Charmaine Chapman Society: Celebrating 30 Years and $90 Million in Local Impact through Black Philanthropy

Three decades ago, a group of extraordinary black professionals embarked on a journey that would forever change the landscape of philanthropy in St. Louis. With a shared vision of empowering neighbors, they each pledged $1,000 annually, igniting a flame of hope and transformation. Led by Charmaine Chapman, then President and CEO of United Way, and Dr. Donald Suggs, publisher of The St. Louis American, they formed the African American Giving Initiative. Later, in tribute to Charmaine Chapman’s legacy, it became the Charmaine Chapman Leadership Giving Society (CCS). Little did they know that their decision would unleash a groundswell of passion for collective giving, not only in our region but across the nation.

Charmaine Chapman and Dr. Donald Suggs
Charmaine Chapman and Dr. Donald Suggs

As we celebrate the remarkable 30th anniversary of the Charmaine Chapman Leadership Giving Society this year, we pay homage to the transformative history and seeds planted by early trailblazers that continue to flourish through an active and growing effort helping to inspire and empower our neighbors. We are in awe of the force of collective giving, deeply rooted within Black culture, that CCS embodies. The group’s efforts have had an amplified impact and instilled a sense of ownership and active involvement among donors. But CCS members go beyond writing checks; they roll up their sleeves and become fierce supporters of the United Way and its causes, even mobilizing historic Black fraternity and sorority members to join in on fundraising initiatives. This level of engagement continues to ignite a passion for making a significant and tangible difference.

With nearly seven hundred members today, the Charmaine Chapman Leadership Giving Society stands as a shining example of the transformative power of unity. It amplifies the impact of Black philanthropy and empowers Black professionals to actively engage in giving, leveraging their collective resources for meaningful change. 

Collective giving initiatives like CCS foster diversity and inclusion, bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This diversity leads to more informed decision-making, ensuring that philanthropic efforts are comprehensive and impactful. Over the past thirty years, CCS, along with the United Way’s five additional Leadership Giving Societies, has united over 7,000 individuals in a shared mission to empower the community through United Way’s annual community giving campaign. These initiatives highlight the extraordinary potential of collective giving, serving as a community-wide call to action.

CCS membership provides donors with opportunities for networking, personal growth, and education. It instills confidence in assessing nonprofit organizations and deepens their understanding of community needs. This transformative journey benefits not only the donor but the entire community, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

To date, the Charmaine Chapman Leadership Giving Society has invested nearly $90 million into the St. Louis region through United Way, leaving an astonishing mark on countless lives. But it is not just about the numbers. Countless volunteer hours have been dedicated to serving the community, empowering Black professionals, and creating a legacy of giving and impact that will inspire generations to come.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of CCS, we honor its founders and the resilience, generosity, and unwavering commitment of the Black community. A community driving positive change, transforming lives, breaking down barriers, and helping to create a more equitable and thriving region. Let’s continue to champion the values of the CCS legacy, uplifting and empowering our neighbors to succeed. Together, we can ensure our unmatched culture of giving in St. Louis remains a North Star for all of us by leveraging the power of “we” in the most effective way.

Learn more about the Charmaine Chapman Leadership Giving Society and how you can unite with United Way of Greater St. Louis to amplify impact.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Michelle D. Tucker
President & CEO