Social Justice Funders in the U.S. Speak Different Languages, Report Finds

While social justice funders in the South and on the two coasts have different strategies and more than one way of describing their work, they all could be doing more to learn from their peers, a new report from Grantmakers for Southern Progress argues.

Based on a survey of nearly two hundred social justice organizations and interviews or focus groups with seventy-five funders, the report, As the South Goes: Philanthropy and Social Justice in the US South (22 pages, PDF), found that in general national funders are more comfortable using terms like "social justice," "equity," and "organizing" to describe their work, while grantmakers in the South prefer terms like "opportunity," "structural change," and "vulnerable communities." The report also found that national funders tend to support programs that seek to address unequal power dynamics and/or that employ policy and legal advocacy, community organizing, and movement building strategies. Southern funders, on the other hand, often deploy a broader range of strategies in their social justice work, including support for community economic development, youth leadership, and human services.

To achieve lasting and meaningful social change, Grantmakers for Southern Progress recommends that social justice funders work to deepen mutual understanding among their peers and grantees on the ground in the South, move beyond their respective comfort zones in terms of grantmaking, and recognize that multiple strategies are necessary to create lasting change.

"We know social justice work in the South is underresourced," said Lavastian Glenn, program officer at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "[Grantmakers for Southern Progress] wants to change that. But in order to change, we have to understand what motivates and moves supporters of social justice work. That's why we did this study. We learned that there are indeed barriers to increased funder support for social justice in the region, but the barriers can be overcome."

"Study Examines Social Change and Social Justice Funding in the South" Grantmakers for Southern Progress Press Release 02/08/2013.