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Biennial Report 2019-2020


In 2019 Deaconess approved a long-range plan to evolve our philanthropy, advocacy and engagement for the next seven years and affirmed our commitment to racial equity in our governance.

For more than a year, members of our staff team, the Foundation's Board of Trustees, Deaconess Center's Board of Directors, and the Foundation's Community and Policy Advisory Boards listened deeply to one another, our Partners and leading voices in philanthropy, equity and child well-being through a series of Community Conversations to inform our strategy. The resulting plan deepened our commitment to the Just for Kids Theory of Change, added tools for building, wielding and sharing power to advance child well-being, and set the framework for investing between $15 and $17 million in advocacy, organizing and public policy strategies through 2024.

Heading into 2020, we were clear that our focus would be on building power by aligning our relationships, resources and results.

We engaged consultive partners to assess how well the Foundation builds, shares and wields power for equity and justice in internal operations, grant-making and relational capacity using the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s (NCRP) Power Moves assessment. Through a collaborative, investigative process involving surveys and interviews with our partners, community members and philanthropic colleagues, we received feedback and got a view of our work from the various fields we engage. Our hope was to get an eye on whether we were fully leveraging our resources in pursuit of the equity and justice required to assure child well-being in the St. Louis region. We presented the assessment results publicly and invited the community to hold us accountable.

Indeed, 2020 proved more challenging than anyone could have predicted. In January of 2020 Deaconess hosted a peer learning session for our Funded Partner organizations with Trista Harris, author of FutureGood: How To Use Futurism to Save the World. Each year, Harris and her team at FutureGood publish predictions for the coming year in the social sector. Two of their predictions for 2020: “Foundations become more digitally savvy” and “Funders help defend democracy.” The year called upon Deaconess to do both.

Early in the year we partnered with the United Church of Christ and 14 St. Louis churches to buy and abolish $12.9 million in medical debt for 11,108 families – much-needed relief in what came to be an immensely difficult year for many families. Our focus quickly became sharper as the year unfolded and the world around us changed forever—from the COVID-19 pandemic to the racial justice movement to the attack on democracy. We organized with local and national philanthropy to establish platforms to quickly move financial resources to respond to the immediate needs of children and families disparately impacted by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and to address root causes of racial injustice. We responded to the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) coalition’s call for increased investment from the philanthropic sector in the coalition’s national organizing and coordinating capacity with a $25,000 grant. As a faith-rooted ministry, Deaconess invested $20,000 grant to strengthen the organizational effectiveness of the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) in support of faith-based advocacy for All Black lives. We ramped up our advocacy for justice in the media and called on St. Louis’ civic and corporate leadership to address practices and policies that perpetuate Black suffering. We activated movement infrastructure, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, in new ways to safely provide virtual and open-air convening space to movement leaders and sustainers.


In endeavors that
improve the health &
well-being of children

COVID-19 Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund
Deaconess Foundation invested more than $2.2 million to support emergency response and recovery efforts in the St. Louis region from March through August 2020.
The Foundation provided grants to more than 100 Black-led social service and social change organizations providing direct aid to people impacted by the pandemic. The Fund was created to strengthen existing regional infrastructure for public health and social service coordination while promoting racial equity, regional collaboration, and inclusion in COVID-19 responses.

To meet the needs of a rapidly changing environment caused by the advent of COVID-19, the Foundation recalibrated its funding model and processes to expedite the grantmaking process for this Fund. Most organizations received funds within three weeks of submitting a funding proposal. Grants ranged from $5,000 to $50,000. In response to disparities in COVID-19 contraction and death rates for Black people and under-representation of Black leadership in regional response, Deaconess focused investment in Black-led organizations and prioritized those that serve Black communities.

In addition to $1.2 million in emergency funding from Deaconess, the Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund received $1 million  from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Three Phases
of a Just


Deaconess recognized the journey to an equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will take time and allocated $300,000 in grants to support a cohort of six Black-led organizations the Foundation identified as critical to framing a just recovery and assuring public will for a sustained public policy response.

In addition to general operating support, the cohort, receives expert training, coaching, and peer support for capacity building efforts. 

Through a funding partnership with United Philanthropy Forum’s Momentum Fund, we hired a full-time Just Recovery Fellow dedicated to implementing our Just Recovery strategy.

The Foundation’s Just Recovery Cohort includes:

The comprehensive report on Deaconess’ COVID-19 funding efforts provides a complete list of COVID-19 Equitable Relief and Recovery partners.

St. Louis Regional Racial Healing Pooled Fund
Deaconess Foundation, Forward Through Ferguson and Missouri Foundation for Health collaborated to establish a $2 million St. Louis Regional Racial Healing Fund to invest in healing community trauma and changing the conditions that reinforce systemic racism.

With a matching grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a growing pool of participating organizations, $1.4 million had  been committed to the effort at the time of launch. Through a community-led grantmaking process, the fund supports efforts to develop capacity and infrastructure in the racial justice movement to envision, articulate and create a transformed St. Louis region through community organizing and healing arts. 

Through a participatory grantmaking process, a cohort of grassroots leaders, artists, creatives and residents of color identify specific funding priorities and outcomes and distribute invested funds to a combination of mid-scale and grassroots organizations beginning in 2020.

The targeted investments, guided by a shared community-driven vision, aim to (1) heal individual and community trauma, (2) engage a broader range of residents in systems change work, (3) prepare leaders of color to organize for healing justice, (4) build local capacity to nurture support, and cultivate healing assets and (5) align resources for long-term sustainability.

With the focus on helping the region heal from the effects of racism and produce actionable change, the Fund Partners have collectively committed to a set of collaborative practices to assure sustained momentum for organized advocacy and civic action for systemic transformation.

The group of diverse funders of the effort include: Deaconess, Incarnate Word Foundation, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, Midwest Bank Centre, Missouri Foundation for Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, St. Louis Community Foundation,  the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, YouthBridge Community Foundation, Big League Impact, Clark-Fox Family Foundation, Missouri Foundation for Health, JF Roblee Foundation, Saint Louis MHB, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, Light a Single Candle Foundation, Marillac Mission Fund, United Way of Greater St. Louis and Washington University in St. Louis.

Public Policy Campaign

Deaconess Foundation invested $100,000 to support a 2020 collaborative public policy campaign to achieve Medicaid Expansion and democracy reform in Missouri.

Missouri Jobs with Justice and Action St. Louis collaborated as campaign partners and focused on mobilizing their combined base among uninsured or underinsured citizens and developing the leadership capacity of people for whom access to healthcare had been denied due to the failure to expand Medicaid.

The award helped mobilize the electorate to successfully add a Missouri constitutional amendment in support of Medicaid Expansion to the November 2020 ballot. The campaign advanced recommendations from both the Ferguson Commission Calls-to-Action and the Changing States - Building Power on the Frontlines: Missouri Power Audit Arenas for Change reports and Deaconess' public policy priority of comprehensive access to health care.

The Public Policy Campaign grant reflects Deaconess' deep commitment to investing in communities, community organizations, coalitions and public campaigns which build the power to advance child well-being through public policy and racial equity.
Reverend Buck Jones Memorial Grant for Tenant Organizing
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the historic St. Louis Rent Strike and the ministry of the late United Church of Christ minister, the Rev. Buck Jones, Deaconess Foundation invested $40,000 to support tenant organizing for residents of the Clinton-Peabody Housing Complex in November 2019.  

Alongside Jean King and Ivory Perry, Rev. Jones was a key figure in the 1969 St. Louis Rent Strike which transformed federal housing policy and made housing a central issue in the Black Freedom struggle.

The Reverend Buck Jones Memorial Grant for Tenant Organizing was partially funded from the settlement of a suit filed by Missouri's Attorney General against the St. Louis Housing Authority and McCormack Baron Salazar at the call of residents from Clinton-Peabody. Additional support from Deaconess Foundation was provided to ensure the power of residents was sustained in a meaningful way. Residents of the Clinton-Peabody community participated in the selection of Action St. Louis as an organizing partner.

Total Investment

The st. Louis region to come
together to make a difference

Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being
Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being is supportive infrastructure for organizing for public policy change.
Recognizing that the work of the Movement would continue during the global pandemic, the Center’s engagement offerings evolved to meet the needs of Deaconess’ partners. In light of restrictions on public gatherings, Deaconess Center continued to offer virtual and on-campus open-air convening spaces to our partners.

Convenings Held: 311

Unique Organizations with Approved Requests: 137

Total Estimated Attendance: 15,696

*Dollar Amount of Granted Space: $169,095

*This number includes convening space and space granted to Unleashing Potential and VCR.


Virtual Convenings: 117

In-Person Convenings: 136

Unique Organizations with Approved Requests: 71

Total Estimated Attendance: 8,821

*Dollar Amount of Granted Space: $82,365

 * This number includes convening space and space granted to Unleashing Potential and VCR.

COVID-19 Virtual Forum
In March 2020, Deaconess joined Incarnate Word Foundation to jointly host ‘COVID-19 & St. Louis’ Kids,’ a virtual forum to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and resources available for children and families.
Leaders of various local, regional and state systems joined us for the critical conversation — an unprecedented level of collaboration among leaders across school or system types and geographic boundaries.

Kelvin Adams
Superintendent, St. Louis Public Schools

Maureen Clancy-May
Area Supervisor for Quality Schools, Missouri Dept. of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE)

The Honorable Steven R. Ohmer
Administrative Judge, Family Court. 22nd Judicial Circuit Court

Douglas Thaman
Executive Director, Missouri Charter Public School Association

Terry Harris
Executive Director of Student Services, Rockwood School District

Justen Hauser
Health Services Manager, City of St. Louis

The Honorable Cara Spencer
Education and Youth Matters Chair, St. Louis Board of Aldermen

The Honorable Shameem Clark-Hubbard
26th Ward Alderwoman, St. Louis Board of Aldermen

The Honorable Lewis Reed
Aldermanic President, City of St. Louis

Robert Puricelli
Executive Director, Gene Slay’s Girls and Boys Club

In the following weeks, the Foundation replaced our standard monthly newsletter with a weekly digest of available resources for the community.

Children at the Center:
Healthy Family Festival

Families, neighbors, community partners, and the broader St. Louis community joined us in centering our children in our pursuit of a community that values the health and well-being of all children and gives priority attention to the most vulnerable.

In 2019 Deaconess hosted the Children at the Center: Healthy Family Festival with missional partners Vision for Children at Risk and Unleashing Potential in partnership with BJC Raising America, Cardinals Care, Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy Research and Training, Brown School-Washington University, City of St. Louis Health Department, St. Louis Child Abuse & Neglect Network, St. Louis Region System of Care, and YWCA Metro St. Louis.

In addition to enjoying fun activities, children, their families and caregivers received health screenings and connected with community resources and service providers. Simultaneously, in Deaconess Center’s Justice Community Room elected officials and public servants were engaging youth in conversations on topics such as the cash bail system, municipal fragmentation, and educational funding inequity.

18th Ward Aldermanic Candidate Forum
Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being and Covenant Blu Neighborhood Association (CBNA), a resident-led association representing both the 18th and 19th wards of the City of St. Louis, hosted an 18th Ward Aldermanic Candidate Forum ahead of the local primary elections in 2019.
The forum provided a timely opportunity for residents and the surrounding community to hear from candidates about issues that impact our community, their public policy proposals, and their responses to questions from residents. The CBNA aims to continue neighborhood development and increase the community's voice in decision-making. Local initiatives of CBNA include, neighborhood clean-up days and bi-monthly meetings to keep members updated about community issues and available local resources.

For Change In Our Community

Ballot Measures
Deaconess Foundation joined our partners in defending democracy and lifting our voice to inform and implore the electorate to vote for and in the best interest of children so that we create a future that is equitable and just for our children.
Proposition R

Deaconess, in alignment with our public policy agenda, called for increased investment in early childhood education, supported the campaign to increase property taxes in the City of St. Louis and raise approximately $2.3 million annually to fund early childhood education services and centers in the areas of the city with the greatest need.

Proposition R generates revenue for early childhood education for children aged zero to five through a property tax increase of 6 cents per $100 assessed valuation. For context, the impact on homeowners would be $11.40 in additional taxes paid for each $100,000 of their home's value. The funds raised from the increase are  directed to early childhood services such as social-emotional support services and developmental screenings. The funds could also be used to build the capacity of early childhood staff through increased compensation and trainings to increase program quality. The funds are to be managed by the St. Louis Mental Health Board.

St. Louis City voters passed Proposition R with 56.2% of the vote.
Amendment 2

After a successful statewide campaign, Missouri voters expanded Medicaid in 2020. The statewide campaign to expand Medicaid consisted of a bipartisan coalition of citizens, healthcare providers, nonprofit organizations, and grassroots advocacy and organizing groups. The coalition was made possible by more than a decade of work by philanthropic and advocacy partners whose missions are dedicated to healthcare, including Missouri Foundation for Health, Health Forward Foundation, and Deaconess Foundation’s Just For Kids Anchor Institution, Missouri Health Care for All.

With the passage of Amendment 2, more than 250,000 Missourians, including 36,000 Black Missourians and 98,000 women, have access to health care insurance. Three in four adults living in poverty would are now eligible for Medicaid.

Deaconess has been an advocate for Medicaid Expansion since the adoption of our four-pronged youth-centered public policy agenda. The Foundation worked with Partners and leveraged media platforms to encourage citizens to vote Yes on 2. In addition to the $100,000 policy campaign grant to support mobilizing the electorate in suport of expanding Medicaid, Deaconess co-signed a published editorial, served on the YES on 2 St. Louis Champions Leadership Table and Deaconess Center hosted the launch of voter canvassing efforts.

Missouri voters passed Amendment 2 to expand health care coverage eligibility with 53.2% of the vote.
Civic Accountability
Deaconess Foundation ramped up our advocacy for justice in the media and called on St. Louis’ civic and corporate leadership to address practices and policies that perpetuate Black suffering.
Close the Workhouse
The Close the Workhouse Campaign, led by Action St. Louis, Arch City Defenders, and The Bail Project, began in 2017 to attack mass incarceration, close the Workhouse, end wealth-based pretrial detention and reinvest money used to cage poor people and Black people into rebuilding the most impacted neighborhoods in the St. Louis region. The Campaign canvassed local neighborhoods, held monthly meetings, organized phone banks and rallies, published two reports that outlined the pathway for elected officials to close the Workhouse, and mobilized thousands of residents to build social momentum and political will to close the jail.
After two years of educating, organizing and activating individuals and organizations in St. Louis to demand the closure, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously on July 17, 2020 to close the Workhouse by the end of 2020.

Deaconess supported the Campaign through our Responsive Grants portfolio, granted convening space to the Campaign at Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, and advocated for closure of the Workhouse  (See President Reed: Help us ‘Close the Workhouse’).

Address Gun Violence

On July 17, 2019 Deaconess Foundation’s Children Defense Fund® (CDF) Freedom Schools Scholars joined over 180 other CDF Freedom School sites in 87 cities and 28 states across the country for a National Day of Social Action. Our Scholars went to City Hall to offer solutions to gun violence in their communities to then-Mayor Lyda Krewson and President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis E. Reed.

Deaconess leveraged media platforms to call upon Mayor Krewson to take specific actions to demonstrate moral leadership and provide ongoing, proactive supports for our young people in light of the moment (See Madam Mayor: Support our children before we lose them). At Deaconess, we work for safe communities where children and youth thrive and encouraged our community to join us in urging Mayor Krewson to: staff and fund the role of “Commissioner of Youth Services” as called for in the St. Louis City Charter; reconvene the Mayor’s Commission on Children, Youth and Families; and fully fund the CURE Violence initiative with a $1.5 million allocation  to shift away from the failed arrest-and-incarcerate approach to public safety and invest in the flourishing of children and families. Of the three calls to action, more than $1.5 million was allocated to fund the CURE Violence initiative.

Of the three calls to action, more than $1.5 million was allocated to fund the CURE Violence initiative.
Prioritize Child Well-Being

In 2019 Deaconess led a delegation of more than 100 individuals to Jefferson City to advocate on behalf of children in the state of Missouri. Deaconess' delegations included members and clergy of the United Church of Christ, youth service providers, children and families. Deaconess joined the larger statewide delegation and attended policy workshops, the Missouri Kids Count Roundtable, a rally in the Capitol and meetings with legislators and legislative staff.

Deaconess joined advocates in prioritizing support for expanding the scope of practice for Advanced Practiced Registered Nurses (APRN), reestablishing the “Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Task Force, maintaining the increased minimum wage and opposing efforts to decrease wages, and fully finding the Foundation Formula.

Policy Reports
Deaconess aims to expand community knowledge by resourcing and informing translation of research into policy in areas of child well-being for the children of the St. Louis region.
In 2019 and 2020, Deaconess commissioned or supported reports to move our region, state and sector in the direction of increased investment in high-quality early childhood care and education and prioritizing children in the state’s budget.
Launching Lifelong Success
Missouri Children's Budget
2019 Revenue

Investment Income: $9,875,444
Contributions: $732,527
Misc. Income: $187,529
Total: $10,795,500

2020 Revenue

Investment Income: $6,325,704
Contributions: $3,418,855
Misc. Income: $157,501
Total: $9,902,060

2019 Expenses

Program: $3,194,317
Management / Operations: $1,057,223
Total: $4,251,540


Program: $4,712,389
Management / Operations: $1,242,489
Total: $5,954,878

Change in Net Assets

2019: $6,543,960
2020: $3,947,182