How to Support Grassroots Organizations: An Atlanta case study

Southern communities have long been working to dismantle racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic barriers despite few resources and little support from philanthropy, explains the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) in a recently released report. The Bearing Fruit report, part of the As the South Grows series, focuses on Metro Atlanta, revealing among other data that only 2% of grantmaking goes to power-building strategies and only 20% goes to underserved communities.

According to the report, Southern leaders are building an intersectional, grassroots, and often countercultural movement ecosystem. However, "philanthropy has missed a crucial opportunity to support the people and communities trying to fulfill the hope of prosperity and inclusiveness that Atlanta has portrayed to the rest of the world."

The report includes recommendations for funding Southern grassroots organizations, such as: "Don’t accept that a highly productive economy and robust social service sector are enough for people to have what they need to thrive. Make sure data that inform your priorities and strategies are disaggregated by race, gender, income, sexual identity, etc."

To address the lack of investment, the report provides several other ideas for funders to consider in developing their practices:

-Recognize how much work it takes to organize marginalized communities against Atlanta’s and other Southern cities’ dominant political culture and invest in the evolution of policy and culture in a way that is defined by people who don’t see themselves in the glossy marketing materials for a bustling city.
-Be prepared to make long-term investments in grassroots organizations to build their base and build formal and informal relationships with allies (...).
-Give general support grants to your Southern grantees – invest in infrastructure organizations to exist, not just to complete projects.
-Understand who your philanthropic partners are and who they aren’t, wrestling with history, context, power and priorities.

"The opportunities for foundation investment in Atlanta and other Southern cities are exciting, and with patience, trust and deep relationships with grassroots partners, they have the potential to bear fruit for the broader region," the report maintains.

Read the full report here.

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