Charmaine Chapman Society: The 30-year journey

The United Way of Greater St. Louis (UWGSL) Charmaine Chapman Society (CCS) is celebrating its 30-year anniversary and as we reflect on this remarkable group’s impact, it is important to learn about its origin.

In 1994, Charmaine Chapman became UWGSL’s first female and African American CEO, and from the very start, she was set on improving the scope of philanthropy in the St. Louis region and positioning our organization to provide more services and help more people. Soon after beginning her tenure as President and CEO of UWGSL, her and Dr. Donald Suggs, publisher of the St. Louis American newspaper, recognized that Black leaders needed a voice in the philanthropic community in St. Louis. They began what was then known as the African American Giving Initiative to encourage Black leaders to give back to the community through United Way.

Following Charmaine’s death in 2001, it was renamed the Charmaine Chapman Society to honor her memory and since its beginning, it has continued to grow and expand every year. It is now one of the top philanthropic programs for Black leaders in the nation. Members pledge $1,000 or more each year to tackle our region’s most pressing issues and their efforts have paved the way for a lot of positive change over the years.

Charmaine was a trailblazer and a remarkable leader who had a transformational impact on our organization, and we do our best to honor her memory every day through the work we do in the community.

This timeline will be the first in a series of content this year where we will pay tribute to this amazing leader and the evolutionary philanthropic group that culminated from her efforts.

For now, take a look at the journey of CCS becoming one of the premiere Black philanthropic groups in the nation.

In 1994, Charmaine Chapman became the first female and first African American President and CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis.
In 1994, Charmaine and Dr. Donald Suggs, publisher of the St. Louis American newspaper, created the African American Giving Initiative.
In its first year, 90 donors raised $148,000. Within its first five years, the Initiative had more than quadrupled the number of members to 442.
By 2000, the last full campaign Charmaine led as President and CEO, the Initiative’s members raised $1.2 million.
Charmaine increased diversity among UWGSL staff, board of executives, and executive committee; She also expanded our regional footprint with the integration of three regional offices.
Charmaine passed away in 2001; the African American Giving Initiative was renamed the Charmaine Chapman Society (CCS) to honor her memory.
Over two decades later, CCS has become one of the top Black philanthropy groups in the nation, it currently has 548 members. Members give $1,000 or more annually. The program has raised nearly $90 million since its inception.
Since 2016, CCS has hosted an annual Divine 9 Challenge which is designed to increase financial support for United Way’s annual campaign and celebrate Black Sorority’s and Fraternity’s continued commitment to service.
Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries