Report: Philanthropy Must Invest in Grassroots Movements in Atlanta

Posted April 18, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Man at protest speaks into megaphone.

In Atlanta, grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions are part­ner­ing with res­i­dent lead­ers to address the city’s per­sis­tent racial wealth gap and expand oppor­tu­ni­ties for its immi­grant, black and LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ties. But phil­an­thropy must do more to help ensure these orga­ni­za­tions thrive, accord­ing to a new report from the Nation­al Com­mit­tee for Respon­sive Phil­an­thropy and Grant­mak­ers for South­ern Progress.

As the South Grows: Bear­ing Fruit is the fourth install­ment in a series that explores pro­gres­sive change work in the South. It fea­tures inter­views with six phil­an­thropic lead­ers — includ­ing the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Janelle Williams, who address­es the impor­tance of aid­ing res­i­dent-led pol­i­cy change and advo­ca­cy efforts.

Read the report

While sup­port­ing direct ser­vice is impor­tant, we must also tack­le advo­ca­cy because the poli­cies that got us here will not change unless we invest in true, res­i­dent-led orga­niz­ing,” says Williams. Before mak­ing a grant, she adds, foun­da­tions must ask them­selves: How do we show up in a way that is respect­ful and helps res­i­dents to lead and to cre­ate the type of com­mu­ni­ty and home that they want?”

In Atlanta, grass­roots coali­tions that build the lead­er­ship and voice of mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties need resources quick­ly,” says the report, which goes on to call for foun­da­tions with­in the Metro Area and beyond to com­mit long-term fund­ing for the messy, for­ward-and-back work of com­mu­ni­ty organizing.”

From 2010 to 2014, the Atlanta metro region received $453 per per­son in foun­da­tion fund­ing. This lev­el of sup­port is on par with the per-per­son foun­da­tion fund­ing rate nation­al­ly and exceeds Georgia’s fund­ing rate.

How­ev­er, only 2% of foun­da­tion fund­ing went to pow­er-build­ing strate­gies, such as pol­i­cy reform and com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing, accord­ing to As the South Grows. The report also found that — in a city where peo­ple of col­or are a major­i­ty and entrenched pover­ty remains a chal­lenge — just 20% of fund­ing sup­port­ed under­served populations.

To reverse such trends, the phil­an­thropic com­mu­ni­ty must assume the risks of sup­port­ing grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions over the long term, says the report, which artic­u­lates how to advance this work. Guide­lines for foun­da­tions include:

  • Ensur­ing the infor­ma­tion that is dri­ving pri­or­i­ties and strate­gies is dis­ag­gre­gat­ed by race, gen­der, income and sex­u­al identity.
  • Under­stand­ing that it takes sub­stan­tial work to orga­nize mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties and to invest in the evo­lu­tion of pol­i­cy and cul­ture that is defined by them, rather than by the dom­i­nant polit­i­cal culture.
  • Offer­ing gen­er­al sup­port grants and invest­ing in build­ing an organization’s infrastructure.
  • Help­ing grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions grow their base and build for­mal and infor­mal allies and coali­tions — and under­take this work on their terms.
  • Iden­ti­fy­ing phil­an­thropic part­ners and active­ly seek­ing to under­stand their his­to­ry, con­text, pow­er and priorities.

The report ends with a part­ing charge, chal­leng­ing phil­an­thropy 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.”

Learn more about Casey’s efforts to sup­port res­i­dent lead­ers in Atlanta

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