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.


Sex Trafficking in the St. Louis Region & Beyond: Funder Strategies & Responses

September 26, 2016

img_4204Sex Trafficking in the St. Louis Region & Beyond: Funder Strategies & Responses

Blog post by Hudson Kaplan-Allen, Gateway Center for Giving intern, about a recent GCG topical program.

Gateway Center for Giving Members and other philanthropic leaders recently convened to learn from three experts on human trafficking, which, according to the U.S. State Department is “one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United States and around the world.”  Sex trafficking, in particular, was the topic of the morning’s discussion.  Amanda Colegrove, Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation (CATE), Kathy Doellefeld-Clancy, Executive Director of the Joseph H. & Florence A. Roblee Foundation, and Rhonda Brewer, Vice President of Sales at Maritz Travel all shared the steps they are taking to raise awareness and implement preventative measures against sex trafficking in the St. Louis region and beyond.

St. Louis has been listed as one of the top 20 trafficking jurisdictions in the United States. It is located in the center of the country, where many highways meet and, thus, it is a prime transit point for traffickers bringing their victims across the country.

Colegrove started the conversation with a definition of human trafficking.  On the most basic level it is the “exploitation of persons for commercial sex or forced labor” that “involves recruiting, transporting, harboring, receipt of and transferring of persons.”  Children are often the victims of sex trafficking. In particular, children who identify as LGBTQ or who have disabilities are generally more vulnerable and easier to separate from their families.  Organizations like CATE have taken steps to put an end to sex trafficking and create safe spaces for survivors by taking part in trainings and outreach as well as expanding the network of organizations involved in the cause.

Doellefeld-Clancy then spoke about the Roblee Foundation’s involvement. The Foundation decided that it wanted to devote its time and resources to an emerging issue and a cause where they could truly make an impact.  They started by educating their board on sex trafficking, reading the book Walking Prey by Holly Austin Smith, a sex trafficking survivor.  The Foundation wanted to pinpoint the best curriculum for training the region on the issue, and they identified CATE as a partner.  Subsequently, there has been increased interest among local organizations to partake in this training and participate in the fight against sex trafficking.

Lastly, Brewer told the audience about the focus that the company has taken on the issue of human trafficking.  Maritz recognizes that “the travel industry is unwittingly used by the chain of human trafficking” and by taking steps to put an end to trafficking, they have the power to help break that chain. Maritz has made a commitment to assist in the fight against human trafficking by agreeing to “The Code”– a promise they have made to “encourage the practice of responsible, sustainable tourism” along with a number of other tourism-related companies. In addition, Maritz has also partnered with ECPAT-USA, an organization devoted to ending the sexual exploitation of children, to raise awareness as well as provide training on the indicators and steps that can be taken by individuals when they see possible signs of trafficking.

Get on the Map Update

August 15, 2016

01_GOTM_Main_LogoIn January 2016, the Gateway Center for Giving announced its participation in Get on the Map (GOTM), a new national data-sharing initiative dedicated to boosting the quality and availability of current, detailed grantmaking data. Since the Gateway Center’s launch of GOTM, more than a dozen GCG Members have submitted their grantmaking information to populate the virtual map of our region’s philanthropic activity.

GCG staff recently attended the national Forum of Regional Associations conference in Indianapolis, where we received updates about the GOTM initiative from the Foundation Center staff.

By the numbers: Nationally, 25 Regional Associations across the country are participating in GOTM.  More than 635 funding organizations are now supplying data to help populate the map, accounting for over $18.3 billion in grant dollars. Here in St. Louis, 12 of our Member organizations are now on the map, contributing insightful information about 4,826 grants to the database. This fall, we will make the beta map available at the Gateway Center Open House to anyone who is interested in seeing it, and we plan to demonstrate the map to the entire Membership at our Annual Meeting in January 2017.

Free webinars are offered monthly to help orient potential participants—find out more here. By sharing your data, sector stakeholders are able to more effectively use the online map to identify who else is funding a particular issue in our region, who is working with specific populations in our community, who may be natural collaborators, where there are gaps in funding, and much more!

Questions? Visit www.centerforgiving.org and feel free to contact Clare Brewka.

Philanthropy on the Move!

June 1, 2016

Oak KnollExciting news: As of June 13, 2016, the Gateway Center for Giving will reside in a newly restored, historic structure located in a lovely 14-acre park in Clayton. You can find us at #2 Oak Knoll Park, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63105; our phone number will remain the same, (314) 621-6220. Sharing building space with the St. Louis Community Foundation will provide us with new ways to participate in the regional philanthropy conversation.

For more than forty-five years, the Gateway Center for Giving has been dedicated to helping donors do more in the St. Louis region. We elevate best practices and enable leaders at philanthropic organizations to connect, learn and act with impact. We remain an independent, non-profit membership association, consisting of more than 80 philanthropic sector members, ranging from small family foundations to large corporate charitable giving programs and sector-supporting organizations.

There are some extraordinary challenges that organized philanthropy can, and should, address. Our organization is uniquely situated to provide a venue for thoughtful collaboration and action to help our region move forward, and we look forward to continuing in service to our community from our new home in Oak Knoll.

Gateway Center for Giving Launches Get on the Map! Initiative

January 28, 2016

01_GOTM_Main_LogoWondering who funds what, when, where and how? Timely information is critical to understanding the funding landscape and ensuring that charitable giving is as effective as it can be.

The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Foundation Center recently formed a strategic alliance  to improve the quality and effectiveness of grantmaking nationwide.  The new Get on the Map initiative will offer stakeholders in the philanthropic sector up-to-date information that helps inform our work, and also allows us to demonstrate that our region’s collective grantmaking serves the public good.

Get on the Map encourages funders to share grants data using Foundation Center’s eReporting standard, which is easy to export in most grants management systems.   When a funding organization participates by submitting their data electronically, they will receive a free interactive map which visualizes their own grants. In addition, the Gateway Center for Giving will provide Members with access to a collective map of giving data. Delivered though the Foundation Center’s Foundation Maps platform, these maps will provide access to timely information about the activities of grantmaking peers, regional funding gaps and potential collaborations.  More robust data also enables philanthropists to share narratives with elected officials, civic leaders and stakeholders who make tax, regulatory and other decisions that affect the way our sector operates.

Good information allows all of us to learn from each other, better tell our stories, and continue to work as a grantmaking community to benefit society as a whole. Get on the Map and join the conversation. Learn more here.

Gateway Center for Giving Celebrates the Strength of Philanthropy in St. Louis

January 25, 2016

Phil On the Map imageSt. Louis, January 22, 2016—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 five sector leaders for their grantmaking excellence and impact. Gateway Center members collectively represent $3.7 billion in charitable assets, of which more than $261 million is deployed in the St. Louis region each year.

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 five award winners are:

Excellence in Innovation in Philanthropy:

The Clark-Fox Family Foundation, for creating Blueprint4SummerSTL, a novel, highly personalized searchable web database that helps families in the St. Louis metropolitan area find best-fit summer programming for youth. In its first year, the site hosted 72,000 searches for more than 3,500 summer opportunities, promoting youth enrichment.

Excellence in Collaboration in Philanthropy: 

Express Scripts and the Express Scripts Foundation, for their leadership in fostering the Nance Elementary Transformation Plan, bringing together eight disparate agencies and elevating the key program areas and expertise that each brings to the table to better serve student needs.

Also, the Regional Business Council, for their leadership in the Reinvest North County Fund, created in partnership with North County Inc. and supported by the St. Louis Community Foundation. Under RBC’s leadership, $900,000 has been raised for businesses and school districts in the target region during a critical time for recovery and growth.

Emerging Leader in Philanthropy:

Serena Muhammad, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the St. Louis Mental Health Board, was nominated by her sector peers for her work as a collaborative, thoughtful and inclusive emerging leader.

Philanthropic Legacy:

The Staenberg Family Foundation has granted more than $60 million in financial support to nearly 500 organizations, in addition to pro bono contributions valued at over $10 million, over the past decade. A supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the Staenberg Family Foundation actively supports organizations and programs relating to arts & culture, children, education and medical research and services, creating a significant legacy of philanthropy that now extends to a second generation of givers.

Business Meeting

Outgoing Gateway Center Board Chair Ann Vazquez of the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis welcomed the following three additions to the Gateway Center for Giving Board of Directors:

David Desai-Ramirez, IFF; Gregory Glore, the Glore Fund; Jenny Hoelzer, Commerce Bank.

New Board Officers: Matt Oldani of the Deaconess Foundation was elected as Board Chairman for 2016; Jama Dodson of the St. Louis Mental Health Board 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 Amelia Bond of the St. Louis Community Foundation; Kathy Gardner of the United Way of Greater St. Louis; David Krauss of the Commerce Family Office; David Stiffler of Equifax; and Mary Swan, formerly with Ameren, were all recognized for their outstanding service to the organization.

The Gateway Center’s Annual Meeting was hosted by Forest Park Forever 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.

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 and networking opportunities to grantmaking organizations in the St. Louis region. We also 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 and our members include corporations, donor-advised funds, foundations, trusts and professional advisors actively involved in philanthropy. To learn more, visit www.centerforgiving.org.

Collaboration is Not the End Goal

December 18, 2015

matt-kuhlenbeckMatt Kuhlenbeck, Program Director, Responsive Portfolio at the Missouri Foundation for Health, traveled to Texas for the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) Collaboration Conference to learn how to be a more productive collaborative partner and provide better support for nonprofit collaboration.

Several colleagues, local funders, and I had the opportunity to attend the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) Collaborations Conference last month. The Conference provided many examples of funder collaborations that were successful at achieving their goals and also highlighted those which struggled to fulfill their vision. Through all of these collaborations a few themes emerged:

  • Importance of relationships above all else
  • Culture and leadership drive effective collaborations
  • Organizations need to be positioned for collaboration from board to staff, and
  • Collaboration is not the end goal

This event was particularly important given our region’s spirit of collaboration and networking among funders and community partners, as we regularly work together toward shared goals. It is through this collaborative spirit that I have been fortunate to develop relationships among leaders in the funding community that have helped us begin to move seemingly intractable issues in the region.

Recognizing the importance of relationships, the idea of culture and leadership-driven collaboration resonated for me and prompted me to think about how the funding organization for which I work approaches collaboration.  Collaborations often develop through personal relationships, but they are also driven by the culture of our organizations.  The Missouri Foundation for Health has a “core value” to seek opportunities to collaborate with other funders to aide in fulfilling our mission. To this point, most of our funder collaborations have been based on personal relationships, rather than a purposeful emulation of our core values through organizational norms and consistent staff actions.  This led me to ask, how can we further emulate our values more effectively internally and externally with our partners?   We can do so by holding ourselves accountable to a set of norms and behaviors.

Beginning internally, we can ask ourselves: “What are the behaviors I expect of my peers that I will also hold myself accountable to everyday?” This can be the first step in a conversation about how we live the value of collaboration with our partners. This question then leads us to others:

  • Do we have clear organizational values and goals associated with collaboration and are they clearly connected to staff expectations/behavior?
  • Do we have the time to build relationships and the skills to be effective in a collaboration; how might those that need work be identified and developed?
  • Do we have the flexibility to make adjustments to our grantmaking practices and procedures to foster increased trust?
    • For example, loosening restrictions on grant requirements, longer timeframes for progress, including objectives that focus on the development and maintenance of collaboration and creating shared evaluation measures/processes.
  • Do we have regular, internal communication processes to share status of collaborations in which the foundation is involved?

Effective collaborations are built over time through relationships and trust among partners. These relationships can be reinforced or diminished by our organizational culture, norms, and actions. I believe careful consideration of these factors is a critical component of effectively living our value of collaboration and look forward to continuing to work with you to improve the health of our region.

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