.

Foundations have an enormous impact on Missouri communities. In 2011, over 1,412 Missouri foundations invested more than $784,853,675 in the nonprofit economy, which employs nearly one tenth of our state’s workers: more than 230,000 people.  It is estimated that every philanthropic dollar invested in the nonprofit sector leverages an additional $8 in direct economic benefits, supporting jobs for tax-paying citizens.

Various tax policy proposals are now in play, from House Ways & Means Committee Chairman David Camp’s recently introduced tax reform bill to the President’s FY 2015 budget, released this past week. Both contain provisions that impact the philanthropic sector, and by extension, the nonprofits and communities with which we partner. We’re told that neither of these proposals will be enacted in their current forms, and that there will be extensive discussion and negotiation over the coming months.

Congress should advance proposals that increase giving, not diminish it.

It comes as no surprise that Regional Associations of Grantmakers support tax policy that encourages charitable giving, thereby allowing the nonprofit sector to survive and thrive. For example, the charitable deduction incentive encourages individuals to donate to charitable organizations, an important source of revenue for nonprofits. These funds are often leveraged with grant funding from the philanthropic sector. If donors have less incentive to give, donations could decline by billions of dollars, obstructing the critical work of nonprofits.

States matter.

While federal policy is the focus of our visit to Washington, we were also reminded that it’s important to keep an eye on state governments. At the same time that Congress passed 80 bills last year, state legislatures passed 40,000. There is clearly a lot of activity happening at the state level, and our sector should remain watchful for public policy proposals that could impede charitable contributions.

The Gateway Center for Giving has “Foundations on the Hill” materials and resources to share. Please let us know if we can be of service.

The Gateway Center for Giving honors regional grantmakers

January 27, 2014

The Gateway Center for Giving convened 160 grantmakers and nonprofits at the Gateway Center’s Annual Meeting on 1-24 to celebrate the generosity of donors in the St. Louis region, name new Board Members, and recognize grantmaking excellence.

The Excellence in Grantmaking Awards celebrate the work of St. Louis area grantmakers by honoring donors who fund programs, efforts, or initiatives that have made a significant impact in the region.

The three award winners are:

  • Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH), nominated for the “Giving is On Time” award by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.  MFH provided funding to several area nonprofits for certified application counselors to provide information and assistance to the uninsured.  This funding makes a substantial impact in the knowledge about and enrollment in health insurance. Tom Barry (Vice President of Development & External Relations at Planned Parenthood of the StLouis Region and Southwest Missouri) presented the award to Jessi LaRose (Health Policy Officer at Missouri Foundation for Health).
  • St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District , nominated for the “Giving is On Going” award by two nonprofits, the Missouri Recycling Association (MORA) and St. Louis Earth Day. St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District funded the development of key marketing and educational materials for the Missouri Recycling Association, and supported St. Louis Earth Day in developing innovations in recycling and waste reduction in the St. Louis area. Cassandra Hage (Executive Director of St. Louis Earth Day) and Dan Imig (President of MORA) presented the award to David Berger (Executive Director of St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District).
  • Emerson, nominated for the “Giving is Far Reaching” award by the Saint Louis Language Immersion Schools (SLLIS). In addition to monetary gifts, a finance team at Emerson has donated their time, talent & intellect to review St. Louis Language Immersion School’s potential facilities options.  The team is now working with local partners, developers and architects to help them select a plan that will best meet the needs of their current and prospective students.  Dr. Steve Sanchez (Board Chair of SLLIS) presented the award to Pat Sly (Executive Vice President of Emerson and head of the Emerson Charitable Trust).


Outgoing Gateway Center Board Chair Jane Donahue of the Saint Louis Public Schools Foundation welcomed the following new additions to the Gateway Center for Giving Board of Directors:

  • Desiree Coleman of Wells Fargo Advisors
  • Jama Dodson of the Saint Louis Mental Health Board
  • Mike Grabenhorst of Northern Trust
  • Lindsay Matush of the Brown Sisters Foundation

Ann Vazquez of the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis will serve as the 2014 Gateway Center Board Chair.

Outgoing Board Members Kirby Burkholder of IFF, Cynthia Crim of Commerce Bank and the Norman J. Stupp Foundation, and John Fort of the Fort Family Foundation were thanked for their service.

“By working together, we help make the St. Louis region stronger, smarter, more inclusive and more liveable for everyone,” said Gateway Center for Giving CEO Deb Dubin.

The Gateway Center’s Annual Meeting was hosted by the Nine Network and supported by Emerson, Enterprise Holdings and Ameren. Visit the Gateway Center for Giving Facebook page over the coming weeks to see pictures from the meeting, and watch the video on the Gateway Center’s Youtube page.

The Outlook for 2014

December 20, 2013


This post was originally published in The Rome Group Insights, December 2013.

With the New Year almost here, The Rome Group Insights asked the leaders of three local associations of funding organizations for their predictions on the giving climate in 2014.

Mary McMurtrey, Director of Community Engagement, Greater St. Louis Community Foundation:

“The Community Foundation works extensively with donors and their professional wealth advisors. Many of our wealth advisors anticipate strong returns in the market in 2014. This has the potential to positively impact charitable giving due to the direct correlation between market performance and giving.

“We should continue to see financial stability in 2014 through conservative budgets, continued collaborations, and strategic partnerships.”

Deb Dubin, CEO & President, Gateway Center for Giving:

“Generally, our members expect their giving levels to be about the same in 2014. However, a few may support one-time, large-scale civic projects this year, thereby narrowing the distribution of their giving to fewer organizations overall, when compared to past years.

“The biggest concern remains the economy. Continued uncertainty in the marketplace impacts our members across the board, whether family foundations, corporate foundations, private foundations or sector-serving businesses.

“One corporate funder suggests nonprofits consider making requests beyond just financial ones. Are in-kind services a possibility? Does the funder have staff members with skill sets that can be shared? Can you leverage corporate funders’ desire to see their employees engage in meaningful community service?

“One of our private foundation funders said nonprofits should build outcomes evaluation into their asks. It should be part of the program’s DNA, and not something to be treated as ancillary. All of our members also want to see evidence of collaborations — how are you working with others in the infrastructure to accomplish your mission?”

Kathleen Osborn, executive director, The Regional Business Council:

“Our economy is slowly recovering, but we continue to live with fiscal uncertainty. While corporate giving might rise as our economy continues to recover, businesses will utilize a newly refined discerning eye. With an increased emphasis on making every donated dollar meaningful, corporate donors will concentrate their charitable efforts on nonprofit organizations that bring real value and measurable outcomes to the community.

“Thus, United Way will continue to be a vehicle to serve those with the greatest need. Funders, including the RBC, will rely on the organization to invest the funds most appropriately and provide oversight and direction to their member organizations.

“We are concerned with the proliferation of nonprofits and the ability to sustain and fund them. The days of “feel good” giving are behind us, and corporate donors are closely examining their charitable options. Donors are more likely to fund organizations that collaborate, that eliminate redundancy and that have a clear capacity-building plan.

“Nonprofits should concentrate on using donations to affect touchable, measurable outcomes. They should focus their efforts and make their goals and audiences clear to donors. They also should consider partnering with other nonprofits both to maximize their exposure and to avoid overlaps in services.”

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