SOUTHERN PARTNERS FUND
Democratic Philanthropy in Action
Take a look at these support letters from two of our donors. Get to know us, and consider supporting SPF’s democratic philanthropy at whatever level works for you.
New Visions Foundation aims to support a cultural transition to a more fair, democratic and sustainable society. In 2014, I started to realize that there are activists In the South who embrace this vision, and struggle to advance their organizations in a difficult and resistant climate. Reports from the National Committee on Responsible Philanthropy, (NCRP) indicated this climate of resistance had national implications, that “as the South goes, so goes the nation”. They observed that grassroots change efforts in the South were largely neglected by progressive funders from outside the region -- like us.
So, we began exploring possibilities for supporting social change work in the South. We learned that SPF, guided and managed by grassroots organizers themselves, is intimately familiar with the goals and struggles of progressive movements across the region. We soon determined that the most effective way to support visionary, community-oriented activism in the South would be to build SPF’s grantmaking capacity and let them allocate the funds to groups on the frontlines in neglected and underfunded communities. We provided fairly modest grants for a couple of years, and then made a major multiyear commitment, including contributions to SPF’s endowment, enabling them to continue their vital work for years to come. Now our grants to SPF are by far the largest we give.
In late 2018, I attended a gathering of SPF’s constituent organizations and met around 60 organizers from the region, a group of especially devoted, warm-hearted and inspiring leaders. They work, usually in challenging if not discouraging situations, to bring new visions of justice, compassion, healing, and empowerment to their communities. This is exactly what our foundation was established to promote, and it is unlikely that we would have discovered most of these small local organizations on our own. By partnering with SPF, New Visions Foundation is able to steer resources where they are sorely needed and where they can make a significant difference in people’s lives. Isn’t this what philanthropy is for?
I encourage other funders to join us. Take a closer look at Southern Partners Fund and expect to be inspired!
Twenty years ago, I helped midwife Southern Partners Fund into existence. My family foundation, Bert and Mary Meyer Foundation, provided a container from 1994-1998 for SPF’s founders, 18 grassroots community leaders from throughout the rural South, to define SPF”s mission, structure and values. Ten years later, using an IRS required intermediary, we turned over our multi-million-dollar endowment to Southern Partners Fund.
Since their founding 21 years ago, they have distributed $15 million in grants and grown their endowment from $6 million to $9 million while continuing to be governed by a board of people of color community leaders from throughout the rural South. Those impacted by systemic injustice, the “real experts” in SPF’s eyes, make all operating and grantmaking decisions. Fernando Cuevas, SPF’s executive director, began working in tomato fields at the tender age of eight. SPF’s board, members and staff are the real thing.
Their mission statement created 20 years ago, is even more relevant today:
“We believe that culture is the essence of our people and should be valued, shared, and preserved. We have built our strength and unity by incorporating standards of integrity, respect, love, diversity and interconnectedness.”
SPF’s grantee leaders are continuing the southern civil rights movement in the midst of dwindling financial support from outside the region. Southern Partners Fund is the only foundation that supports and connects grantees to build a power base in the entire rural South.
I am extremely proud to be a 20-year funder of Southern Partners Fund. I am proud of their grantmaking history, of their feisty determination to prevail, despite hearing in early years that they would not succeed if they let the fox loose in the henhouse. Their critics could not foresee the fox living in peace and harmony in a henhouse where the hens were in charge.
What an incredibly inspirational model.