Although philanthropy in Southern states grew significantly between 2004 and 2014, grants supporting systemic change are still not reaching many counties, a report from the Southeastern Council of Foundations and MDC finds.
An update to a 2007 MDC study, the report, Philanthropy as the South's Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise (86 pages, PDF), found that between 2004 and 2014 the number of foundations in the South increased 34 percent, foundation assets grew 76 percent, and total giving rose by 81 percent. The report also found that nearly 72 percent of the region's foundation assets were concentrated in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, while foundations in Arkansas (142 percent), Kentucky (114 percent), and Louisiana (108 percent) recorded the biggest growth in assets.
Based on Foundation Center data, the study found that a majority of "passing gear" grants — grants aimed at systemic change in the areas of education, civic engagement, community development, health, environmental justice, human rights, youth development, financial services, and legal services — from both Southern and non-Southern funders were concentrated in metropolitan areas. Indeed, no such grants were awarded in 56 percent of Southern counties — counties that are home to 25 percent of the region's population and 26 percent of those with incomes under the federal poverty line. Meanwhile, the twenty counties receiving the most grant dollars from both Southern and non-Southern funders accounted for nearly 72 percent of all "passing gear" investments, despite being home to only 19 percent of the region's population, while the twenty counties receiving the most "passing gear" investments from Southern funders accounted for 65 percent of those grant dollars despite being home to only 18 percent of the population.
On a state-by-state basis, the share of support for "passing gear" investments ranged from 68 percent from Southern funders and 32 percent from non-Southern funders in South Carolina, to 76 percent from non-Southern funders and 24 percent from Southern funders in Louisiana.
Supported by twenty-one funders, including the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Foundation for the Mid South, and the Marguerite Casey, Annie E. Casey, and Bill & Melinda Gates foundations, the report also found that while educational attainment rates in the region have improved, poverty rates have fallen, and racial disparities have narrowed somewhat, between 25 percent and 30 percent of African Americans in the region still live in poverty and that states in the region are home to a disproportionate share of the country's uninsured individuals.