Saint Louis, MO   |


We activate community power to redesign social systems to be just and equitable for all through (1) developing and supporting leaders and organizations and (2) leading campaigns, coalitions, and innovative initiatives.

Ruling year info


Founder & CEO

Charli Cooksey

Main address

20 S. Sarah Street

Saint Louis, MO 63108 USA

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NTEE code info

Urban, Community (S31)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Black and Latinx people across the US experience quantifiably worse outcomes than their white counterparts across education, economic, healthcare, and justice systems. This is especially true in the St. Louis region. A long history of intense racial segregation has impacted not just racial residential patterns but racial wealth, educational opportunities, food availability, and access to healthcare, forming a feedback loop of racial disparities. The St. Louis Equity Indicators report found that Black St. Louisans had half the median income of White residents, and were twice as likely to be rent burdened, four times as likely to be denied a home loan, and five times more likely to be unemployed. These outcomes are caused by systems largely designed by white and affluent communities, based on their own lives and perspectives. Systems are done to communities of color instead of imagined, created, and implemented with and by them.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?


WEPOWER's Accelerator serves Black and Latinx entrepreneurs from historically disinvested communities in the St. Louis area. This program educates, develops, and supports Black and Latinx entrepreneurs to spark economic development and create living-wage jobs in St. Louis.

Participating entrepreneurs make five Commitments to Community:
- Hire at or on a path to a living-wage;
- Build partnerships with regional workforce development programs;
- Invest in their employees, by providing benefits and/or a share of profits;
- Work with an advisory board that includes community members; and
- Integrate racial equity into their company culture.

Our model offers founders:
- Access to capital
- Village Capital’s research-based investment-readiness curriculum
- Advising from paid business coaches and teams of volunteer mentors
- Office hours with attorneys, accountants, HR and marketing professionals
- Co-working space and community

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people

Our systems are poorly designed because Black and Latinx folks have been isolated from decision-making tables and idea-creation spaces. This harms our communities and limits our collective potential to thrive.

Our response: activate changemakers to reimagine and redesign systems that impact them.

Our inaugural cohort of Tomorrow Builders are focusing on Early Childhood Education. We believe building a better tomorrow for St. Louis starts with our kids, our future. Right now, the region’s early childhood education system is poorly designed and hurting folks most impacted by racism, prejudice, and poverty. Over the course of 2 years, the inaugural Tomorrow Builders fellows are reimagining and redesigning the early childhood education system across the St. Louis region.

There is not enough sustainable funding to create a high quality early childhood education system with well-distributed, subsidized spaces of all kinds so that every community in St. Louis thrives. Insufficient funding impacts both access to and quality of early childhood education. Adults and children alike in the St. Louis region face tremendous inequality, higher than average household poverty rates, and the detrimental effects associated with each. While education quality is notoriously hard to measure, the First Step to Equity Report still found large discrepancies in the quality of education available to white and black children. The First Step to Equity Report also found that while 8,7000 children in the region qualified for state-subsidized ECE services, only 3,9000 subsidized slots are available. With 41% of St. Louis children below the poverty line, there is a huge number of kids in need – and a huge opportunity to help them.

Fellows engaged and collected feedback from 1,000+ birth to five parents and educators to understand their dreams and the current challenges. They facilitated design process in which Fellows work with 40 community members on five solutions teams, each working to solve a critical piece of the current Early Childhood Education challenge in St. Louis. They recently released their solutions in The Playbook, and are transitioning their momentum from designing solutions to implementing them. With enough public support, we can transform these solutions from proposals to policies, ensuring that all St. Louis families have access to a high quality experience birth through five.

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers

Our Powerbuilding Trainings develop residents advocacy and policy design skills. The goals of the program are to (1) develop new leaders who commit to long-term organizing to create policy and systems change, (2) support program participants as they design responsive and results-based policy solutions, (3) support program participants as they achieve issue-based policy changes that work to decrease racial disparities, and (4) increase voter turnout in targeted areas where turnout is low, but there could be a huge impact.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people

The Chisholm's Chair Fellowship (CCF) is a training initiative designed to support Black and Latinx women along their public leadership development journey as they explore and consider pursuing publicly elected and appointed office. Chisholm's Chair is for women that identify as champions of equity. Women that are unbought, unbossed, bold and unapologetic leaders, remaining connected to and inspired by a transformative vision for their communities, para la gente. It's for women that are ready to work hard and fight systems of oppression in the St. Louis region so that their community's most vulnerable can no longer just survive – but THRIVE. It's for women that see elected and appointed office as a lever for effecting policy change – a means to an end, not the end in and of itself. Chisholm's Chair is for women that are willing to work across lines of difference, listen deeply to others, and lead with humility and love.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Women and girls

Designed to build parental power and advocacy alongside other practitioners, educators, and community members, PPAG provides a space for caregivers and providers to build their organizing and advocacy capacity to transform policies and increase resources to support the Early Childhood Education (ECE) system across St. Louis. Meeting monthly, PPAG informs and trains members on:
1. Current education around ECE issues, policies, and systems
2. Power building, advocacy, and leadership skills training, including topics like storytelling to shift the public narrative, how to testify in public meetings, tools for community organizing, how to engage in direct actions, and more.
3. Strategizing around actions and steps to be taken by individuals, ECE centers, partner organizations, etc.
Currently, PPAG has over 200 active participants and has secured nearly $5 million in public funding for ECE initiatives.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people

CWAG advocates for more favorable conditions for Black and Latinx-owned businesses to exist. As the next phase of their leadership journey, alumni of WEPOWERs Powerbuilding trainings can join CWAG alongside residents and entrepreneurs from impacted communities and economic justice stakeholders representing 30 different community organizations. Key activities of CWAG include monthly meetings where members: 1. Learn about and discuss economic systems analysis
2. Lend ideas and lived experience to develop strategies
3. Learn to build relationships with municipal leaders
4. Learn to present and negotiate Community Benefits Agreements.
Community Benefits Agreements are legally binding contracts that secure neighborhood-transforming ordinances and commitments from private developers. Risks are mitigated by including community voice at all levels of the solution, and by developing relationships with strong partners who support the group's goals.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of businesses developed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program


Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Number of individuals attending coalition meetings

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Power and Policy Action Group (PPAG)

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Number of active members of the Power and Policy Action Group (PPAG) in 2023.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Over the course of a generation, our goals are that an increased % of Black & Latinx St. Louis households in high poverty communities have:
a) high quality early childhood seats
b) high quality & equitably resourced K12 public schools
c) quality, affordable healthcare
d) more wealth than their parents
e) living wage jobs, guaranteed income, &/or job guarantee
f) quality food & green spaces within walking distance

Our annual goals include that an increased # of families in high poverty Black & Latinx communities:
a) engage in WEPOWER programs & campaigns
b) are aware of existing inequities that harm their wellbeing & understand the root causes of existing inequities that harm their wellbeing
c) know how to effectively engage in community organizing; design policy solutions; lead voter education & engagement efforts; and know how to leverage storytelling to build power & organize

WEPOWER employs the following four strategies to manifest a future where systems are accountable to powerful communities that have been historically oppressed and to nurture our freedom, well-being, dreams, and joy:
1. We build authentic relationships between everyday people
2. We activate a movement of new organizers, system designers, and public leaders
3. We accelerate community-owned wealth generation
4. We tell human-centered stories that shift beliefs and behaviors

In April 2018 WEPOWER launched its first program with an inaugural cohort of just 16 North St. Louis City residents. Since the completion of its successful first cohort, WEPOWER has deepened its commitment to activating community power and has expanded its programmatic offerings and local reach. We continue to test innovative concepts around power-building, leadership development, and entrepreneurship in service of education and economic change across the St. Louis region. So far, in WEPOWER’s five years of existence, we have already achieved the following:
-Won $7.5 million in emergency relief funding for early childhood providers
-Won $2.3 million annually through Prop R, the region’s first-ever local dedicated public funding source for early childhood
-Activated 173 changemakers leading education and economic systems change across St. Louis and East St. Louis
-Canvassed 15,000+ neighbors and secured support for Power-Building Academy policies from 1,000+ community members
-Published The Playbook for Reimagined + Redesigned Early Childhood Education, with community-designed solutions and policies that yield long-term shifts in early education; read by 4,000+ people and endorsed by 150+ organizations and leaders
-Hosted the only community-led school board candidates forum where 100% of school board candidates committed to adopting the Better Budgets, Better Schools Policy demands
-Forward Through Ferguson’s recent State of Education report found that WEPOWER was ranked the #1 space in the region for facilitating conversations about education transformation, outranking well-established foundations, nonprofits, legislative bodies, and advocacy groups across the state
-Galvanized a coalition of over 150 educators, parents, philanthropists, and business and civic leaders to launch the Early Childhood Power & Policy Action Group to advocate for better early childhood education policies
-Launched a rapid response campaign for American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding to address early childhood education initiatives
-Launched a $1.5M investment fund to support small Black- and Latinx-owned businesses
-Strengthened the businesses of 31 Black and Brown entrepreneurs who have collectively accessed over $2M in federal funds and created 45 living-wage jobs within low-wealth neighborhoods

To date, WEPOWER has helped to transform over 400 Black and brown St. Louis area community members into community leaders and has educated thousands more about local power dynamics and civic processes, activating them to action at the polls and beyond.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We share the feedback we received with the people we serve

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.


Board of directors
as of 01/31/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Andrew Yawitz

The Rio Vista Foundation

Term: 2018 -

Andrew (Roo) Yawitz

Abdul-Kaba Abdullah

April Fulstone

Erica Henderson

Mary McKay

Rebeccah Bennnett

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/4/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 07/17/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.