Directing philanthropy to achieve specific, well-considered goals doesn’t happen overnight—or by accident.

Following our 2011 commitment to compassionate care of creation, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary were excited about directing our philanthropy to further those goals. But having no history of grant making, we needed expert advisors to develop and implement a program that would give hands and feet to that vision.

Beginning Our Philanthropy

We hired a team of expert consultants, who then helped FSM leadership identify three specific areas of interest that best align with FSM’s passions:

  • Clean Energy—lessening the effects of climate change by supporting clean energy initiatives and reducing dependence on fossil fuels
  • Forest Conservation—preserving pristine forests, especially in South America, Congo, and Indonesia, and sustainably managing timber harvesting
  • Sustainable Agriculture—building support for agriculture based on sound ecology (agroecology) and advancing healthy local food options

But charting a course for FSM giving was just the first step.

The importance of having a team of financial experts on board became even more evident as FSM began awarding grants. Consultants helped us to identify aligned partner organizations, assess proposals, review financial and managerial soundness of potential grantees, and analyze impact.

Over time, we found we were drawn to initiatives in our own backyard, where we could bolster the impact of our grant-making with relationship-building. Our interest areas evolved accordingly:

  • Catholic Climate Action—inspiring Catholic action on climate change globally
  • Midwest Environmental Justice—building the Environmental Justice Movement in the Midwest
  • Local Food—growing a just, equitable food system locally

Bringing Our Philanthropy Inhouse

As our philanthropy grew and our focus areas evolved, we recognized the need for our presence and impact to become more place-based and relational. While our advisors managed our program excellently from afar, we found that St. Louis-based food systems work, Catholic-specific global climate action, and the Midwest-focused environmental justice movement would require the full-time attention of staff members integrated deeply in the FSM Mission. This led to a Leadership decision in the summer of 2018 to bring staff on board at FSM to guide the care for creation work, taking over the management of the philanthropy.

FSM staff and leadership work alongside community partners to understand context, identify needs, and support care for creation. Our grant-making process is relational rather than transactional, and our Mission is about more than dollars. We collaboratively care for creation through our presence, supporting every philanthropic partnership through compassion, advocacy, relationship, and prayer.