Ford Foundation Invests $10M to Support Southern Organizing via Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation

Today the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation announced it will invest an additional $10 million from the Ford Foundation to support organizing and advocacy in the American South. Over the next five years, Ford’s investment will augment the Babcock Foundation’s ongoing primary grantmaking strategy, which is to help strengthen the growing organizations and networks working together to advance racial equity. 

The Babcock Foundation sees how sustained investment in grassroots organizations and networks strengthens Southerners’ lives in significant ways. In most of these states, there are growing networks of grassroots organizations with state-level alignment that are advancing voting rights and access to the ballot box, making constituents’ voices are heard on the issues important to them. These organizations are engaged in census outreach and redistricting processes to ensure fair maps, adequate federal funding and accurate representation in state legislatures and Congress. Across the region, these groups also leapt into action when COVID-19 hit, creating mutual aid funds for people who were not eligible for federal assistance.  

The unique collaboration between the Babcock and Ford Foundations highlights how trusting relationships yield lasting social benefits. The two foundations have worked together previously to target millions of dollars to areas that have suffered from a dearth of public and philanthropic investment. When the Babcock Foundation shared its revised strategic directions, with deepened commitments to power building and racial equity, Ford saw an opportunity to invest in the success of a shared vision for the region.

“The Babcock Foundation envisions a South where everyone can influence the decisions that affect quality of life, with responsive and representative leadership, people-centered policies, and abundant economic opportunities,” said MRBF Chief Strategy Officer Elena Conley. “Ford’s investment in the power building infrastructure will galvanize the work it will take to realize this vision.” 

"There is an urgent need to support the communities and people long excluded from the decisions affecting their lives, particularly in the American South," said Sarita Gupta, vice president of US programs for the Ford Foundation. "We are thrilled to partner with the Babcock Foundation to bolster the innovative advocacy that has always existed in the South and cannot wait to see what these organizations accomplish in the months and years to come."

Historically, philanthropic and public sector support for the South has been sporadic and fallen far short of national averages, undermining organizations’ efforts to grow their capacity, organize, base-build and bring people into the fold by meeting basic needs and addressing real-life challenges. The Babcock and Ford partnership aims to offer support in ways that bolster the Southern power building infrastructure more responsibly and sustainably. The foundations will capture and share lessons to sharpen their own grantmaking and inform and influence other funders’ understanding about effective ways to support Southern organizations.

Both foundations are eager to identify and fund advocacy work in the South with multiyear, general operating support. Organizations who see themselves in MRBF’s program description are welcome to submit an organizational summary to determine whether they are a good fit for this funding. 



The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation’s mission is to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice. The Foundation supports organizations and networks in 11 Southern states pursuing change along three connected pathways: democracy and civic engagement, supportive policies and institutions, and economic opportunity. 


The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.


Susanna Hegner, Communications Director, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation: (336) 726-1467

Tolu Onafowokan, Ford Foundation,

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