Invest STL to Link Private Donors with Groups Focused on Strengthening Neighborhoods

By on February 13, 2018

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  For years, federal support for neighborhood development has dwindled.

And unlike other cities, there hasn’t been as much of a backstop from the philanthropic community to keep community development groups in the business of place-based initiatives focused on fixing up housing and improving neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot of older industrial cities that have been tackling this work for a while, recognizing the importance that quality of life plays in shaping educational outcomes, health outcomes,” said Karl Guenther, a community development specialist with the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Public Policy Research Center.

A new group he helped form, Invest STL, is working to plug that gap and link private donors with community development organizations focused on services that stabilize and revive neighborhoods.

“St. Louis is known as a generous philanthropic community,” said Bob Herleth, who is heading Invest STL from the St. Louis Community Foundation, the region’s big charitable fund administrator. “However, there has been very limited focus on the community development sector, which is what we’re trying to address here.”

After years of planning and pulling together people from the private sector, academia and nonprofits, Invest STL issued its first request for proposals in December. Over 10 proposals representing more than 20 neighborhood-focused groups were submitted by the Feb. 2 deadline, Herleth said.

The goal is to fund two to four applicants with a significant enough amount — likely a few hundred thousand dollars over three years — to help them pay for staff, neighborhood planning or whatever activities they include in their proposal. The selected organizations will also receive technical support and training from Rise Community Development. Invest STL will choose its first round of successful proposals next month.

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