“South Meets West”? Philanthropy needs to invest in grassroots organizations in California and the South

Written by: Ben Barge

Date: March 20, 2018

California and the American South have much in common. They’re both economic powerhouses. They’re both engines of culture, literature and film. And they’re both dynamos of resistance, from the mayor of Oakland’s recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid warning, to today’s Southern youth pioneering movements like their forebears did half a century ago.

Yet philanthropy has built few bridges between these two regions. This gulf constrains our country’s progress. That’s why, as part of our As the South Grows initiative, NCRP, Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) and Solutions Project hosted two “South Meets West” funder briefings last month in California.

The first event took place with Northern California Grantmakers in San Francisco at the James Irvine Foundation.

Attendees at the “South Meets West” funder event in San Francisco.

The second took place in downtown Los Angeles.

Southern leaders Stephanie Guilloud, Dr. Jenny Stephens and Peter Hille present at the "South Meets West" even in Los Angeles.

California-based community foundations, private foundations, rapid response funds and individual donors met with Southern foundations, nonprofit leaders and community organizers from across the South.  

Attendees at the San Francisco "South Meets West" event.

Tyler Nickerson kicked things off by sharing why, as a progressive funder, Solutions Project believes in funding the grassroots in both regions.

Tyler Nickerson of Solutions Project at the San Francisco "South Meets West" event.

NCRP Vice President and Chief Engagement Officer Jeanné Isler and GSP Co-Chair and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation Program Director Lavastian Glenn shared highlights from NCRP and GSP’s As the South Grows series.

Organizing, advocacy and civic engagement (per capita grantmaking, 2010-2014).


Southern leaders shared how the road to national progress runs through the South. They included Stephanie Guilloud from Project South in Atlanta, Dr. Jennie Stephens from the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation in South Carolina and Peter Hille from the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Kentucky (all NCRP nonprofit members).

Peter Hille, Stephanie Guilloud and Dr. Jennie Stephens at the San Francisco "South Meets West" event.

We strategized together and told stories together.

Attendees at the "South Meets West" event in San Francisco.

We even went to happy hour together. 

People left with commitments to move money, make phone calls and visit the South in person.

Attendees at the "South Meets West" event in San Francisco.

And we left inspired with what can happen when the South and California partner together. 

Attendees at the "South Meets West" even in Los Angeles.

These events were a first step. True change in the philanthropic relationship between the South and California will take long-term relationships, as well as a willingness to risk our comfort with the status quo. Here at NCRP, we’re excited to roll up our sleeves.

To learn how you can get involved with NCRP, GSP and As the South Grows, contact Ben Barge at bbarge@ncrp.org and Tamieka Mosley at tmosley@southerneducation.org.

Ben Barge is senior associate for learning and engagement at NCRP. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.