Deaconess Foundation partnered with local, Black-led social service and social change organizations by investing a total of $2.2 million in support of COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts in the St. Louis region. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWFJ), Deaconess Foundation provided an additional $1 million in humanitarian aid to the St. Louis region. RWJF’s investment in St. Louis helped communities that were already facing daunting health challenges navigate the additional burdens of the pandemic by addressing immediate needs such as food, housing, and income assistance.
The Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund strengthened existing regional infrastructure for public health and social service coordination while promoting racial equity, regional collaboration, and inclusion in COVID-19 responses. Grants ranged from $5,000 to $50,000 and were considered general operating support.
Click here to review the Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund Impact Report.
Deaconess Foundation recognizes that significant gaps in civic infrastructure, resources and power inhibit the health and well-being of children and families in the St. Louis region. Our Just for Kids strategy was designed to address these gaps by strengthening the region, system, and community’s capability to achieve positive outcomes through collaborative engagement and investment with diverse partners.
Responsive Grants supported positive systemic change for the well-being of children and families in the St. Louis metropolitan region.
Funding supported policy development, advocacy or organizing efforts that pursued positive systemic change for the well-being of children and families in the St. Louis metropolitan region in alignment with Deaconess policy priorities.
One- or two-year grants were awarded quarterly up to $20,000 per year per organization.
Leadership Grants supported the efforts of chief executives of strong child-serving organizations as they engaged the field to shift policy and aligned actions for the well-being of children in the St. Louis metropolitan region. These grants extended the Foundation's relationship with its former Deaconess Impact Partners (DIP).
- Sustained the capacity building culture enhanced by previous DIP investment by requiring fidelity to strategic planning, board development, succession planning, financial modeling, and diversity, equity and inclusion practices within their organizations;
- Incentivized leadership within networks and systems to strengthen the region’s capability to achieve better outcomes for children and youth;
- Participated in peer learning opportunities that focus on readiness for, and engagement in systemic change, including a retreat for chief executives only; and
- Participated in ongoing assessment and evaluation efforts.
One year grants of up to $15,000 were available to Deaconess Impact Partners.
Dawn of System Leadership
by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, and John Kania
This article informed development of this funding opportunity.
After an intensive seven-month process, Deaconess Foundation selected five organizations as multi-year partners to strengthen and ground systems change and community organizing efforts for child well-being in the St. Louis region. The Anchor Institution Program launched in January 2018 and is part of Deaconess’ Just for Kids strategy to build a movement for children through public policy and racial equity.
The inaugural cohort of Just for Kids Anchor Institutions included: American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, ArchCity Defenders, Community Organizing and Family Issues, Metropolitan Congregations United and Missouri Health Care for All. The group reflected the Foundation’s assessment that deeper investment in grassroots organizing and impact litigation strategies are necessary for positive change in a tough legislative environment for our policy priorities during that time. The Foundation’s four-pronged public policy agenda included access to comprehensive health care, increased investment in early childhood education, economic mobility for families and justice and equity for youth.
Through the four-year engagement, the Foundation invested significant financial resources and consultative support to strengthen the organizations’ effectiveness and culture by enhancing their leadership, adaptive, technical and management capacities. In turn, the cohort became better positioned to contribute to community efforts that build power, shift policy and influence the systems within which children develop and grow.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri Foundation
ACLU of Missouri Foundation defends civil liberties and the principles of equality and justice in Missouri through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. ACLU of Missouri focuses on legal and legislative advocacy, public education and communication.
ArchCity Defenders is a 501(c)3 non-profit civil rights law firm providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and the state of Missouri. ArchCity Defenders focuses on impact litigation, holistic legal advocacy, policy and media advocacy.
Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI)
Community Organizing and Family Issues develops and engages low-income parents of color as leaders in their families, schools and communities in East St, Louis and across the state of Illinois. COFI focuses on systems change advocacy, parent training and organizing.
Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU)
Metropolitan Congregations United puts faith into action by developing leaders who move their congregations, organizations, and communities to change public policy for the common good. MCU focuses on grassroots organizing, leadership development, issue campaigns, voter participation and engagement.
Missouri Health Care for All
Missouri Health Care for All is a statewide, nonpartisan, faith and community-based grassroots movement for quality, affordable health care for all Missourians. Missouri Health Care for All focuses on policymaker engagement, coalition building, public education, grassroots organizing, and communications and storybanking.
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 invested $40,000 to support tenant organizing for residents of the Clinton-Peabody Housing Complex. 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.
Amidst efforts during the 1960s by African Americans to resist rent increases and poor living conditions across the nation, residents living in St. Louis public housing launched a general rent strike that lasted nine months. At the time, Reverend Jones, a graduate of Michigan State University and Yale Divinity School, served as President for both the Carr-Square Tenant-Council and Vaughn housing projects. A staunch advocate for poor and working people, following the 1969 strike Jones launched a campaign for welfare reform in Missouri through Operation LIVE, founded Project HOPE (Helping Other People Emerge) to improve living conditions for people in East St. Louis and North St. Louis, establish a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and lead environmental justice campaign resulting in a multimillion dollar cleanup from the Environmental Protection Agency in East St. Louis. Rev. Jones passed in 2002.
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 is provided to ensure the power of residents is sustained in a meaningful way.
Organizations with commitment and experience in community organizing and/or housing were invited to apply for up to two years of support. Clinton-Peabody tenants participated in the selection process.
To learn more about Rev. Jones’ legacy watch this short documentary.