Black Funders of St. Louis 

- A Giving Circle Working to Transform Black Communities in the St. Louis Metropolitan region.

By Maranda Witherspoon RichardsonJan. 27, 2021

Black Funders of St. Louis (BFSTL), a philanthropic “giving circle,” represents the essence of what Black and urban communities across this country are lacking; hope, leverage, and support needed to reinvest in our communities without the exclusiveness and bias that typically harnesses our own economic development, growth, and empowerment.

As an advocate and supporter for the advancement and empowerment of the Black community, my vision was to create a platform to support collective giving.  My vision was parlayed to purpose, energy, and giving. I convened “like-minded” people who shared my beliefs and purpose. I provided the energy and direction, and together as social and racial conscience leaders who identify as Black, with a core purpose of advancing the Black lives of the St. Louis community and region, Black Funders of St. Louis was born.  

As the visionary, founder, and leader of BFSTL, and “warrior” for social and racial justice, I am purposed to take BFSTL to a level of philanthropy that will guarantee funding and support for St. Louis area Black-led non-profits. I have expertise in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI), and followed the data, researched and studied the impact of Black-led non-profit organizations not having a “seat at the table” to acquire funding for their tireless efforts and work that often is the only sustainable anchor for the Black people of the St. Louis community.  My desire and goals are intentional and explicit to ensure the transformation of Black lives by working in partnership with Black-led non-profit and community-based organizations.  

I am a Philanthropist, Educator, Social Justice Champion, and Activist with 20+ years’ experience in Public Policy, Public Health, and Community Mobilization and Transformation.  I hold degrees in Healthcare Administration and Planning and Public Policy Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management and Leadership.  I currently serve as the CEO and Principal of MWR Coaching & Consulting.  My purpose and vision for creating BFSTL stem from my passion for fostering and developing initiatives to support communities of color through financial commitments and leadership development opportunities.

As a Giving Circle, BFSTL was formed to invest an annual membership fee of $300 in a pooled fund.  With a current roster of 20 plus members, BFSTL supports Black-led non-profits and community-based organizations of the St. Louis community whose leadership and benefactors identify as Black. The BFSTL mission is to encourage its members to invest their time, talent, and resources in the Black community and positively impact the lives of Black children, youth, adults, and families.  

BFSTL awarded its first grant in 2017, and to-date we have awarded more than $15,000 in grants to support Black-led nonprofits.  Additionally, more than 100 Black community-based organizations and leaders have received technical support with capacity building, board governance, leadership development, and strategic planning from the skills, expertise, and commitment of the BFSTL members volunteering more than 500 collective hours. 

With the Deaconess Foundation as the financial partner and agent for BFSTL, St. Louis has experienced an innovative and “actionable” approach to advancing and empowering the Black Community.  BFSTL, as the only Black giving circle in the Missouri region, has garnered the distinct honor of building assets within the Black community by building off the assets with membership’s Time & Talent to ensure the sustainability and viability of Black-led non-profits in the St. Louis community.

BFSTL is an organization formed as “Allies for Racial Equity”!  BFSTL is committed to transforming the Black communities of St. Louis, with support to the Black-led organizations with mission alignment and dedication to empowerment. To learn more about BFSTL, please visit www.blackfundersstl.com.

About the author

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Maranda Witherspoon Richardson

Principal, MWR Coaching & Consulting; Founder + President, Black Funders of St. Louis
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Maranda Richardson, MPPA, is CEO and Principal of MWR Coaching and Consulting. Mrs. Richardson earned a Masters of Public Policy with a concentration on Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the University of Missouri St. Louis and a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration and Planning from Tennessee State University. Mrs. Richardson completed an approved International Coaching Federation certification from Coach Diversity in Washington, DC and is now coaching individuals to help unlock, elevate, and embrace their gifts to create their own realities.   She brings over 20 years of experience working to advance racial equity in the social service, philanthropic, and government field by working with organizations and in communities least served.  As CEO and Principal of MWR Coaching and Consulting, Mrs. Richardson focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion, community engagement, capacity building assessments, cannabis education and advocacy, and transformative coaching.