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IDEA Profile: Erica Williams "This is Where I Live"

Erica Williams was living a comfortable middle-class life. She commuted daily from her home in Florissant to her job as a paralegal at a firm in Clayton, where she enjoyed her very own office with an assistant and a view.
09/29/2020 | [email protected] | 0
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COVID-19 Resources for Non-Profits

Here is a list of resources for different topics surrounding COVID-19.
03/25/2020 | [email protected] | 0
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IDEA Profile: Erica Williams "This is Where I Live"

Erica Williams
Founder & Executive Director
A Red Circle

Erica Williams was living a comfortable middle-class life. She commuted daily from her home in Florissant to her job as a paralegal at a firm in Clayton, where she enjoyed her very own office with an assistant and a view.  As Erica explains, she and her husband had the proverbial picket fence.  

“We are black.  All our close friends are black. We’re all middle class. We thought it was something that was wrong with the other folks that couldn’t get it together, not racism.” 

That was until the death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson in 2014.

Erica began thinking, “Maybe there is something to this Black Lives Matter. Maybe we need to do some investigating.”

Erica got involved. She went to protests, talked to activists, learned about the history of systemic racism and its manifestations in our community: redlining, restrictive deed covenantsShelley v. Kraemer, real estate agents scaring white homeowners out of north county, white flight, and the impact of disinvestment.

“Wow, this explains so much,” she thought.

Erica began studying for her doctorate in public policy and administration. A class assignment to create a fictitious nonprofit sparked the idea for A Red Circle. Erica chose her own community that she loved, North County, as the example for her project.  

The small municipalities of North St. Louis County she drove through on her daily commute were significantly impacted by disinvestment, leaving scarce resources for healthy food and sustainable jobs. “You can’t even find a salad. It is nothing but fast food. How did we let this become like this?”

With a purpose to improve economic development in North County through a lens of racial equity, A Red Circle was officially founded in March of 2017. Erica is the Founder and Executive Director.

A Red Circle exists “in North County, for North County” for a very specific reason.   Erica explained that North County is often overlooked for state and federal dollars that typically flow to disinvested areas. However, although St. Louis County as a whole is doing well, the economic development dollars flow to West and South parts of the county- not North County. Additionally, because North County is not in the City of St. Louis, it is not included in funding or programs that may be aimed at disinvested areas.  She has tapped into her own network of lawyers, real estate agents, and others to spur interest and investment in projects in the area.

The biggest challenge in the early year was reminding people that systemic racism was still a problem.   Erica explains, “We live in this society where, if something isn’t right in your face, you don’t think it’s a problem.”  This was four years after Michael Brown’s death. Erica shares that when she told people she wanted to work on racial equity, reactions were, “Do you still want to talk about this? Is it still a problem? Do you have to say black? If I said black, you’re being racist. You only want to help black kids.”

According to Erica, after the death of Heather Heyer in 2017, people said, oh yeah, maybe we do still have an issue. This is when Erica quit her lucrative job at the Clayton firm to commit herself fully to A Red Circle.

“Things like police shootings get a lot of attention and get people mobilized, but its things like fast food that kill more black people and children,” said Erica. “Healthy food access is racial justice.”  

Erica isn’t kidding when she says they work toward the holistic betterment of the community. Programs and activities at A Red Circle address food and education disparities, voter education and registration, and access to the arts, just to name a few.

In the beginning, Erica and her husband self-invested to establish programs before approaching donors.  Having no prior nonprofit fundraising experience, Erica was unsure what exactly to ask for. She recalls a seminar at Washington University for nonprofit women leaders where she received sound advice, “if you don’t ask, it is already a no.”

Now her “tiny but mighty” staff includes a volunteer grant writer and a volunteer fundraising consultant that helped create a robust development plan for 2020. “And then Covid hit,” laments Erica. The fundraising plan is on the back burner until 2021, but the need for programs and assistance is very real in North County.

“The community isn’t worried about our logic model and program descriptions, they just need help,” said Erica. They pivoted to a mutual aid format, which has been extremely helpful for their program participants and many additional people in North County.

Give STL Day and Giving Black Day were both extremely successful this year and helped the mutual aid efforts.

“People are taking notice of us and are impressed with what they’re seeing,” said Erica.

Up next for A Red Circle is the North County Urban Agricultural Center: a large urban farm where they will also teach crop science, food justice, and laws impacting food and food systems (including zoning). This site, along with a smaller community garden, will serve as the training grounds for their Food and Justice Fellows program, which serves 19 to 26-year-olds by providing education, experience, advocacy and coalition-building.


A Red Circle is also working to address education disparities for students in North County by promoting social-emotional learning inside the classroom, not as an extracurricular activity. This connects students with teachers, helping to build trust, increase attendance and encourage retention.

Additionally, A Red Circle is helping citizens of North County engage in voting this November. They’re hosting a drive-up voter registration event in Wellston on October 3 and a voter education forum with the League of Women Voters later in the month.

A Virtual Kwanza celebration tops off a busy year.  

How to get involved

Volunteers are needed for food delivery and virtual tutoring of students in North County public schools. Financial contributions and donations of household items for mutual aid are also appreciated. Volunteer to help make phone calls to assist people in voting. Sign up for their newsletter or make a donation at

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COVID-19 Resources for Non-Profits

AFP has compiled the following list of resources for you.  If there is a topic you would like to know more about, please email us at [email protected] and we will see what we can find for you.

We will continue to add resources to this list.



Information Landing pages


Resources & Emergency Funds

  • Coronavirus and COVID-19 Funds
    Giving Compass compiled a list of vetted funds that are addressing immediate and long-terms needs stemming from the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Let's Build Hope
    Let’s Build Hope ( is offering up to 40 hours of free phone consulting to nonprofits in the coming 30 days. If you are struggling with how to manage coronavirus challenges around events, major gifts, stewardship, etc., please call us at (314) 716-2496. One hour per each nonprofit, please.
  • COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.
    This is a robust collaboration of philanthropic-minded organizations which we expect to grow and include many more businesses organizations, for‑profit and nonprofit alike, seeking to provide a united impactful response to the short‑term and long‑term hardships that have been and will continue to be experienced by our neighbors in the St. Louis region
  • Frequently updated compilation of COVID-19 Fundraising Advice - Bloomerang
    Bloomerang has compiled a library of crisis fundraising advice, articles, opinions, webinars, videos and resources in the wake of the new coronavirus and its impact on the nonprofit sector.
  • COVID-19 Resource List
    Curated by Beth Kanter, Janet Fouts, Linda Baker, Sarah Goddard, Susan Tenby, Wendy Harman, Meico Marquette Whitlock, Barbara O’Reilly. Includes information on nonprofit resources, philanthropic response, and health advice. Share with others with #NPCOVID19 hashtag.
  • Information on COVID-19
    During times of crisis, one of our most valuable resources is good information — particularly in a digital world filled with too much noise. In an effort to help you manage your information intake so that you can spend more time focusing on your community (and your own health), we’ve curated a list of resources and articles that we hope you’ll find helpful.
  • Interim Guidance for Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus 2019 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update this interim guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available.
  • Coronavirus Communications Triage Kit - The Communications Network
    Coronavirus Crisis Comms Triage Kit — to share and crowdsource best practices, resources, and examples of effective crisis comms from foundations and nonprofits covering many of the tasks you’re likely attending to.
  • $349 Billion In Forgivable Paycheck Protection Loans For Nonprofits
    The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act includes $349 billion in forgivable loans for nonprofits and small businesses. The main purpose is to help organizations keep their employees on the payroll between now and the end of June 2020. Hence, the name of the program: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The application window opens on Friday, April 3.


Videos & Webinars

  • How to protect yourself against COVID-19 (90-second video) – World Health Organization
    WHO - COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new coronavirus introduced to humans for the first time.
  • Building an Online Ambassador Program
    The digital revolution has created a new and exciting opportunity for alumni, student and parent volunteers to get involved and support their school's fundraising efforts. Using social media and email, online ambassadors help to spread the word and create excitement around giving days and other special initiatives while reminding people about the importance of philanthropy throughout the year. Developing an online ambassador program doesn't require a lot of time or resources, but it can have a major impact on your fundraising efforts.
  • Overcoming Obstacles in Fundraising
    Whether you're a gift officer or a phonathon caller facing rejection after a solicitation or your institution is simply dealing with a public relations challenge, it's important to understand how these predicaments may impact your overall fundraising efforts. Knowing how to respond when challenges arise and appreciating when it is (or isn't) okay to conduct solicitations can have a lasting impact on your advancement efforts.

    Register now for your entire team to learn how to overcome obstacles in fundraising.

    This recording is eligible for 1.25 points of CFRE credit.
  • Soliciting Gifts Over the Phone
    Whether you’re a student caller, a gift officer, or a volunteer, phone calls are still one of the most efficient and effective ways to solicit a gift. But there are a lot of factors that distinguish a successful call from an unsuccessful one. Being prepared and having a structured plan before you pick up the phone will not only lead to a more relaxed and flowing conversation, it will also increase your likelihood of success.

    Register now for your entire team to learn how to successfully solicit gifts over the phone.

    This webinar is eligible for 1.25 points of CFRE credit.
  • Virtual Gift Officers
    When it comes to developing relationships with donors, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. Direct engagement can not only drive increased support, but it can also provide valuable insight to inform prospect identification and qualification. But small teams, limited budgets, and geography often prevent advancement programs from reaching some of their most important supporters in person. One way to address these challenges is to empower gift officers to focus on phone and email engagement, allowing for personal interactions that meet organizational capability while ensuring that donors remain connected with your institution.

    Register now for your entire team to learn how to develop a virtual gift officer program for your annual fund.

    This webinar is eligible for 1.25 points of CFRE credit.
  • Nonprofit Fundraising Events during Coronavirus - Virtual? Cancel? Postpone?
    A video by charity auctioneer Abra Annes who offers advice on what to consider and how to make the call to cancel your fundraising event.
  • Grantspace
    Live Training and Special Events
    In-person or online, learn from our training experts and your peers in the field.
  • Ongoing Meeting About COVID-19 Nonprofit Impact
    Please email us at [email protected] to be added to the information portal.
  • CCS Fundraising: Strategies during COVID-19
    As the COVID-19 crisis affects our personal and professional lives, CCS Fundraising is here to support you. Below you will find insights that every nonprofit organization can use to face these unprecedented, challenging times. As fundraising experts, we know that the principles and best practices of fundraising don’t change, but sometimes we must find new ways to implement them.



  • Emergency Aid for Nonprofit Organizations Amidst COVID-19
    The charitable sector is on the front lines of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, but risks catastrophic damage from evaporating revenue, new demands, and major disruptions in charitable giving. Tell your legislators that Congress must provide emergency aid to nonprofit organizations by expanding charitable giving and providing organizations with grants, loans, and tax credits.


How to Give

  • Give STL Day
    Nonprofit budgets are especially tight these days, with many having to cancel critical fundraising events and revenue-generating programming because of the coronavirus pandemic. Your support now can help your favorite nonprofit(s) power through this difficult period, which can include a heightened demand for services, despite decreases in staff and volunteer capacity.
  • Giving Tuesday Now
    #GivingTuesdayNow is a new global day of giving and unity that will take place on May 5, 2020 –  in addition to the regularly scheduled Dec 1, 2020 #GivingTuesday – as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.

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2019 Friends of Diversity

AFP St. Louis is proud to be recognized as a 2019 Friends of Diversity Designation Chapter!

The Friends of Diversity Designation recognizes those chapters who have accomplished many of the key objectives outlined in AFP International’s advancing diversity strategic goal. This designation encourages chapters to perform specific activities designed to increase diversity within fundraising and public awareness of the importance of philanthropy in all cultures.

One of 90 chapters to receive this designation, our chapter is committed to increasing inclusion, diversity, equity and access in the fundraising profession. 

AFP St. Louis will be recognized for this distinction at the 2019 AFP International Conference in San Antonio, Texas.


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Taco Your Teacher, Burrito Your Buddy


There are few sounds in life louder than an entire gymnasium filled with middle schoolers during a rally-- the day before Halloween weekend. I was in awe, a huge grin stuck on my face, and slightly afraid of the sheer energy of the tween mob. The invitation I received was to accept an over-sized check on behalf of the Wright City middle school student body to the Wright City Chapter of Care to Learn. It seemed pretty innocent and non-descript. I came prepared with a short speech and a few Halloween jokes up my sleeve, but was definitely not anticipating this intensity and scene before me.

The backstory, which I quickly absorbed, was that this rally marked the culmination of a highly competitive and passionate penny drive. For weeks, Wright City students, staff and faculty were collecting spare change to help meet the emergent health, hunger and hygiene needs of local students through the Care to Learn – Wright City Chapter. Most of the student body were anonymously, and selflessly, reducing barriers for their peers to attend and be able to focus in school. Food insecurity, inaccessibility to healthcare, transportation gaps, unstable housing, and the lack of basic needs not only cause shame and stigma for kids, but often keeps under-resourced students from exceling in school. Because who can concentrate in math or science when you are itching non-stop from lice, have worn the same clothes for three days, and haven’t eaten for two of them? The reality is that over 50% of all Missouri public school students’ qualify for federal free or reduced lunch rates and low-income students are four times more likely to be chronically absent. Students across our state-- often have to focus on basic survival over an education.

Wright City Middle School students continue to challenge these statistics, while simultaneously building a positive school culture, commitment to service, and inspiring a philanthropic spirit. Each coin collected throughout the penny drive was a chance to vote for, or against, a team (comprised of students, faculty and staff) to participate in ‘Taco your teacher, burrito your buddy’. Perhaps I should explain….? Ever wish you could pour nacho cheese and sour cream on your seventh grade English teacher’s head? Do you love tacos and wish you could swim in salsa and guacamole? Throw shredded cheese and hamburger meat at your Principal? Now’s your chance to live the dream.

Back at the rally, the excitement was building. All that spare change added up. The Principal announced that $2,400 was collected, and the crowd went wild. The kids started chanting ‘Care to Learn’ over and over again, with a deafening roar. When the gym finally quieted enough for the microphone to be heard, the winning teams were announced (in order of votes). More squeals from the bleachers, as the teams gathered, and students identified their teachers and friends. The winning teams organized by tables stocked with massive bowls of lettuce, shredded cheese, Costco-sized containers of salsa, sour cream and more. The losing teams cautiously put on goggles and reluctantly sat down in kiddy pools, spaced out before the masses. It began. ‘Taco your teacher, burrito your buddy’ suddenly became very clear. Laughter, shouts of encouragement, oooohhs, and gasps from the crowd were accompanied by pictures and Facebook posts-- as the audience collectively cringed and giggled at the same time.

In the world of fundraising, development and philanthropy, it is an experience I will never forget. Never underestimate the power of nacho cheese, junior high humor, and the compassion and dedication of local students. This year, the Wright City Middle School rally was called ‘Sundae Spectacular.’  You do the math.

Annie Mayrose, Greater St. Louis Region Director
Care to Learn

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