As budget cuts hit essential government programs for community development, we all need to be searching for other sources of investment capital to support local economic development and workforce initiatives. Philanthropy must be a critical piece in this puzzle, but we all need to “up our game” if we want to make real impacts. A new study from the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy describes the extent of the challenge in the South. The research examines philanthropic grantmaking in the Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi with a special focus on distressed regions of the Black Belt and the Mississippi Delta. It finds that per capital investments in the region average around $221 per person while the US average is about $451 per person. The average in the Black Belt and Delta regions is even lower: $41 per person. (In comparison, the New York City per person average is $1,966).
These investment gaps mean that challenged regions start from behind, and often lack the capacity to “catch up” by making new investments to build communities and development local talent. New efforts to spur community development philanthropy are needed—especially in rural America. There are lots of good efforts underway and I encourage you to check out some of the following:
- National Center for Responsive Philanthropy: National effort to spur investment in underutilized regions and programs
- Appalachian Funders Network: Focused on collaborations to invest in Central Appalachia.
- Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network: A new Aspen Institute-backed learning network working with community foundations from across the US.