Alleviating Food Insecurity: The St. Louis Food Funders Collaborative

May 17, 2017

GCG Member Guest Blog Post

by Rhonda Smythe, Program Officer at Missouri Foundation for Health, and Megan Armentrout, Program Associate at Incarnate Word Foundation

Missouri is the sixth most food insecure state in the United States. More than half—55 percent—of  St. Louis City residents live in areas designated as food deserts by the USDA, while the national average is 23 percent.  To tackle this crisis, three regional grantmakers, Incarnate Word Foundation, Franciscan Sisters of Mary (FSM) and Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH),  banded together in 2016 to collaborate around a shared interest in funding projects to alleviate food insecurity.

Food insecurity encompasses many elements of the food system including access, quality, cost, and sustainability. Each of the funders comes to this work with their own priorities: Incarnate Word Foundation with a focus on community-driven and led projects, FSM on health and healing for all creation, and MFH on improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities most in need.

The Food Funders Collaborative successfully partnered on multiple projects, but found there was a gap in opportunities for smaller grassroots organizations to work on food insecurity. With that in mind, the collaborative created the Innovative Solutions to Food Insecurity competitive grant program specifically for those groups. The grant was designed to engage the community in conversations about food access and develop potential solutions to this issue. Prospective grantees were encouraged to develop pioneering concepts on one or more aspects of food insecurity, with an emphasis on access, sustainable agriculture, and innovative food and nutrition education. Six grants were awarded at $10,000 each.

Awarded ideas for the 2016 grant:

  • A Community MasterChef challenge to help enhance cooking and nutrition knowledge for mothers and families;
  • Timebanking as a way to facilitate trading of knowledge or skills in cooking, gardening, and nutrition;
  • Food pantry collaborations with WIC (special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children, chefs for cooking demonstrations, and dietitians to provide nutrition counseling;
  • Faith-based organizing effort to disrupt violence, build trust, and reduce food insecurity by offering healthy brown-bag meals at night;
  • Youth food justice training and community service program in the Dutchtown and Gravois Park neighborhoods; and
  • Container gardening education and supplies offered to food pantry clients to teach and empower people to grow their own food.

To build on this momentum, the Food Funders Collaborative plans to offer this grant opportunity again in 2017. The group welcomes additional funders interested in increasing food security in the St. Louis region; please contact Rhonda Smythe at if you’re interested in engaging with the Collaborative.

For more information about St. Louis food deserts, access barriers to healthy foods, and suggestions for municipal strategies to alleviate hunger, please refer to Incarnate Word Foundation’s Food Access in St. Louis webpage. Research on food insecurity was undertaken by Coro Fellows hosted at Incarnate Word Foundation includes an insightful Food Access Ecosystem Map.


Gateway Center for Giving Celebrates the Strength of “PHIL&THROPY” in St. Louis

January 30, 2017

St. Louis, January 27, 2017—The Gateway Center for Giving convened grantmakers and nonprofits at the Gateway Center’s Annual Meeting today to celebrate the generosity of donors in the St. Louis region and to recognize dynamic sector leaders for their excellence. Gateway Center Members collectively represent $5.8 billion in charitable assets, of which more than $264 million is deployed in the St. Louis region each year, creating sustained and meaningful impact. This year’s Annual Meeting theme, “PHIL&THROPY,” reflects the power and importance of partnerships.

The Gateway Giving Awards reflect an emphasis on best practices in the field and philanthropic sector leadership. Award winners are nominated by their grantmaking peers, community members and nonprofits. This year’s four categories recognize six winners:

Excellence in Innovation in Philanthropy: The Excellence in Innovation Award recognizes a grantmaking organization that has put significant support behind an unproven initiative or project that has the potential to yield great community outcomes, or has engaged in innovative investing strategies.   Honorees: The Boeing Company and Wells Fargo Advisors for their support of the new Venture Café Education Innovation Fellowship, a competitive, paid fellowship for 15 St. Louis Public School educators to learn design thinking, innovative methods and business-oriented practices. Participants translate their learning into curriculum modules they can bring back to their classrooms.  This investment, managed through the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, has allowed St. Louis Public Schools to approach talent management in an innovative way, and support cross-sector relationships with business leaders to support student outcomes.

Excellence in Collaboration in Philanthropy: The Excellence in Collaboration Award recognizes a grantmaking organization that has made collaboration a central part of its grantmaking strategy, and has shown itself to be an effective collaborator among its grantmaking peers and community partners.  Honoree:  Monsanto Fund for its leadership of regional funder collaborative STEMpact, which was founded in the belief that all students deserve access to high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.  Over the course of the past four years, 19 districts, 391 teachers, and 17,612 students have been impacted by participating in the STEM Teacher Quality Institute, creating a pipeline of STEM-proficient individuals in our region. See for a list of partners.

Emerging Leader in Philanthropy (two awardees): The Emerging Leader Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates generosity of spirit and a commitment to social impact both professionally, and personally.  The award winner shows creativity and determination to improve the philanthropic sector, and demonstrates great potential for leading the sector in the future. Honoree:  Rhonda Smythe, Missouri Foundation for Health. Rhonda has shown tremendous community leadership, particularly in the area of food access.  In addition to facilitating a pooled grant fund to foster innovative food access and supportive public policy, Rhonda has been instrumental in the development of the St. Louis Food Policy Council, a new coalition that pulls together nonprofit leaders who are working on food access issues.  Honoree: Allie Chang Ray, Deaconess Foundation.  Through her work, Allie has helped attract significant support from outside the St. Louis region to address racial equity and other social justice issues.  She has partnered with local grantmakers to hold conversations about ways to focus funding to leverage limited resources for greater impact, has made presentations locally, statewide and nationally in the areas of capacity building and advocacy, and serves as a Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Capacity Building Champion.

Philanthropic Legacy: The Philanthropic Legacy Award recognizes an individual or a family that has made a significant contribution to the philanthropic sector.  The award winner has led an initiative or program that has changed the landscape of funding, or has made a meaningful or long-lasting contribution to an innovative program in our region, yielding significant outcomes.  Honoree: Amy Rome, The Rome Group.  Amy has worked in the field of philanthropy for her entire career. As founder of The Rome Group, Amy has consulted in strategic planning, resource development and leadership development to a large variety of nonprofits throughout the region for more than two decades.  Amy is also an adjunct faculty member at the Brown School of Social Work, where she has mentored a multitude of business and nonprofit professionals and students in the classroom and in the field.

Business Meeting

Outgoing Gateway Center Board Chair Matt Oldani of the Deaconess Foundation welcomed the following additions to the Gateway Center for Giving Board of Directors for a three-year term:

Julie Hardin, Express Scripts

Melinda McAliney, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis

Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund

Board Officers: Jama Dodson of the Saint Louis Mental Health Board was elected as Board Chairman for 2017; Matt Kuhlenbeck of the Missouri Foundation for Health as Vice Chair, Desiree Coleman of Wells Fargo Advisors as Secretary, and Mary Kullman of the Caola Kullman Family Fund as Treasurer.

Outgoing Board Members Ann Vazquez of the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis and Lisa Dinga of the Dinga Family Fund were recognized for their outstanding service to the organization.

The Gateway Center’s Annual Meeting was hosted at the .ZACK Performing Arts Incubator and supported by Emerson and the Enterprise Holdings Foundation. Visit the Gateway Center for Giving Facebook page over the coming weeks to see pictures from the event.

2014 Philanthropic Landscape: Local Charities Report Good Times Returning

July 18, 2014

“Diving Into Data: 
What, Why and How to Use It for Success”

Sponsored by The Rome Group,
 with the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation 
and the Gateway Center for Giving

ST. LOUIS, July 17, 2014 –  Nearly three of every four nonprofits in a recent survey of St. Louis area organizations reported meeting their fundraising goals in 2013, with two-thirds saying they raised more money last year than in 2012. The percentages are the highest reported since 2007, before the recession. Further, they reflect a national uptick in charitable giving, as reported in the latest Giving USA report, which noted total giving in the U.S. in 2013 was $335.17 billion, up 4.4 percent from 2012, or 2.7 percent after adjusting for inflation. In a further sign of optimism, 59 percent of local nonprofits believe they will raise even more money in 2014. The results are part of annual surveys of area nonprofits and local institutional and individual grantmakers, conducted by The Rome Group, a local consulting firm, in partnership with the Gateway Center for Giving and the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation. A total of 216 nonprofits and 95 grantmakers of all sizes completed the surveys. The results of the surveys were to be presented to an audience of almost 500 attendees at The Rome Group’s annual Philanthropic Landscape event on July 17 at Washington University’s Edison Theater. “Despite the hardships during the recent recession, charitable giving, both locally and nationally, continues to grow steadily,” said Amy Rome, principal and founder of The Rome Group. “In fact, total giving adjusted for inflation is up 150 percent over the past 40 years. Our latest survey demonstrates that philanthropy is benefitting from a stronger economy, and that’s good for all of us.”

Among the institutional grantmakers (primarily corporate and private foundations) surveyed, 83 percent reported they funded the same number or more organizations in 2013 than in 2012, and 92  percent expect their 2014 dollar contributions to be as high or higher. Ninety-three percent of  individual donors (including family foundations and donor advised funds) funded at least as many  organizations in 2013, and 70 percent will give as much or more this year. A majority of both groups is also now open to accepting grant proposals from previously unfunded organizations.

“These are the strongest numbers we’ve seen since the recession of 2008,” said Amelia Bond, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are seeing a return to optimism among funders of all types,” added Deb Dubin, president and CEO of the Gateway Center. “Virtually every sub-sector is benefitting from the resurgence in philanthropic activity.”

According to the surveys, the biggest challenge facing nonprofits in 2014 continues to be meeting demand for services with current staffing levels. Cutbacks in staff and other resources during the recession are still impacting many nonprofits,” explained Rome. Nonprofits also expressed concern about the need to provide better data and measurements on program impact. That prompted the theme of this year’s Philanthropic Landscape event: Diving into Data.

“There is a growing interest in the use of data,” noted Rome. “Funders are asking for it. Board members expect it. Individual donors want proof their gifts are having an impact. The important thing, however, is for organizations to find ways to use data not only to satisfy their stakeholders, but also to measure effectiveness and efficiency, along with results and impact. “The challenge,” she added, “is that nonprofits often do not have adequate time, staffing or training to analyze and translate data to use for decision-making.” While 87 percent of survey respondents reported collecting data of all types, “many of them admit they are not really using it effectively to make program improvements or to raise more money.”

The grantmakers survey reported similar findings. “Most of the nonprofits our donors support do a good job of collecting data on the need for their programs and services,” said Bond. “But there is a gap in understanding as to whether or not nonprofits are using this data to improve their programs.” Dubin added that a majority of funders who responded to the survey appear to have doubts that nonprofits have the necessary staff, skills or technology to do effective data management. “Unfortunately, respondents told us they are either unwilling or unsure about supporting a specific request to fund data collection and analysis. That shows us that nonprofits can do a better job of selling the need for data and proving its long-term value.”

The Philanthropic Landscape event featured a keynote presentation on this topic by Carolyn Roby, senior vice president with Wells Fargo Foundation in Minnesota.  Four local philanthropic leaders then joined her in a panel discussion, including:

• Charles Gasper, director of evaluation for the Nine Network;

• Rhonda Gray, executive director of Almost Home;

• Melinda McAliney, program director for Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis; and

• Kristine Ramsey, senior vice president of development at Wyman Center.

The results of The Rome Group’s surveys can be viewed at, and click here to access a list of data resources.

Gateway Center for Giving Launches Charitable Giving Guide for Businesses

May 22, 2014

The Gateway Center for Giving is pleased to announce the launch of a free community resource, the Business Guide to Giving: Establishing a Charitable Giving Program. The Business Guide to Giving offers advice and expertise for businesses in the St. Louis region and is available for download by visiting the Gateway Center website at

“St. Louis businesses play a vital role in maintaining the quality of life in our region. Businesses provide jobs and economic stability. They also provide charitable support and volunteer hours to initiatives that enrich our lives and our communities oImagen a daily basis,” said Gateway Center CEO Deborah Dubin.

While business owners are often eager to respond to community needs, many do not have a specific plan for guiding and leveraging the distribution and use of their charitable contributions.  The Business Guide to Giving  was created to help businesses set up and carry out a charitable giving program by taking participants through the basic steps, from deciding why to give; determining where to give; allocating what to give; and finally, assessing impact.

“In the same way that a business plan helps a company stay on course toward its financial goals, a charitable giving program – however informal – can help a business achieve a number of goals for itself, and for the community in which it operates,” noted Ann Vazquez, Board Chairman of the Gateway Center for Giving and President of the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis.

Support for the Business Giving Guide was provided by YouthBridge Community Foundation.


About the Gateway Center for Giving

The Gateway Center for Giving helps donors do more. We strengthen philanthropy and promote community impact by providing programming, research, technical assistance, and professional development opportunities to grantmaking organizations in the St. Louis region, and we enhance regional leadership through information on community needs and philanthropic best practices, supporting collaborative action to help address our region’s most pressing issues. The Gateway Center for Giving was founded in 1970 (as the Metropolitan Association of Philanthropy, or MAP), and our members include corporations, donor-advised funds, foundations, trusts and professional advisors actively involved in philanthropy. To learn more, visit


About YouthBridge Community Foundation

YouthBridge Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant communities by bridging the resources of generous donors with the needs of worthy nonprofit organizations. With a heritage rooted in children and youth causes dating back to 1877, YouthBridge and its philanthropy advisors consult today on a wide range of charitable giving solutions. Based in St. Louis, the organization offers specialized expertise and philanthropic management services to donors, nonprofits, advisors and businesses nationwide.


Gateway Center CEO serves on panel for Sue Shear Institute

May 21, 2014

On May 20, Gateway Center CEO Deb Dubin was invited to speak a group of college women who are participating this week in the 2014 Leadership Academy hosted by the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at UMSL.

The theme of the panel was “To Be a Great Leader, You’ve Gotta Have S.M.A.R.T.S.” (spirit, motivation, agility, resilience and, especially, thick skin!)  Co-panelists Dr. Theresa Mayberry, the Chief Program Director at St. Louis County Children’s Services Fund, St. Louis County CSue Shearircuit Court Family Court Commissioner Margaret Donnelly, and St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones also shared their stories and insights. Students were particularly interested in ways that women leaders have learned to grow their capabilities, managed multiple career switches, and compete as equals in their respective fields.

This event provided a great opportunity to engage in dialogue with a motivated group of young women who will no doubt help to change the world for the better through their civic engagement.

Successful RFP Management for Foundations – 10 Tips to Select the Best Grantees

May 20, 2014

This post was originally published by the Putnam Consulting Group by Kris Putnam-Walkerly.

The RFP is essential to the way many organizations make grants — so improvements in the RFP process can have a profound impact on grantmaking success. We have helped many foundations and corporate grantmakers develop and manage requests for proposals as they identify the best nonprofits to fund. Over the years, my experience and research have revealed ten steps a funder can take to help make RFPs successful. I’m sharing those ten steps here so you can benefit, too.

1. Be crystal clear on what you want to accomplish with your funding initiative. This means understanding your vision, your mission, your objectives and strategies, and what dollar amount you want to use to achieve your goals.

2. Envision your ideal applicants. Who do you want to apply for this funding initiative? What kind of organizations? What skill level and experience do they need to have? Do you want an organization that has been doing this work for a long time — one you can take to the next level — or are you seeking to fund a start-up?

3. Put customer service first. You have two main customers here. The first is the beneficiary (the person, family, or community that your grantees seek to help); be sure that your approach is of greatest value to that person or group. The second customer is the nonprofit organizations that will be responding to your RFP. Treat them like customers, not like servants; don’t make them jump through unnecessary hoops or give them unrealistic deadlines.

4. Conduct significant outreach to potential applicants. Your methods may vary depending on whether your RFP is open, meaning anybody can apply, or whether it is by invitation only. If it’s an open RFP, how will your ideal applicant learn about it — what networks and associations can help you disseminate the RFP? The critical issue is ensuring that the applicants you want to apply are aware of the RFP in time to actually submit their proposals. Of course, you face similar issues even with a closed RFP: You might need to do some initial research to find the best nonprofits to invite, and they too will need plenty of time to apply.

5. Get honest feedback from people outside your organization. Share a draft of the RFP with executive directors of organizations similar to your ideal applicant or with funder colleagues from other foundations. Give them permission to give you honest feedback, including criticism that tests your assumptions. You want to ask this of your Red Team (a group of people you’ve charged with finding out what can go wrong, where the holes are, and why what you’re trying to do won’t work – to help you make course corrections). You don’t want to solicit feedback from people who will just tell you that everything looks great.

6. Determine your staffing needs in advance. You want to think about what resources you’re going to need, how to plan and develop them, who will write the RFP, how many proposals you anticipate, and how many people you will need to help you review the proposals. Will you need staff to conduct site visits? How will other people in your organization be involved or impacted? Staff from grants management, communications, and evaluation may all need to be involved in reviewing proposals, so you’ll want to think through a plan for engaging all these individuals to help you successfully implement your RFP.

7. Develop your review criteria before issuing the RFP. This might seem unnecessary now, because of course it will be a while before you’re actually reviewing proposals. But it can be helpful and efficient to think about this early on. When those proposals come in, how are you going to review them? Not just in terms of the staffing discussed above, but in terms of what your criteria will be. For example, will you use a scoring system? By developing your review criteria in advance, you can identify gaps and areas of confusion or duplication in your RFP — and correct them — before you disseminate it.

8. Anticipate your expectations for grantee involvement in the funding initiative. Will there be an evaluation? If so, what data-collection needs will you have? Are there expectations that your grantee will be convened regularly or participate in a learning community? If so, how do you make sure these expectations are clear to the applicants before they apply?

9. Anticipate applicant questions and prepare answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).Consider in advance what kinds of questions your applicants may have and where there might be areas of confusion. For example, do terms need to be clarified? I recommend actually creating a FAQs document in advance and issuing it when the RFP is released; then you can update it as needed, as applicant questions start coming in.

10. Debrief once the dust settles. After you’ve reviewed the proposals, made funding decisions, issued the grant, and disseminated your press release, take some time to reflect on the process. What could have gone better? What worked well? What would you do differently? Ideally, ask for perspectives from applicants who were declined as well as the grantees that you funded. Make sure you document what you learn and share it with your colleagues at your foundation. And don’t forget to refer to it the next time you develop an RFP, to make sure that you’ve retained the lessons you’ve learned throughout this process.

Using even a few of these tips will benefit your grantmaking program, but obviously all of them work together and build on one another. As you begin to apply these ideas to your RFP process, they will become a seamless part of your grantmaking and ultimately make a profound impact. My best clients leverage all ten of these points to ensure that their RFPs create the most successful grantmaking programs for their foundations.

©2014 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution. Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is president of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc., a national philanthropy consulting firm. She is also the author of the Philanthropy411blog. She can be reached at 800-598-2102 or Her website is http://

Giving with Purpose: Learning by Giving

May 13, 2014

This  week marked the end of the Giving with Purpose MOOC, presented by the Learning by Giving Foundation and Northeastern University.

The course instructor, Rebecca Riccio left participants with the overarching tool that guided the course: the RISE Model, which can be a framework for any philanthropist, whether an individual making a small donation, or a world class foundation.

Thank to you the Learning by Giving Foundation, and Northeastern University for making available this great resource!



“Relevance is about connectedness and meaning.

  • Does the organization clearly articulate and understand the need to which it is responding?
  • Does it know “what works” in response to this need?
  • Is it connected to the community or individuals it serves?
  • Does its work have meaning to me?

Impact is about making a difference.

  • Does the organization clearly explain how it is making a difference?
  • Is its program design logical?
  • Does the organization hold itself accountable for results?
  • Is supporting this organization the best way for me to make a difference with my resources?

Sustainability is about using money wisely.

  • Is the organization’s business model clearly defined?
  • Do its revenue sources seem reliable now, and into the future?
  • Does it provide evidence of managing its money effectively?
  • Does supporting this organization fit into my giving plan?


Excellence in Management and Operations is about having the capacity to do the work well.

  • Is the organization recognized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity?
  • Are key staff, including the executive director, and the board of directors well qualified?
  • Are the organization’s marketing and communication materials informative and professional?
  • Have I done my due diligence and assessed this organization using the RISE Framework?”


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