As the South Grows

As the South Grows is an initiative of Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) to give philanthropists the tools they need to partner effectively with visionary leaders across the South. The initiative will produce a four-part investigative research and resource report series around place-based strategies for supporting structural change in the South. Through timely research and funder engagement, the goal is to increase the amount and sustainability of funding to the South from national foundations, Southern foundations, and individual donors for strategies that:

  1. improve the quality of life and increase the power of marginalized communities in the South; and
  2. are accountable to and informed by these communities.

The research will provide qualitative and quantitative data describing the state of funding for Southern social change, concrete examples of equitable outcomes for Southerners (especially for people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, the poor, women and girls, and other marginalized communities), a framework for planning and executing equitable philanthropy in the Southern context, and a vision-setting opportunity for those who work each day for equity in the South.

A few over-arching questions guide this work:

  • Where are the greatest opportunities for positive structural change in the South? How can the philanthropic sector best invest in those opportunities?
  • How does structural change work in the South differ from in other places? What does the philanthropic sector need to know about those differences?
  • How can the philanthropic sector best support the equitable progress being driven by Southern leaders and organizations, recognizing existing capacity (even and especially in forms not traditionally recognized by the philanthropic sector) and building new capacity where it’s needed? 
  • How can the philanthropic sector support long-term, sustainable movements that can preserve gains and prevent backsliding?

The first installment of the report series, "On Fertile Soil,"was launched in April 2017 at GSP's Annual Spring Convening. This report is designed to provide philanthropists with the perspective and tools to partner effectively with high-performing, under-recognized Southern leaders on the front-lines of change. It elevates the stories and perspectives of four nonprofit leaders in the Deep South—Alabama and Mississippi specifically. Esther Calhoun, Kenneth Glasgow, Ivye Allen and Carol Burnett are working hard for racial, social and economic justice against strong opposition and, in a few cases, with little philanthropic investment. They, and their colleagues, face well-organized and well-resourced opposition to self-determination for communities of color, poor communities, immigrant communities, women and others.

Click here to download "On Fertile Soil." To learn more, please visit NCRP's publication page here

The second installment of the report series, "Strong Roots," explores the link between community-driven economic development and equity in the South. From the coalfields of Kentucky to coastal South Carolina, organizations and institutions are adjusting to changing economic realities and using innovative strategies to build lasting wealth within their communities. As different as they seem, the South Carolina Lowcountry and Kentucky Coal Country are both at the vanguard of a national, and even global, economic transition that will set a course for communities like them everywhere. Funders and donors may not initially view existing community economic development infrastructure as viable investments. But if philanthropy expands its understanding of community assets and supports innovative, accountable economic development that is truly community-controlled, those investments can be transformative. 

Click here to download "Strong Roots." To learn more, please visit NCRP's publication page here


GSP seeks a South where national and regional funders collaborate, where national funders invest more in the South, and where all funders support investments in strengthened and expanded infrastructure for structural change in the South.

NCRP seeks a philanthropic sector that serves the public good and is responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity.

This project builds on both organizations’ goals, capitalizing on NCRP’s track record of producing high-quality research and GSP’s of organizing funders and nonprofits across the South. A committee of Southern and national nonprofit and philanthropic leaders also advises GSP and NCRP on the project’s design and implementation.