WASHINGTON, April 5, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Grantmakers and philanthropists looking to leave a legacy of improving lives and communities don't need to look too far. In fact, the ideal place can be as near as their backyard – the American South.
For many, the prospect of donating or granting thousands or hundreds of thousands dollars to groups fighting complex challenges like racism, poverty and poor health outcomes in the South seems too daunting. However, these challenges offer a chance for real impact when philanthropy is done thoughtfully.
Lack of philanthropic investments in the South
A new series of reports by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP; www.ncrp.org) and Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP; www.ngf.org/gsp) looks at opportunities for philanthropists to improve the lives of the South's underserved communities and help solve pressing problems.
NCRP's Ryan Schlegel and Stephanie Peng kick off the series with the report "As the South Grows: On fertile soil." They feature stories of four community leaders in Alabama's Black Belt and the Mississippi Delta who are standing up for the well-being of people of color, the poor, women, immigrants and other vulnerable populations.
Like many of their colleagues in this area also known as the Deep South, these activists face opposition that have deeper pockets as they strive for racial, social and economic justice.
"These individuals and the organizations they lead are accomplishing so much without much support from foundations and wealthy donors," said Schlegel, senior associate of research at NCRP. "Imagine what they could do if they had more resources in their fight for a healthy place to live, for a just criminal justice system and for economic self-determination for women. They're just a handful of many people and organizations in the Deep South doing the hard work of building collective power in their communities."
The Deep South doesn't see as much support from wealthy donors or the largest U.S. foundations as other parts of the country.
And when these foundations do give, only a small fraction goes towards supporting policy reform, community organizing or other problem-solving strategies.
"Many philanthropists choose not to invest in Southern communities or choose short-term opportunities that undermine the long-term capacity of Southern nonprofits," wrote LaTosha Brown, project director of GSP, and Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of NCRP, in the report's foreword. "Other funders invest in what they think is 'safer' direct service work. While aid to those in need is undoubtedly critical, only investments in systemic change can achieve widespread, deep impact in the region."
Philanthropy the Southern Way
Schlegel and Peng spoke with several dozen grantmakers, community leaders and nonprofits about their experience with philanthropy.
Based on these conversations, the researchers offer some important lessons for philanthropists so that grants or donations help instead of hinder Southern efforts at improving lives and communities:
- Understand the identity, history and politics of the region.
- Build relationships with local leaders that represent the communities they want to help.
- Look beyond funding direct service and also support efforts that build the power of communities to advocate for themselves.
- Engage with diverse local and national partners.
- Commit to long-term, flexible support.
These lessons are especially useful for philanthropists from outside the region.
"Our new national reality of unified, reactionary, anti-democratic government has been a reality for Southerners off and on for more than a generation," according to Brown and Dorfman. "Therefore, national and non-Southern organizations have much to learn from their Southern counterparts."
The South is an untapped opportunity for philanthropists who want to touch lives, strengthen communities and leave a positive and lasting mark with their giving. "As the South Grows: On fertile soil" offers practical tips and resources that will help grantmakers and donors do just that.
The report is available on www.ncrp.org.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy amplifies the voice of nonprofits and the communities they serve in the philanthropic sector. Through research and advocacy, it works to ensure that grantmakers and donors contribute to the creation of a fair, just and equitable world.
Grantmakers for Southern Progress is a network of funders that seek to strengthen the infrastructure for social justice work in the U.S. South to more effectively advance a social justice agenda on a regional and national level.
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SOURCE National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy