The Brown Sisters Foundation is the continued legacy of Helen and Barbara Brown. We exist to help make God’s love visible among distressed communities by partnering with those organizations who embody God’s heart for the poor, and providing leverage to help them accomplish their work more effectively. We fund primarily Catholic organizations whose purpose is outreach and service to the poor, with a specific emphasis on youth, and with a heart to dignify and empower those they serve towards self-sufficiency. Our funding is leverage-based, to help an existing organization become more sustainable, increase its impact, broaden its services, launch new initiatives, or expand its capacity.
The Brown Sisters Foundation offers matching grants, challenge grants, or grants that are intended to generate leverage for your organization during critical junctures or unique opportunities. There are also specific types of projects we are most interested in funding. learn more …
We love to meet organizations who might be a potential fit and learn about the work that you do. We view our funding as partnership with our grantees, and it’s important to us to get to know you and understand your vision and priorities. We know that our funding is one small part of the engine that fuels your important work, and we know that the change we hope to see in our world can’t happen without excellent organizations working hard to see it through. Check out our funding priorities to see who we fund, and send us an email if you’d like to have a conversation.
We currently have one annual funding cycle, which opens in the summer of each year. We like to brainstorm and strategize with potential grantees to help determine what type of funding and project might be the most useful to your organization and provide the strongest leverage.
We’re proud of our partners and have learned a lot from their work. Check out our grant portfolio to gain a feel for the type of partnership that makes a good fit. Click on each grantee below to learn more about that partnership. Check out more about our funding priorities and grant process.
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Catholic Urban Programs: Griffin Center
Catholic Urban Programs – Griffin Center is improving the lives of children and families in East Saint Louis public housing to develop the skills needed to break the cycle of generational poverty. With structured programs such as after-school academic support and recreation, summer camps, a food pantry, emergency assistance, and much more their mission is to advance the dignity of the human person through compassionate response to human needs, advocacy for justice, and the empowerment of individuals and families to reach their full potential.
The Brown Sisters invested in a matching grant to support their development department with a goal of increasing their donor base and enhancing the effectiveness of their development efforts.
Connections to Success
Connections to Success provides hope, resources, and a plan to help inspire low-income individuals to realize their dreams and achieve economic independence. They work with women and men from various backgrounds including those facing barriers to employment such as poverty, domestic violence, and criminal history. Their goal is to comprehensively address barriers to employment, and walk with individuals for the long-term as they change the future for themselves and their children. They operate a Dress for Success program, where individuals get access to interview appropriate clothing as well as multiple social enterprises including Sweet Success Catering and Moxi Traveling Boutique.
Connections to Success was looking to refine and expand their traveling clothing boutique, with a dual goal of being better able to offer interview appropriate clothing to individuals off-site, and bring designer fashion clothes to “parties with a purpose” as a social enterprise to support the organization. The Brown Sisters issued a challenge grant, which was leveraged by Connections to Success to raise 2:1 investment from new donors or increased gifts from existing donors, enabling them to launch a new truck in both the Kansas City and St. Louis markets. Ultimately, they’re better able to advance their outcomes, while becoming more sustainable.
Crisis Aid International
Crisis Aid International serves victims of sex trafficking by providing free, faith-based, holistic, services to create a restorative, transformational program. They brought their program to the U.S. after being contacted by federal law enforcement due to their experience and international success rate. By working with each girl to develop a life plan based on individual goals, they empower girls to escape sex trafficking and transform their lives.
Crisis Aid had identified that a barrier to retaining girls in their home was the lack of a “home-like” environment. The Brown Sisters issued a challenge grant to new donors to raise the funds to rehabilitate their residential care facilities. They will create a more warm and home-like atmosphere while creating space for therapeutic programs that will increase participant length of stay.
Faith Ascent Ministries
Faith Ascent Ministries seeks to create long-term change by reducing the number of Christian teens that abandon their faith in college. By focusing on apologetics and critical thinking, their mission is to equip youth pastors with the tools needed to help their teens to see and believe that the love and hope found in God is more than just wishful thinking or an emotional crutch.
Historically, Faith Ascent had delivered much of its programming through a summer camp experience and speaking engagements and events at local churches. Realizing that much of the impact of their work comes from the content of their message, they launched an initiative to produce a video curriculum that will dramatically increase the number of youth they’re able to serve without significantly increasing their cost. The Brown Sisters issued a challenge grant to invite new donors to help expand the impact of this work.
LOVE the LOU
LOVEtheLOU spreads the love and hope of God to impoverished communities by directly entering into the community. With staff members that live in Saint Louis City they are able to see the needs all around them and match volunteers to those specific needs. By improving north city communities through replacing vacant lots with community gardens, rehabbing neighbor’s homes and mentoring youth, LOVEtheLOU is striving to drive out darkness and fear through the light and hope of Christ.
LOVEtheLOU is working to expand its mentoring program and increase access to youth employment through social enterprise. The Brown Sisters issued a challenge grant to engage new donors to help expand the mentoring program, with a simultaneous investment in capacity building to increase the effectiveness of their development team.
Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School
Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School prepares kindergarten through grade 8 students in East Saint Louis and surrounding communities to become the next generation of wholesome, responsible, and dedicated leaders of their communities and of our world. As the only remaining Catholic school in East Saint Louis they provide an education that leads to the transformative systemic change needed for success.
Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School had recently begun reconnecting with neighborhood alumni, and discovered a powerful opportunity to engage them in the future of the school. The Brown Sisters issued a 5:1 challenge grant to incentivize new donors to help fund much needed capital improvements around the school.
Christian Activity Center
Christian Activity Center exists in an environment that has for too long suffered—in the heart of East St. Louis, IL, one of the nation’s leaders in poverty and crime rates. For the children that live in this devastated area, CAC is a safe-haven, there to protect and serve the most vulnerable members of its community- its kids. CAC operates an after-school program on mission to develop every child that walks through thier doors spiritually, mentally, and physically. CAC puts a major focus on holistic work, helping kids achieve powerful academic and personal outcomes.
Christian Activity Center has for many years functioned liked an oasis amidst devastation. Realizing that a child’s environment dramatically affects their health, they set out to buy and renovate 22 acres in East St. Louis formerly known as the killing fields. They will transform this historically tragic area into a place of community, play, exercise, nature, and beauty. The Brown Sisters issued a 10:1 challenge grant to help attract several hundred new donors and increased gifts to ensure success of this important campaign.
Catholic Legal Assistance Ministries
CLAM provides free legal assistance to help some of the most marginalized members of our society overcome major legal barriers that otherwise prevent them from achieving greater degrees of independence, freedom from difficult domestic abuse situations, and economic self-sufficiency.
CLAM was entering a new era of donor development, with a major focus on engaging new donors and conducing donor outreach for the first time. The Brown Sisters provided a challenge grant to encourage new donors to support this important work.
Thrive Pregnancy Resource Center
ThriVe Louis is a Christ-centered organization that empowers young men and women to make life-affirming, esteemable and healthy decisions about spirituality, sexual integrity, unplanned pregnancy and relationships. They offer free medical services to pregnant women throughout St. Louis, including the launch of several innovative mobile units.
Thrive approached the Foundation with two goals – strengthen the health of their donor base and expand their services. They wanted to launch two new mobile medical units to expand services to new markets (one on college campuses – an unprecedented approach, and one in territory that currently lacks access to these important services). They recognized that a major opportunity among their donor base was to ask their donors for multi-year gifts, at increased amounts, and in so doing deepen their connection to the ministry. The Foundation issued a 5:1 challenge grant per year for 3 years (ultimately, a 15:1 match), designed to raise the seed capital to buildout two new units and support operating expenses for 3 years.
Compass Educational Programs
Compass offers preschool as well as before- and after-school care on school campuses. Compass’ goal is to provide each child with high-quality early childhood education in a loving Christian environment. Their programs strive to be an extension of the family setting, designed to give parents a support system, educational choice and peace of mind.
Compass, in partnership with Eagle Prep Charter schools, were looking to open two new locations in coming years. To facilitate this expansion, the Brown Sisters offered a challenge grant to engage new donors in making this expansion possible.
Most Holy Trinity School
Most Holy Trinity Academy is dedicated to transforming children and their community through innovative education at the K- 8 grade levels. Most Holy Trinity is a community-based, co-ed school applying the Nativity Miguel model to help students from low-income communities catch up to grade level, remediate key learning gaps, acquire key social and life skills, and engage in other enrichment opportunities. They fundraise to send their students to high-performing area high schools and provide ongoing support to help them succeed in high school and attain continuing education.
Most Holy Trinity has undergone major transition in the last year. They acquired a new principal, had 100% turnover in teaching staff, and undertook major building renovations to update the school’s physical infrastructure. Their outcomes are astounding. They approached the Brown Sisters to help them breathe new life into several key fundraising strategies. They identified three separate development initiatives or committees that they felt could use the incentive of a challenge grant. The challenge grant has given them powerful opportunities to ask new donors to join the Most Holy Trinity family and invite existing donors to give at increased levels. At our last conversation they had leveraged a challenge grant to the tune of 170% and counting! Even more valuable than the dollars, they’ve engaged key partners, friends, and board members with deeper levels of commitment and buy-in.
Mission St. Louis
Mission: St. Louis exists to restore the city of St. Louis by equipping people to raise themselves out of poverty and bring about positive change. They do this through three targeted programs: Youth Development, Job & Leadership Training, and Home Repair. They engage in high-impact, outcomes-based work in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and surrounding area. By instilling a sense of responsibility to the community, they are raising up indigenous leaders prepared to transform their communities.
Mission: St. Louis launched a thrift store to complement their existing model. The thrift store was designed to accomplish three things. First, it provides access to low-cost goods for the impoverished residents of their community (a need discovered through a community needs assessment). Next, it provides workplace experience for students in their job training program, helping ensure graduates are successfully prepared for employment. Finally, the store generates ongoing revenue for their organization, providing for a more sustainable future. To ensure success in carrying out the launch of a store, they identified a consultant who has a proven track record of launching successful stores in similar locations. The Brown Sisters Foundation invested in a matching grant to raise the seed capital needed to launch this thrift store.
Loyola Academy serves adolescent boys of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. They are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by fostering comprehensive development as a foundation for college readiness. They utilize the Nativity-Miguel model for middle school girls from low-income families. They help their students catch up and perform at grade level, remediate key learning and performance gaps, and engage in enrichment activities like healthy eating, exercise, and extracurricular opportunities. They fundraise to send their students to high-performing area high schools and provide ongoing support to help them succeed in high school and attain continuing education.
Loyola had been working on developing its endowment fund and needed a strong catalyst for challenging its donor base to invest in this long-term strategy. Loyola recognized how building a strong endowment can help an organization become sustainable for the long-haul, but how often daily operating expenses tend to be more appealing to donors as a more immediate form of investment. The Brown Sisters invested in a challenge grant, which Loyola intends to match at a 10:1 factor.
Midtown Catholic – City Greens Market
Catholic Charities Community Services – Midtown Center seeks to assist individuals, families and groups in their struggle to survive economic, social, health and emotional crises and to support growth toward self-sufficiency. Several years ago they launched City Greens, a market aimed at providing low-cost, fresh and healthy produce, meat, and other food goods to help mitigate the lack of access to healthy food in their neighborhood. The market is partially funded through a membership model where members across income streams are able to participate in access to low cost, healthy food, and contribute to food justice and improved access.
City Greens has shown a clear trajectory of success and trending growth. They wanted to open a devoted storefront location to increase their hours, offer more consistency for shoppers, increase product selection, and increase services such as cooking classes. The Brown Sisters foundation offered a matching grant to challenge City Greens donor base to invest in this important social entrepreneurship initiative.
Urban K-Life brings lasting hope to urban teens one relationship at a time through outreach, fellowship, mentoring, and discipleship. They are deeply engaged in relationships with urban teens, and maintain a strong adult presence in city schools. They offer weekly club meetings where teens connect with loving adult mentors and engage in conversations about key life issues and God’s love and plan for them as individuals. They offer many other services like enrichment activities, tutoring programs, and most recently a partnership with the PGA REACH Foundation to improve academic performance and introduce urban students the sport of golf.
Urban K-Life has a robust development team, with strong plans for growth in the development arena. They believed hiring a development assistant was key to the implementation of key development initiatives. The Brown Sisters invested in this position – a position that would cost 25% of targeted increase in development efforts, and an increase they believe would be sustainable after the granting year was complete.
Marian Middle School
Marian Middle School serves adolescent girls of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. They are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by fostering comprehensive development as a foundation for college readiness. They utilize the Nativity-Miguel model for middle school girls from low-income families. They help their students catch up and perform at grade level, remediate key learning and performance gaps, and engage in enrichment activities like healthy eating, exercise, and extracurricular opportunities. They fundraise to send their students to high-performing area high schools and provide ongoing support to help them succeed in high school and attain continuing education.
Marian has a strong board and development team. Their goal was to strategically increase the average giving level of their donors and strengthen their commitment and engagement in the school. The Brown Sisters provided a challenge grant their development team. Marian used this challenge to launch 1 on 1 conversations with its donor family, asking them to consider increasing their current level of giving to help them meet the challenge. Only the increased giving amount counted towards the match. They were able to raise over 1.5 times the grant investment in increased giving. Due to a strong donor care plan and some creative giving opportunities that were launched in tandem with the grant, they believe these increased giving levels will be sustainable.
Oasis International works to bring the love of God into the lives of refugees who are relocating to St. Louis and healing from the effects of living in war torn countries. They provide English classes, furniture and clothing giveaway to new arrivals, driving lessons, benevolence support, citizenship classes, and many referrals to help newly arriving families learn to thrive in a new American culture. They also work hard to connect refugee families with supportive Christian communities and families with a goal of changing the statistic that only 10% of refugees are even befriended by an American.
Oasis has been operating at capacity, and growing remarkably, for some time. The Brown Sisters invested in Oasis to engage in a strategic planning and operational development process to help identify its critical outcomes, reorganize its programs and services accordingly, more strategically leverage its human resources, and develop its revamped board of directors.
De La Salle Middle School
De La Salle Middle School is dedicated to transforming children and their community through innovative education. De La Salle is a community-based, co-ed, middle school applying the Nativity Miguel model to help students from low-income communities catch up to grade level, remediate key learning gaps, acquire key social and life skills, and engage in other enrichment opportunities. They fundraise to send their students to high-performing area high schools and provide ongoing support to help them succeed in high school and attain continuing education. The average student from their community has a 45% chance of graduating from public high school. Students attending De La Salle show a 96% high school graduation rate, and early studies show an over 60% graduation rate from continuing education.
In preparation for strategic growth, De La Salle wanted to develop more consistent, ongoing giving. The Brown Sisters invested in the launch of a monthly auto-gift program. We helped fund the development of this infrastructure, and then provided a matching grant to help encourage donors to commit to this initiative. Primary targets were new and lapsed donors, as well as board members to increase board giving and engagement. Commitments to the monthly auto-gift program counted towards the match (For example, a $100/mo commitment = $1200 toward the match). This generated a significant increase in new, monthly giving – giving which will continue annually as long as excellent donor care is maintained. Early results show these giving levels to be largely maintained.
De La Salle wanted to start a Business Renaissance class to help students learn the business of the school, engage in fundraising, and develop their own small business to learn the art of money management and entrepreneurship. Each student was given seed money to start a small business of their choice. They had to determine the plausibility of partnerships, as well as pricing, margin, etc, and sold their wares at an annual school event. The Brown Sisters provided seed money for this initiative.
Breakdown St. Louis
BreakDown STL educates, equips and empowers teens to make positive life choices regarding relationships, sex, alcohol, drugs, bullying, self-harm and suicide by providing culturally relevant preventative health education. They offer a high-impact, teen-led drama presentation in area high schools that challenges and inspires teens to overcome the major issues they’re dealing with today. They’re ultimate heart to watch long-term life change occur through relationships as teens come to know the love and truth of God’s heart and plan for their lives.
BreakDown STL wanted to deepen their Long-Term impact by taking their program “off-stage” into deeper conversation and stronger relationships with area teens. They wanted to launch monthly gatherings in area high schools where they could dive deeper into these critical topics, create a more formal mentorship program and stronger peer support, better partnerships with area churches and schools, and a more concrete ability to measure their impact over the long-term. The Brown Sisters invested in first year start-up costs by providing a matching grant designed to stimulate Breakdown STL’s donor base to embrace this strategic deepening of vision.
SPROG works to invest in both academic and cultural gains for students in the Kirkwood, Webster, Rock Hill, and Des Peres communities. They work with school districts to identify students most in need of their services, and then to measure academic progress via pre- and post- testing. Their summer program is a holistic program which aims to help students make critical academic gains, gain exposure to valuable cultural opportunities, explore their own creative potential through music and drama, have a lot of fun, and become active community citizens. They have an additional component of job training for students that return as counselors.
SPROG has been in existence for quite some time and as the nature of summer programming has evolved, SPROG identified the need to make strategic shifts to its operations. The Brown Sisters funded a new initiative to partner with area schools, in which area schools would identify students most in need of SPROG’s programming, and provide data analysis pre- and post- programming to better measure SPROG’s impact. The Brown Sisters has also invested time and support in strategic planning, a board retreat, and other consultative help to support SPROG through its strategic re-focusing.
Angel Baked Cookies – North Grand Neighborhood Services