Profiles in Southern Passing Gear Philanthropy
Since the publication of MDC’s State of the South report “Philanthropy as the South’s Passing Gear” in 2007, foundations across the South have embraced many elements of strategic philanthropy and focused their work “upstream,” at the root causes of systemic inequities.
These are powerful examples of grantmaking that contain elements of what we call “Passing Gear” philanthropy—a clear reading of reality, using data and reflecting on it, employing multiple forms of capital, and applying evaluative thinking to address stubborn, structural challenges. These are habits of mind, not a formula, and can unfold in many, diverse ways. The elements of “Passing Gear” exist in all good grantmaking.
The profiles are based on information provided by the foundations, supplemented by additional research. The foundations were asked to answer the following questions to help inform the profiles:
1. Did you look at the historical context of the issues before you arrived at a grant-making strategy?
2. Did you collect and analyze data? What gaps did you identify between your values and the current situation that inspired you to move in this direction?
3. In engaging in imaginative inquiry, or a habit of mind, to read reality truthfully, how did you determine your course of action when confronted with a challenge that did not have an obvious solution?
4. How did the foundation strategically deploy its non-financial forms of capital—social, moral, intellectual, and reputational?
5. What processes have you used for assessing impact of your work?
6. What have you learned about making your philanthropy more effective, and are you doing anything differently as a result?
7. What was hard about this work? What was gratifying?