We support nonprofits helping people & places move out of poverty & achieve greater social & economic justice.


Who We Support

We look for promising work that reflects the opportunity in its place, aligns with the Foundation’s mission and demonstrates the following characteristics:

  • Connections with low-wealth people: Applicants must have meaningful connections with low-wealth people and communities. We encourage networks that include both grassroots organizations and institutional partners. Applicants that are not accountable to low-wealth people through their governance structures must demonstrate 1) impact in low-wealth communities, 2) trusting relationships with low-wealth people and 3) an analysis of poverty that recognizes the need to address systems and policy.
  • Clear analysis and strategies: Competitive applicants will have clear, promising strategies for moving people and places out of poverty, including institutional or policy change at the local, state and/or regional levels. These strategies should flow from an understanding of short-term and long-term challenges and opportunities in their places. 
  • Networks, alliances and resources: We look for goal-oriented, flexible relationships among the non-profit, public and private sectors to leverage resources and achieve impact. The networks may be formal or informal, short-term or long-term, and structured in a variety of ways. The networks should employ multiple social-change strategies or pathways of change that make sense in their places. 
  • Long-term view: We are interested in efforts that take a long-term view of what is required for people and places to move out of poverty, and systems and policy changes that open doors to democratic participation and economic opportunities.
  • Strategic and opportunistic: We are interested in long-term, patient work to build critical infrastructure in local communities, states and the region. We are also interested in supporting work where the moment to act is now to make significant change or leverage significant resources that will have long-term impact on the lives of many people and communities.

The Foundation also remains open to new thinking about how to address poverty in the South. In addition to our primary focus, MRBF is interested in supporting new approaches to achieving economic opportunity, systems and policy change, or democracy and civic engagement outcomes. These efforts must demonstrably advance our vision of social and economic justice in the South. Our annual grantmaking allocation for new approaches is significantly smaller than for our primary focus. 

Where We Work

The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation funds across the South, but given the region's size and complexity, we focus the majority of our efforts in priority places where promising networks are advancing complementary outcomes. At this time, we have particular interest in supporting economic transition work in Central Appalachia, civic engagement in Georgia and North Carolina, civic engagement for local and state policy change in Arkansas and Louisiana, and community economic development efforts in South Carolina.

One way we learn about promising work across the region is through our open inquiry process. We are pleased to receive organizational summaries from organizations that meet our eligibility requirements and fit with our program description, regardless of geography. 

How Funds May Be Used

Types of grants: Organizations may use grant funds in a variety of ways, including:

  • General operating support
  • Project support
  • “Glue” support for networks of grassroots and partner organizations
  • Organizational development support

Size and duration of grants: The size and duration of grants is matched to the applicant’s scale of impact, need, capabilities and opportunities, and typically follow these guidelines:

  • We provide one-year funding for initial grants We consider continuation of funding in two-year increments
  • We rarely make grants that exceed 30% of a project or organizational budget

Program-related investments (PRIs): We look for opportunities to make below-market-rate investments to spur economic development in low-wealth communities. To qualify, an organization must have:

  • Mission and impact consistent with our grant-making priorities
  • A track record of managing debt or equity investments
  • A solid business plan
  • Other investors

Download our complete Program Description


The Foundation’s board reviews proposals in June and October of each year. We invite applications from organizations we deem eligible after reviewing their organizational summaries.

Submit an organizational summary

Submit an organizational summary using our new approaches guidelines.

Account Login

Most Recent Grants

Southern Workers Opportunity Fund (2021)

Amount: $1,000,000
End Year: 2023

The mission of the Southern Workers Opportunity Fund is to better understand and improve the conditions of workers in the U.S. South to create sustainable opportunities for prosperity. This grant provides project support. 

Southern Partners Fund (2021)

Amount: $450,000
End Year: 2023

Southern Partners Fund supports grassroots community organizations in the rural South seeking racial, economic and environmental justice by providing financial resources, technical assistance, training and access to systems of information and power. This grant provides general operating and regranting support. 

Browse Grants