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.

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Philanthropy’s Role in Fostering a Just and Equitable Society

October 30, 2017

Blog post by Deb Dubin, President & CEO, Gateway Center for Giving

Where we’ve been: For more than three years, the Gateway Center for Giving (GCG) has been intentionally engaged in providing our funding community with opportunities to learn and dialogue about the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in August 2014, we tracked immediate regional philanthropic responses to the events in Ferguson and provided that information to our Members in order to foster collaboration and identify engagement points. Since that time, we have offered Members a robust series of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Funders Affinity Group programs, exploring DEI within our organizations and in the broader community. Our team developed a new sector tool, the Missouri Common Grant Application Version 2.0, which infuses an equity lens into the grantmaking process in order to foster transformation, spark dialogue and boost accountability. Most recently, we’ve become a community co-signor to a powerful statement calling for policy and decision-makers to deliver swift action on Ferguson Commission’s Calls to Action.

REWG co-chairs, Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO of ABFE, and Tamara Copeland, President & CEO of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.

National implications for this work: As a member of the United Philanthropy Forum’s (the “Forum”) Racial Equity Working Group (REWG), I traveled to Washington, DC last week to participate in two days of conversations about how the Forum can best support a national philanthropic commitment to addressing and eradicating inequity. The Forum network consists of various moving parts, with sector leaders sitting in organizational seats all over the country. Some Forum members are already firmly engaged in substantial programming and activities intended to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion, while others are newer to the work and seeking a meaningful path forward. The Forum intends to bring together all the groups working in this area to connect, learn and share from each other in a more intentional way.

The Forum’s REWG is being co-chaired by Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO of ABFE: a Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, and Tamara Copeland, President & CEO of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. The REWG will focus on the following action items:

  • Identify effective resources, programming and strategies that have been developed and used to advance racial equity in philanthropy;
  • Identify any gaps in what is needed in resources and programming to advance racial equity in philanthropy;
  • Provide strategic guidance to the Forum staff to lift up, adapt and/or develop resources and programming that can be used by Forum members across the network;
  • Provide guidance to the Forum’s Education Committee and Board of Directors on the Forum’s strategic priorities and goals around advancing racial equity in philanthropy; and
  • Evaluate progress over time.

How can we, as philanthropy-supporting organizations (PSOs), foster a more just and equitable society? How can we encourage increased philanthropic investment to support transformative change?

This is a watershed moment. Organized philanthropy is a critical partner in the work, and the Gateway Center for Giving is committed to providing our Members with meaningful support and tools for action.

Gateway Center for Giving is grateful to the Trio Foundation of St. Louis, Commerce Bank, Spire, the Missouri Foundation for Health, and the Clemence Lieber Foundation for their support of our DEI-focused initiatives.


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 rsmythe@mffh.org 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 http://www.STEMpact.org 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.


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.


NSC Nonprofit Leadership Convening 2012: The Nonprofit Sector’s Impact on Missouri’s Economy

July 18, 2012

The nonprofit sector employed more than 10 million people and according to a study by John Hopkins University, was the third largest private employer in 2010.  The study, “Holding the Fort: Nonprofit Employment During a Decade of Turmoil” shows how nonprofits have been “holding down the fort” for the entire US economy by creating jobs and employment at an average rate of 2.1% (while for-profit jobs have declined 0.6%).

salamon4.7.2011215x300.jpgHear first hand from Lester Salamon, PhD, author of the study “Holding the Fort: Nonprofit Employment During a Decade of Turmoil.” Dr. Salamon is a Professor at the Johns Hopkins University and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies. He previously served as Director of both the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Governance and Management Research at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. and as Deputy Associate Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President.

Where: Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

When: September 19, 2012–Doors open at 7:30 AM
Program starts at 8:00 AM
Cost is $50/person; includes continental breakfast.

Click here to register.

Questions: Contact Carmen Garcia,carmen@nonprofitservices.org

Support for this program has been provided by:

MFHlogoPMS.jpg


Meet the Donor- Welcoming Our New Philanthropic Leadership

June 26, 2012

The past year has featured a number of leadership changes in the philanthropic community.  Join us for this Meet the Donor program to hear from some of the community’s new leadership and learn about the evolving giving strategies of some of our St. Louis’s biggest grantmakers.

Confirmed Panelists:

  • Amelia Bond, President & CEO- Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation
  • Jama Dodson, Executive Director- Saint Louis Mental Health Board
  • Michael Howard, President & CEO- YouthBridge Community Foundation
  • Robert Hughes, President & CEO- Missouri Foundation for Health
  • Patrick Sly, Executive Vice President- Emerson
  • Rev. Starsky Wilson, President & CEO- Deaconess Foundation
When: Friday, August 17
8:00 AM – 8:30 AM: Breakfast & Networking
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM: Panel Discussion
10:00 AM – 10:30 AM: Networking
Where: Emerson Headquarters, 8000 West Florissant, Building AA
Open to: Member Grantmakers ($30), NonMember Grantmakers ($30), Nonprofits ($30)
Please contact Lindsey Linzer at lindsey@centerforgiving.org with questions about this program.

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