Giving Compass' Take:

• Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation is a family foundation that works to address systemic issues in the South using an equity-based lens to find solutions.

• How can philanthropists pursue equity in philanthropy? What place-based models are successful when funding the South?

• Read about why everyone is talking about equity in philanthropy. 


While potential is universal, opportunity is not. In the American South, where the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (MRBF) works, slavery, segregation, and a host of laws, policies, and practices have entrenched white supremacy, delivering enormous advantages to whites and pervasive disadvantages to people of color.

Some of these systems have changed, but more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery, modern-day vestiges such as school and housing segregation, sentencing disparities, hiring discrimination, and wealth gaps persist. Efforts to suppress votes, racially gerrymander districts, and stoke fear of immigrants and Muslims are modern manifestations of the same old patterns.

The South’s population is growing and diversifying rapidly, and with it, its electoral clout. The United States relies heavily on the region’s abundant natural resources, rich cultural assets, and constellation of economic drivers, but racism still diminishes public investments in infrastructure and communities to the detriment of us all.

Increasing opportunities for low-wealth communities and people of color has been at the heart of MRBF’s six decades of work. Our efforts to support historically black educational institutions, invest in leadership development, and lift up grassroots and civic engagement organizations are all oriented around building pathways to decision-making power for people of color over the years.

Today, we are learning to center equity in all our work. While our primary focus is racial equity, we recognize that discrimination based on gender, geography, ability, sexual orientation, and religion also creates obstacles to opportunity and quality of life. Understanding and taking ownership of painful legacies, and pushing our own boundaries for self-reflection and accountability—particularly those of us who have benefited from centuries of unearned advantages—demands a disciplined approach to learning and doing.

Read the full article about tools to advance equity in the South by Justin Maxson at Stanford Social Innovation Review