Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund Celebrates 15 Years and $3 Million in Grants 

The Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund (SOS) educates and inspires women to engage in informed, collective grantmaking by investing in Greater St. Louis’ small nonprofits to positively effect change in our communities. 

SOS recently celebrated two milestones: 15 years of collective giving, and, since its inception in 2006, grants totaling over $3 million to more than 90 local nonprofits. SOS supports nonprofits in five areas: health services, social services, arts and culture, education, and the environment. “Grant recipients are often short on staff and money, but big on dedication and vision,” said Katy Dowd, President of SOS and Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications for Altarum, a nonprofit healthcare research and consulting organization. 

In 2022, SOS granted over $200,000 total to: 

Pictured at top is Grants Committee Vice Chair Kathleen Beckman with the 2022 grantees. Photo by Gretta Forrester-Gaffney.

These recent grantees indicate SOS’s strong commitment to grantmaking that responds to community needs while focusing on organizations that create safer, healthier, and more equitable communities. Click here to learn more about SOS’s impact and view their interactive Impact Ecosystem Map. 

SOS’s process revolves around trust-based philanthropy: grants are often made as general operating support, and, when possible, multi-year, which takes the capacity of the organization into consideration. 

For example, the 2022 grant to Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective is the final of three $33,333 annual grants for a total of $100,000. StitchCast Studio brings together youth and professional artists in St. Louis to develop and produce a series of podcast episodes focused on the streets, gun violence, and finding solutions to issues confronting our youth. 

“These substantial grants allow nonprofits to do things like hire a part-time grant writer,” said Dowd. “Collective giving is an impactful way of giving that proves we are stronger together.” 

SOS’s structure is unique: as a collective giving circle, they consider themselves to be a “volunteer democracy” with 200 plus members. Each member makes an annual $1,200 contribution to the fund. Using a one-woman, one-vote process, high-impact funding is provided to nonprofits in the St. Louis metro region. The granting process is strict, created by an informed membership to ensure dollars are well spent. SOS’s well-known standards often open the door for their grantees with other funders. 

Outreach Committee volunteers working at Eye Thrive.

“A community knows what a community needs,” said Dowd. The collective giving model disrupts the idea of who is a philanthropist, diversifying philanthropy and uplifting the voices of everyday givers like me. It is more than a fundraising vehicle: it is an investment.” 

SOS also offers its members opportunities to learn about community needs, join a committee where they can mentor others, develop stimulating education programs, or volunteer in areas of interest.  

“All members are encouraged to participate beyond their annual dues,” said Gwendolyn Wesley, past SOS board president and current board liaison Philanos, a network of over 75 women’s collective giving organizations throughout the United States, Australia and Europe. “Through our understanding of the region’s challenges and needs we can make the best decisions about our grant awards.” 

Dowd believes that “Inspiring women to become an informed source of real social change is the best way to strengthen our community.”  Click here to learn how to get involved or make a donation to the Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund, a component fund of the St. Louis Community Foundation. For more information about SOS, visit www.spiritstlwomensfund.org. 

SOS is a component fund of the St. Louis Community Foundation.