The Foundation for the Mid South is a regional foundation focused on building the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi from within – engaging residents and communities to become more knowledgeable about how to improve their own conditions and quality of life.
Our region continually ranks nationally at the bottom of many quality-of-life indicators, including educational achievement, income and health issues like mental health and obesity. Needs in our region are greater than our states’ abilities to meet them. One of the region’s biggest challenges is an inability to connect efforts, people and resources, creating an overlap of activities and missed opportunities. The Foundation’s approach is to support and expand innovative ideas and programs that provide direct services, as well as to work with communities and local and state officials to develop solutions and policies that will benefit the public.
The two most important lessons that the Foundation has learned are that: 1) it is not all about the money and 2) effective direct services and impact builds a strong case for policy change.
In many of the areas we serve, significant change can occur by simply making connections – large amounts of funding are not always the answer. It can be as easy as bringing people together to create a forum for discussion and conversation, to share their resources and ideas, or to leverage existing resources with others that may be available. Oftentimes, nonprofits and sometimes even elected officials might not be aware of effective programs and approaches at their disposal that can be used to improve their communities
It is in grantmakers’ best interests to inform policymakers of the effective services and outcomes their investments generate. When advocates reference data-driven research and proven, successful models in their dialogues with policymakers, they build a more compelling case to influence how public resources should be used to bring proposed efforts to scale.
The Foundation believes that progress in each area is required to create impact and sustainability. Our advice to grantmakers interested in adopting a comprehensive approach is to understand that progress sometimes is slow and success will not occur overnight. It takes time to develop trust and build the capacities necessary in communities for long-term sustainability. We also suggest taking time to understand the procedures and processes of government at the local and state levels. It is important to create relationships and establish communications among funders, nonprofits and elected officials, informing policymakers how best public sector resources should be used to benefit communities and their people.
Chris Crothers is director of communications for the Foundation for the Mid South. For more information about the Foundation and its priorities, visit www.fndmidsouth.org.