SOUTHERN PARTNERS FUND
Democratic Philanthropy in Action
Democratic philanthropy is who we are. We are governed by a Board of Directors elected by our membership, made up entirely of people of color grassroots leaders from rural communities across our 12-state region.
Southern Partners Fund (SPF) is a regional community foundation located in Atlanta, GA, governed by people of color grassroots leaders from rural communities across 12 states in the Southeast.
In 1984, I started the Bert and Mary Meyer Foundation (BAMM). Our focus was rural grassroots community organizing in fourteen southeastern states.
My United Farm Worker (UFW) experience taught me the importance of addressing the cause, not just the symptoms of injustice (Why are people hungry?), and that the real expertise for solving community problems lies with a community’s own leaders; not with academic or large nonprofit institutions. So, I invited community leaders and others from the same race and class as the groups we intended to fund to join my family foundation board. Community leaders shared their lived experience, giving us insights we could never have gotten any other way.
Our first ten years of grantmaking convinced me that the real experts were grassroots community leaders with a history and vested interest in their community, and that community organizing is an essential strategy to achieving lasting change.
In 1994, the BAMM board invited eighteen carefully chosen grassroots community leaders from the rural South to explore their interest in forming a new grantmaking entity, which they would govern. They were stunned, but three meetings later they said yes.
During SPF’s four years of formation, we provided the container, a safe space for community leaders to build trust in themselves and in one another, and most importantly, relationships that would stand the test of time.
In 1998, SPF founders incorporated, creating their own bylaws and developing a grantmaking program focused on community organizing. In the process, they had created a revolutionary new philanthropic resource. While SPF’s footprint is local and regional, our grantee partners and funding model now impact policy on a national level.