On Fertile Soil
NCRP and GSP’s goal in this research was to collect and elevate the voices of nonprofit and community leaders across the South who represent great potential for positive progress in their communities but who have to date been passed over by most philanthropists. To that end, we embarked on a wide-sweeping interview process with grantmakers, grantees and community leaders that generated rich, nuanced qualitative data that we will synthesize and present in context in the reports to follow.
Because of finite capacity and time, we chose to focus on eight “sub-regions” within the South that we believed would produce representative, diverse, relevant, timely, compelling stories about the opportunities of working for equity across the South. Our advisory committee members guided the choice of sub-regions. The sub-regions include some that have historically seen very little philanthropic investment, and some that have lately seen a marked increase in philanthropic investment. Together they reflect the geographic and demographic diversity that exists in the South. They include coastal wetlands, fertile farmland, rugged mountains, small towns and big cities. Many of them represent large clusters of what the USDA labels “persistently poor” counties, but they also include wealthy enclaves of Atlanta and Charleston.
We began by studying Foundation Center grantmaking data in each sub-region. We investigated two types of grantmaking: Grants that benefit underserved and marginalized communities, broadly defined, and grants for systemic change strategies. These grant categories are not mutually exclusive, and they did not represent all or even most of the total grantmaking in a given region. But together they were our starting point for exploring the philanthropic ecosystem in each region.
With this data, we began identifying “hubs” of both grantmakers and grantees that were central to each sub-region’s philanthropic ecosystem. These hubs became the first in a snowballing outreach and interview process in each sub-region. “Hub” interviews led us naturally to other key actors in each sub-region’s ecosystem – especially to those organizations and community leaders working in and for underserved communities and systemic change outcomes. Our outreach and interview process generated at least five, and as many as 13, interviews in each sub-region; including at least two each from funders and grantees working in that sub-region. All told, our interview process captured:
The interviews were intentionally conversational to encourage participants to tell stories and to speak about issues most pressing for them, not issues the interviewer thought were most pressing. Each interview covered – in broad terms – these subjects: equity, capacity, challenges, grantee-funder relationships, funding opportunities and vision. All interview transcripts were coded for common themes and analyzed for cross-region similarities and differences.
These findings were presented to four focus groups, one each in Selma, Alabama; Charleston, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; and Hindman, Kentucky. Each focus group included representatives from grantees and other community organizations from the surrounding area, including some who had been interviewed previously and some who had not. The focus groups gave input on the findings, helping us hone them for accuracy, concision and clarity. Ultimately they were synthesized into a cohesive framework of recommendations for national and Southern funders to better engage in equity work in the South.
Advisory Committee and Black Belt + Delta Interview and Focus Group ParticipantsREAD MORE
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