Mission, Vision & Values
The Babcock Foundation’s mission is to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice.
We believe progress along all three of our pathways of change—civic engagement, supportive policy and institutions, and economic opportunity—is critical to moving people and places out of poverty.
We envision a South celebrated for its diversity, culture, beauty and abundance, where everyone’s experiences, wisdom and wellbeing are valued.
We envision a South where everyone has free and fair access to the ballot, and government reflects the demographics of its constituents. Diversity in leadership yields policies and practices that benefit everyone, particularly people of color, low-wealth individuals and rural communities.
We envision a South characterized by people-centered prosperity, with shared wealth, asset ownership, robust and safe family-wage employment and the supports needed to access meaningful work.
We envision a South liberated from white supremacy, where communities are no longer segregated, and intersecting identities – race, gender, sexual orientation, geography, ability – no longer predict individual achievement, to the clear benefit of everyone.
We envision a South where people are safe from harm, and sufficient public resources are dedicated to building strong and healthy communities. Everyone has clean air, water, energy, and access to high-quality education and health care.
We believe our vision of the South is possible. We invite you to join us in pursuit of it.
With patience and urgency, we pursue this vision with our grantee partners, adhering to four long-held values:
- Equity: To ensure all people can thrive, we must understand their distinct challenges and support solutions that meet their needs, create opportunities and dismantle obstacles to potential, including structural racism.
- Community centered: The voices and experiences of people affected by structural challenges are central to creating solutions that work.
- Democracy: Everyone should have fair and unfettered access to the levers of power and change.
- Risk-taking: We are willing to take the measures needed to advance justice with and through our grantee partners, our financial resources and our voice.
Our Commitment to Racial Equity
Potential is universal. Opportunity is not, particularly in the South.
In a more equitable South, a person’s wellbeing would not be determined by race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, physical ability or class. All people would live in healthy, safe communities, participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and share in the region’s prosperity. Communities, guided by a rich diversity of experience and wisdom, would be strong and resilient.
Racism, however, continues to present barriers to fulfilling potential. Slavery, segregation and a host of laws, policies and practices have entrenched white supremacy, delivering enormous advantages to whites and pervasive disadvantages to people of color. While some of those systems have changed, the vast inequities they created persist in modern-day vestiges: school and housing segregation, sentencing disparities, lending and hiring discrimination, and wealth and homeownership gaps. Structural racism remains a monumental barrier to our mission; it must be dismantled for everyone to realize America’s promises.
In a more equitable South, communities, guided by a rich diversity of experience and wisdom, would be strong and resilient.
We would all benefit from greater equity. A report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation found closing the racial wealth gap would boost America’s GDP by $8 trillion by 2050, generating more resources to invest in public goods like infrastructure, health care and education. To maximize the contributions and opportunities of people of color, the South’s institutions and systems must be recalibrated. That requires an honest examination of policies and practices to determine who is excluded or disadvantaged, and empowering them to redesign the systems. It demands resources and solutions tailored to specific needs and the elimination of barriers that limit individual opportunity and collective potential. It requires people who look and think differently to listen and learn and seek common cause.
For our part, the Babcock Foundation is committed to infusing equity into our work while continuing some core approaches: centering communities in solutions, helping organizations build their capacity to do more, cultivating innovative partnerships and advancing systems change with long-term resources. We will explore new ways to amplify a broad range of voices and strengthen leaders who reflect the full diversity of the South’s demographics.
We acknowledge philanthropy itself is often a product of systemic social and economic inequalities, and our mission compels us to use all our resources to reduce those disparities. Doing so could mean shifting our internal policies, grantmaking procedures, investment strategies, organizational culture and the small decisions we make every day. We will confront our own personal biases, meet people where they are and hold each other accountable. We will learn by doing.
We will also lean on our peers and partners and hope they’ll lean on us, too. We are fortunate to be part of a vibrant network of organizations and coalitions striving for racial equity. As we learn from and with them, we aim to be transparent by communicating our processes, any changes we make and lessons we learn along the way, recognizing we are a work in progress.
We invite you to join us on this journey and share your wisdom as we all strive for a more equitable South.
Click here to learn more.
The Foundation makes investments in organizations and networks that deploy complementary strategies based on their analyses of how race and power are operating in their distinct contexts, and what communities need to achieve greater social and economic justice. These aligned groups hold common visions for their places and fulfill distinct roles in service of their shared goals.
Engage with all Assets
Our program staff spend considerable time fostering relationships and learning about the places where we work so we can allocate our grantmaking dollars in the most strategic, effective ways. In addition to making grants, we make program-related investments and market-rate investments in service of our mission and region. Through convening, networking, strategic communications and partnerships with fellow philanthropic foundations, we make the case for increased, responsible, sustained investment in the South.
Our grantee partners collaborate via strong networks that enable them to align strategies, share resources and identify distinct roles, thereby increasing the efficacy of each member organization. This approach also provides grassroots groups, community organizers and emerging leaders with opportunities to grow their influence and impact.
The Foundation provides multiyear general operating support to our grantee partners and offers funding for organizational development needs: program, governance, management, succession planning, administration, finance, equity culture, etc.
Since our founding in 1953, the Babcock Foundation has been building on our experiences to hone our work and tell a truer story of the South. We share these lessons broadly with our grantee and philanthropic partners and use it to guide our strategy and how we support our grantee partners on the ground.
There are many Souths. Each state or subregion 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
America’s economic systems were structured with the express intent to enrich white people while extracting labor from Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous Americans and denying them the tools to build wealth. To this day, these systems continue to expand the racial wealth gap. Justice-minded organizations and networks across the South are working to erode these systems and construct equitable alternatives through access to non-predatory financial services, local control of community assets, entrepreneurship support, new business models and training for family wage employment. We support these groups not only to serve their communities, but also to grow their organizational capacity and develop new leaders. This way, they remain durable and stable to build for the future, and nimble and responsive to the needs of a given moment.
Democracy & civic engagement
Advancing social and economic justice requires organizations and networks to build power with and for people of color, low-wealth communities and all groups who have been shut out from the decisions that affect their lives. Across the South, organizations and networks are challenging entrenched structures and building more democratic systems through community organizing, leadership development, inclusive community planning, voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts. We are always seeking to learn who is building power, with and for whom. Access to power may be in the electoral, legislative, administrative, judicial/legal, corporate or narrative arenas.
Supportive policies & institutions
Public and private policies have profound influence on people’s quality of life. Examples include voting rights, budget and tax fairness, judicial systems, immigration enforcement, health care, education, climate, public transit and workplace protocols. Many of our grantee partners push all levels of government, public and private institutions to implement policies that better serve all communities, families, students, workers and individuals through research, advocacy, strategic communications 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 investments are an effective tool for achieving positive impact. They include market-rate investments and below-market program-related investments. Our PRIs directly support our mission in the South, while our market-rate investments align with our values and adhere to 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. In recent years, we have increased our grantmaking to help our partners respond to challenging shifts in their environments.
Here are some terms we frequently use to describe our approach to investing:
Community Development Financial Institution
Financial institution such as a community development bank, credit union, loan fund or venture capital fund with a mission to expand economic opportunity through credit, financial services and technical assistance in communities underserved by other financial institutions. The U.S. Treasury Department certifies CDFIs, enabling them to apply for federal grants and finance a broad range of activities.
Environmental, Social and Governance Factors
Guidelines to ensure investments promote sustainable, fair and effective practices and mitigate potential risks. Considerations include natural resource use, human and labor rights, community impact and corporate structure. The Babcock Foundation’s endowment is 100 percent invested according to these factors, a practice we refer to as values-aligned investing rather than mission investing, since our mission is focused specifically on poverty alleviation in the American South.
Capital intended to generate measurable social and environmental benefits as well as profit. These financial returns can be below-market as part of a foundation’s annual distribution strategy or market-rate as in the investment of its endowment.
A form of impact investing that advances an organization’s mission and programmatic goals.
An investment whose primary purpose is to advance a foundation's mission rather than generate profit, influence legislation or fund a political campaign. PRIs are an IRS designation, and these investments are counted toward a private foundation’s annual five percent minimum distribution requirement. Once repaid, PRI returns are recycled into new investments.
LaVeeda Battle, Birmingham, AL
LaVeeda Battle is an attorney and owner of Battle Law Firm, LLC.
Dr. Chad Berry, Berea, KY
Chad Berry is the Goode Professor of Appalachian Studies and Professor of History, former Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty, Berea College.
Dr. Micah Gilmer, Durham, NC
Micah Gilmer is a Senior Partner at Frontline Solutions. (Micah is taking a leave of absence from the board to serve as MRBF's interim CEO.)
Jerry Gonzalez, Atlanta, GA (President)
Jerry Gonzalez is the CEO of GALEO.
Zachary Lassiter, Washington, DC
Zachary Lassiter is a Foreign Policy Research Analyst with Wikistrat Consulting.
Dr. James Mitchell, Selma, AL
Dr. Mitchell is the President of Wallace Community College Selma.
Holt Mountcastle, Washington, DC
Holt Mountcastle is a consultant at RE Tech Advisors.
Kara Mountcastle, Durham, NC (Secretary)
Kara Mountcastle is an Operations Analyst for Modern Energy.
Kathy Mountcastle, Lake Wales, FL
Kathy Mountcastle is a former producer for CBS News.
Ken Mountcastle, Washington, DC (Treasurer)
Ken Mountcastle is former Corporate Relations Officer at the American Humane Association.
Laura Mountcastle, Ann Arbor, MI
Laura Mountcastle is former Vice President of Investor Relations and Treasurer at CMS Energy.
Stephanie Tyree, Fayette Co., WV
Stephanie Tyree is Executive Director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub.
Dr. Otis Johnson, Savannah, GA
Dr. Otis Johnson served as Mayor of Savannah from 2004 to 2012.
Barbara Millhouse, New York, NY
Barbara Millhouse is founder of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.
Jennifer BarksdaleChief Finance and Operations Officer
Kiara BooneNetwork Officer
Kiona CarringtonExecutive Assistant
Elena ConleyChief Strategy Officer
Tania DuránSenior Network Officer
Amy EasterExecutive Assistant
Scott EdmondsNetwork Officer
Alyssa FuentesExecutive Assistant
Micah GilmerInterim Chief Executive Officer
Ethan HamblinSenior Network Officer
Susanna HegnerCommunications Director
Christine MayersGrants Manager
Dwayne PattersonChief Equity Officer