Catch the spirit

Catch the spirit

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In 2006, a handful of St. Louis women had a big idea: A women’s group would pool members’ equal contributions and using a one woman-one vote process, make focused, high-impact grants to nonprofits dedicated to improving life in the community. The women told their friends, those friends told their friends and the spirit spread like wildfire.

The Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund (SOS) was born, and in 2007 the organization provided their first grants. The mission of SOS is to strengthen the St. Louis community through informed, focused grant-making by educating and inspiring women to engage in significant giving. Since 2007, SOS has invested more than $2 million in the St. Louis community, benefitting 75 agencies.

The women come from different political, religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. Everyone pays the same, everyone has the same vote. Those who have time, give it. Those who do not are not judged. There are no fundraisers, no galas and all of the collective energy is spent on cultivating a stronger community.

There are only two requirements for membership: pay the dues and vote on how the funds are given back to the community. However, members are encouraged to join one of several committees to help keep SOS focused and thriving. The opportunities include membership, education, impact, grants, marketing, finance and technology.

The SOS Women’s Fund looks to respond to urgent and critical needs throughout the St. Louis community where funding can make an important difference. SOS does not limit grant-making to women’s causes and award grants to organizations in the areas of: arts and culture, education, environment, health and social services.

SOS tends to favor smaller agencies with annual budgets under $1 million. Many grantees are organizations that have largely escaped public notice and have little access to traditional funding sources. Some are just getting started while others have been around for years. In fact, many agencies credit early funding from this group as a critical component of the long term success, including St. Louis HELP and The Little Bit Foundation.

The Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund also created a youth initiative three years ago. The Girls Giving Fund is a collective-giving organization made of young women in grades 8-12. Each member contributes an annual donation of $100 and collectively determines the grantee after a yearlong process of reviewing grant proposals, site visits and learning about grant-making and nonprofits. In three years, the young women have awarded $9,300 to the St. Louis community.

Compiled from marketing news releases and company websites.

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