Buckingham Awards 2015 Pillar Grants

Guided by the same evidence-based, planning-centered perspective it brings to our clients’ financial lives, Buckingham sought to bring a new facet to our approach to philanthropic giving in 2015. What resulted was the Buckingham Pillar Grant Program, a pledge to grant $50,000 this year to organizations working to better the lives of people in the communities where our associates live and work. The Pillar Grant Program will serve as the firm’s most significant philanthropic initiative.

To bring the effort to life, a committee was formed, headed by Buckingham board member, wealth advisor and long-time St. Louis philanthropist Mont Levy. Purposefully diverse in tenure, role and level of nonprofit experience, the group set forth to design and implement a program inspired by the firm’s values and reflective of its culture to fund organizations that place the same esteem as Buckingham on evidence and planning, as well as carry out their mission by “doing the right thing,” as Buckingham has done for 21 years.

“Doing the right thing is about more than responding to a need or having a great mission,” says Levy. “We’re also interested in ‘how’ an organization carries out its mission. We believe that how an organization embodies its values throughout its work significantly enhances the experience of its associates and clients. We think this characteristic enriches the meaningful and measurable impact an organization’s work can have on someone’s life. The spirit of ‘doing the right thing’ guides our philanthropic initiative, as it does our firm. We are committed to making ours a healthy, vibrant and inclusive community.”

After feedback from across the organization, six rotating areas of interest were determined: Children & Youth, Education, Health, Community Development, People in Crisis and the Environment.

In 2015, the two in focus were Children & Youth and Education. The program was rolled out to associates, clients and the community. Applications rolled in — 100 total — and the work began to determine which projects to fund in the inaugural year.

What was learned as we read through every single entry was eye opening. In St. Louis alone, more than 36 students in the area attempt suicide each day. One in four children lives beneath the national poverty lines within the city limits. And in the critical early childhood development window, students with undiagnosed learning issues are far more likely to later drop out of school, abuse drugs and become part of the juvenile justice system. Application after application, we were at once awed by the need and inspired by the grit and commitment of the tireless individuals working to address those needs. It was humbling work.

But we trusted our criteria and sought out applicants who demonstrated our three key pillars. Whose efforts are supported by carefully articulated evidence. Whose conscientious planning ensures the project is sustainable and addresses the long-term needs and goals of the organization. But most of all, we sought organizations who strive to “do the right thing” by their stakeholders and those they serve.

This year, we’re thrilled to recognize the following organizations, each dedicating their time and talent to making positive change:

CHADS Coalition for Mental Health

Reeling from the loss of their son to suicide in 2004, Marian and Larry McCord founded CHADS Coalition for Mental Health to help save young lives by advancing the awareness and prevention of depression and suicide. Over the last 10 years the organization’s diverse programming has provided prevention education to more than 100,000 individuals, offered family support services to 460 families, hosted 274 support group sessions and provided bullying prevention services to more than 11,000 students. By championing a cause often battled in silence, CHADS programming has given voice to the voiceless, connecting the dots between the abuser, the abused and the educators and caregivers who have the power to make a life-saving difference. The Buckingham Pillar Grant will help further expand the school outreach services, including Signs of Suicide, CHADS Family Support, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program with mentoring and Wellness Coaching to provide help for youth in crisis and create safe, productive schools.

Circus Flora

Well known for its beloved and award-winning big-top show staged each summer, Circus Flora could begin and end its contribution to our community with the artistry and athleticism it brings to the stage. But instead, it seeks opportunities at every turn to leverage the talents of its team to deepen the relationship it has built over the years with our community. Its many outreach initiatives, including hosting families who couldn’t otherwise afford it and welcoming guests that require physical and sensory accommodations, increase the accessibility of the performing arts to everyone in our community year-round. One such effort, Clowns on Call, will be funded by a Buckingham Pillar Grant this year. The only program of its kind in its region, the therapeutic clowning program brings professional artists into two children’s hospitals to foster positive health care outcomes for 1,500 patients and their families. Circus artists come bedside to play music, teach juggling and balance skills, and perform comedy routines to help alleviate the stress of hospitalization, illness or related trauma through the vehicle of circus performing arts. Clowns on Call has brought a smile to the face of more than 4,000 patients since the program’s inception in 2012.

City Academy

City Academy is an independent charter school that helps break the cycle of educational inequality due to economic and geographic barriers that can limit families’ access to high quality education. In the neighborhood where the school is located, the poverty rate is 27 percent higher than the national average and unemployment is near 20 percent. In a time in their lives where outcomes are so closely linked with access, City Academy connects with students and their families, helping to level the playing field and guide them through the school system and into college. City Academy will use the Buckingham Pillar Grant to expand the school’s innovative STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering Arts and Math) curriculum and robotics club. The program is evidence-based and designed to inspire young learners who wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to multifaceted learning opportunities in those subjects to seek additional education and experiences within these important fields. Our dollars will enhance the STEAM curriculum at City Academy increase the number of grades able to participate in the program.

Our Little Haven

Since 1993, Our Little Haven has served infants and young children who were affected by early childhood trauma, including drug exposure, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and extreme neglect or abandonment. It’s difficult imaging anyone thriving in the face of such terrible odds, but Our Little Haven’s multi-disciplinary mission seeks to “help the hurting stop, the healing begin and the love last one family at a time.” Its holistic approach to serving the most vulnerable among us helps ensure that their efforts will have a positive long-term impact on the lives of those that depend on them. The Buckingham Pillar Grant dollars will provide funding to the organization’s Our Little Academy Therapeutic Preschool, which helps children who cannot succeed in traditional academic settings because of the impacts of abuse, neglect and mental or behavioral health needs.

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity

Based in the Bay Area, the SEO Scholars program provides educational and career programming to highly-motivated young people in underserved areas who are typically excluded from intensive college prep opportunities. By putting practical tools, resources and knowledge into the hands of students when they need it the most, SEO does right by its constituents who in turn have the leverage they need to succeed. A Pillar Grant from Buckingham will provide scholars in the 11th and 12th grades with support and resources as they apply to college, including application prep for admission and financial aid, SAT prep, back to school “boot camp” and a financial literacy workshop.

St. Louis Learning Disabilities Association

Buckingham’s grant will enable the St. Louis LDA to bring its proven multi-tiered approach of assessments, parent/educator workshops and in-the-moment student coaching to schools and families in St. Louis’ most under-served neighborhoods. Doing so will provide a multiple-level impact in bridging the achievement gap and preparing children with learning disabilities for success. Putting the power of compounding to work to better the student and the system alike, LDA’s project provides resources not just to the children, but also their teachers and caregivers, ensuring the benefits are multiplied beyond any one student or classroom.

We were inspired not just by the acute needs addressed by these organizations, but by the careful, evidence-based approach each uses to serve our communities’ most vulnerable members. Each of these organizations demonstrates the spirit of “doing the right thing” in carrying out its vital work. We are honored to be a part of the incredible positive impact these organizations have on the lives of those they serve.

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