The rapid growth in poverty in the suburbs raises questions about the ability of nonprofit organizations to adapt to this new geography of metropolitan poverty. This analysis combines an original data set of foundation grants for social services with in-depth interviews to assess the role of foundations in supporting the suburban social safety net in the Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Detroit regions.
In 2008, 12.5 million poor people lived in the suburbs, while 11 million poor lived in major cities.
Findings & Stats
Suburban Needs Unmet
Suburban community foundations in the four regions studied are newer and smaller than those in core cities, despite faster growth of suburban poor populations.
Dollars Don't Add Up
The share of foundation dollars targeted to organizations serving low-income residents varies widely across regions, but relatively few of those dollars are devoted to building organizational capacity in the suburbs.
Fewer Dollars Per Person
Suburbs with high rates of poverty have substantially fewer grantees and grant dollars per poor person than either central cities or lower-poverty suburbs.
Statements & Quotations
Local foundations have not traditionally served as regional innovators or system builders. Many Community foundations have mainly provided "donor services," acting as a conduit for individual donations targeted for donor -defined purposes, As a result, significant parts of their endowments are in restricted funds, limiting their ability to play a proactive or innovative philanthropic role.
In the absence of regional government, nonprofit intermediaries can play a critical role in promoting the growth and capacity of nonprofit organizations across metropolitan regions.
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