On Fertile Soil
Despite growing challenges to civil rights, inclusion and economic justice across the country, and especially in the South, the philanthropic sector has not recognized the potential in local organizations and the legacy civil rights infrastructure of the Alabama Black Belt, the Mississippi Delta and places like them across the South. These two regions benefitted from just $41 in foundation funding per person between 2010 and 2014, compared to the national funding rate of $451 per person and the New York state rate of $995 per person. Just 16 percent of the $55 million given by foundations to benefit these two regions in that five-year timeframe was for power-building strategies like policy reform or community organizing.
Southern communities are rich with natural leaders and existing organizations – whether incorporated as a 510(c)3 or not – but often funders don’t recognize them. Sometimes, foundations and donors disregard Southern leaders because these individuals seem to lack the educational credentials or formal capacity that grantmakers expect from experienced nonprofit executives. Sometimes, foundations and donors defer to existing power structures by working only with established political, business or social sector leaders.