Mission & Vision
The Babcock Foundation’s mission is to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice. We recognize that poverty is complicated and multi-faceted. We believe in the need for significant changes in the systems and structures—laws, behaviors, attitudes, policies and institutions—that make a difference to people and their communities. To overcome tough barriers, people often need concrete assistance, like access to employment, workforce training or affordable housing, that results in direct improvements and supports them in achieving their full potential. We also believe people who develop skills and believe in themselves can successfully improve their own lives and act collectively to increase opportunity for themselves and their communities.
Our vision for the South is anchored in a belief in people, organizations and the power of partnerships.
Our vision for the South is anchored in a belief in people, organizations and the power of partnerships. We believe more people must directly influence the institutions and leaders that shape their economic and civic lives. Better policy and more collaborative institutions, public and private, should provide supportive and equitable ladders of economic opportunity. More people and communities need to access, control and build assets essential for economic mobility and stability. Progress along all three pathways—civic engagement, supportive policy and institutions, and economic opportunity—is critical to moving people and places out of poverty.
We recognize there are serious challenges to this vision in the South and beyond: Structural racism and other forms of discrimination are major barriers. Political control remains too concentrated. Disinvestment in public goods like education and the safety net has eroded the foundation people need to get ahead. The economy too often rewards short-term market behavior that hurts low-wealth people, communities and natural systems.
Overcoming these challenges and advancing this vision is not easy work. It takes long- term and patient investment. It takes collaboration among unusual partners. It takes effective and well-resourced organizations, enterprises and networks working together in new ways across race, geography, strategy and issues. It requires low-wealth and directly affected people to be central to the solutions in their communities and across the region. It takes a commitment to democracy, equity and inclusion.
While these solutions are not simple, we believe they are not only possible but essential to promoting economic opportunity and reducing poverty and inequality in the South.
We don't believe in a "silver bullet" approach to poverty alleviation. Investments in multiple organizations and coalitions over time, using complementary strategies and informed by their understanding of place, are most successful.
Engage with all Assets
We strategically deploy 100 percent of our financial assets (grants, program-related investments and market-rate investments), use our intellectual and reputational capital to influence and leverage investments from other sources, communicate strategically and look for opportunities to convene grantees and other partners for peer learning. We deploy staff as "network officers" to engage deeply in a place, learn the context and determine how best to support our partners.
We believe networks of people and organizations who bring together diverse strategies, capacities and perspectives have greater impact than those working alone. We support efforts to develop leaders who are directly affected and connect them to partners and opportunities that increase their influence.
We aim to strengthen every dimension (program, governance, management, administration, finance, culture, etc.) of healthy organizations and networks through patient, long-term general support and attention to organizational development.
Since its founding in 1953, the Babcock Foundation has been building on its experiences to hone its work and tell the story of the South. We reflect on and capture lessons and share them broadly with our grantee and philanthropic partners. We seek out important crosscutting topics, commission research as needed and share our findings with our colleagues in the field.
There are many Souths. Each state and region has its own context, history, challenges and opportunities. We believe an understanding of and focus on place are central to defining unique opportunities, challenges and partnerships to move people and places out of poverty.
Pathways of Change
People are better positioned to escape poverty when they have direct access to jobs and ways to turn income into durable assets. Some of these ladders of economic opportunity include work supports, job training and connections to employers seeking skilled, fair-wage labor. Others include access to non-predatory financial services, local control of community assets and tools to encourage entrepreneurship and new business models.
Democracy & civic engagement
We believe in the power of democracy and civic engagement to effect positive transformations. This happens when a broad range of people—including those who are low-wealth and directly affected by inequality—develop the knowledge, skills, networks and motivation to build democratic systems and challenge entrenched structures. Key strategies to support these outcomes include community organizing, leadership development, inclusive community planning, voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Supportive policies & institutions
For communities to thrive, for‐profit and nonprofit institutions and all levels of government must embrace cultures and policies that open doors to economic opportunity and democratic participation for low-wealth people. Supportive institutions can bring new resources to the table, effectively implement policy and leverage political will. Strategies toward these outcomes include research, strategic communications, advocacy and community organizing.
Why the South Matters
"As the South goes, so goes the nation."
Historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois maintained a strong South is critical to the health of the nation, and his words ring as true today as they did a century ago. The country relies heavily on the incredible assets found here: water, food, manufacturing, culture, human capital, energy and natural resources. The South also bears some of America’s greatest challenges, including racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. Too often, Southern states are laboratories for regressive policies that are exported to other places; conversely, solutions that prove effective here have a better shot at working elsewhere and improving national policy. We believe a stronger economy and more inclusive politics would better integrate rural and urban communities to the clear benefit of both.
The South's population is booming, and with it, its influence on the rest of the country. A third of the Electoral College votes needed to take the White House are here, with five more likely after the 2020 Census. Immigration and a reversal of the Great Migration are rapidly diversifying the region and expanding its urban centers. More organizations are engaging people in voting and other forms of democratic engagement, offering opportunities for collaborative, multi-strategy investment.
"The question becomes not why should we fund social justice work in the South, but why aren't we funding social justice work in the South?"
The need is great: Southerners have lower household incomes, high school graduation rates and life expectancy, and higher income inequality and teen pregnancy rates. Data from the Foundation Center show philanthropy isn't stepping in to address those disparities; funding here falls far short of national averages.
In its report As the South Goes, Grantmakers for Southern Progress explored the ways funders think about social justice in the South and why they support or do not support it. GSP wrote: "Philanthropy can play a pivotal role in expanding the reach and benefit of [the South's] opportunities by making strategic investments toward dismantling the structural barriers to opportunity and fostering well-being by reducing persistent social and economic inequities. Investing in social justice in the South can improve conditions for the region and for the country as a whole. Consequently, the question becomes not why should we fund social justice work in the South, but why aren't we funding social justice in the South?"
In addition to grantmaking, our financial investments are an effective tool for achieving positive impact. Mission investing includes market-rate investments and below-market-rate program-related investments (PRIs). Our PRIs directly support our mission in the South, while our market-rate investments align with our values and meet our Investment Policy, which includes environmental, social and governance factors. These criteria include labor rights, climate impact, natural resource use, corporate governance, supply chain management, community impact and other best practices. We believe this investment approach is consistent with fiduciary responsibility, and we expect our portfolio to generate competitive market performance returns.
Our investment policy establishes a goal of spending 5.5 percent of a 12-quarter moving average of the market value of our endowment, allowing the fund to exceed the IRS-mandated 5-percent spending.
Front row, left to right:
Jerry Gonzalez, Atlanta, GA
Jerry Gonzalez is the Executive Director of GALEO.
Laura Mountcastle, Ann Arbor, MI (Vice President)
Laura Mountcastle recently retired as Vice President of Investor Relations and Treasurer at CMS Energy.
Dr. Otis Johnson, Savannah, GA
Dr. Otis Johnson served as Mayor of Savannah, GA, from 2004 to 2012.
Kara Mountcastle, Durham, NC
Kara Mountcastle is a former consultant in the financial services sector, and most recently worked for the North Carolina Democratic Coordinated Campaign.
Dr. James Mitchell, Selma, AL (President)
Dr. Mitchell is President of Wallace Community College Selma.
Back row, left to right:
Chad Berry, Berea, KY
Chad Berry is the Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty at Berea College.
Ivan Kohar Parra, Durham, NC
Ivan Kohar Parra is Executive Director of the North Carolina Latino Coalition.
Zachary Lassiter, Washington, DC
Zachary Lassiter is a foreign policy research analyst with Wikistrat Consulting.
Ken Mountcastle, Washington, DC
Ken Mountcastle is former Corporate Relations Officer at the American Humane Association.
LaVeeda Battle, Birmingham, AL
LaVeeda Battle is an attorney and owner of Battle Law Firm, LLC in Birmingham, AL.
Jennifer BarksdaleSenior Finance Officer
Toshawia BrunerOperations Assistant
Elena ConleyAssociate Network Officer
Jennifer "Fitzy" FitzgeraldExecutive Assistant
Lavastian GlennProgram Director
Susanna HegnerCommunications Officer
Justin MaxsonExecutive Director
Christine MayersGrants Manager
Katie Sonnen-LeeProgram Associate
Gladys WashingtonDeputy Director