Snapshot of MCF’s Grantmaking Strategy & the South Region
There are several aspects of the Foundation’s South Region that give it its character.
- Seven of the region’s eight states are home to government trifectas, where one party – in this case the GOP – controls the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. Those seven make up more than a quarter of the Republicans’ 25 trifecta states and help give the GOP the largest tilt in party dominance by state since the Civil War. Yet in six of those GOP-trifecta states the largest city has a Democrat mayor as well as a city council that reflects solid Democrat voting bases. These are the so-called Blue City/Red State jurisdictions, where Democrat lawmakers in cities pass measures that are often nullified by conservative-leaning state governments.·
- Blue City/Red State politics have played out in the South as cities attempt to raise minimum wages.·
- In Louisville, Kentucky and Birmingham, Alabama, Foundation grantees helped spearhead efforts to convince local lawmakers to raise minimum wages from the federal standard $7.25 an hour to as much as $10.10 an hour. But each time, state officials stepped in to prohibit the cities from raising wages. Foundation grantees are countering state preemption with federal lawsuits and strong statewide coalitions.
And there are some areas in the South where efforts to bring about change have produced lasting results, due in large part to Foundation investments, which has comprised 338 grants since its inception.
- Change is often said to come slowly in the South, but foundation grantees have shown that when changes do occur they are significant. Florida grantees joined a statewide contingent in 2016 that convinced the state to drop the five year wait for immigrant children who lawfully reside in Florida to receive low-cost health insurance. The grantees credit multi-year general support as crucial to the move, which was more than a decade in the making.·
- In Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina’s wrath exposed both city’s abject poverty and its lack of effective organizing for low-income people of color. Through foundation investments in movement building, Louisiana has robust means of advancing policies; the Louisiana Equal Voice Network in 2015 crafted a statewide people’s agenda to improve in Louisiana most impoverished communities. What followed was a voter engagement campaign that helped elect Louisiana’s first Democratic governor since Katrina.
Expect grantees in the South to continue to make gains on partnerships that have begun to bear fruit.
- Farmworker Association of Florida in 2016 helped stage a two-day convening for enforcement of changes to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard – including a minimum age requirement of 18 years for handling pesticides.·
- The Arkansas Public Policy Panel in 2016 convened the Citizens’ First Congress, a group of statewide organizations that advance 10 issues as a cohort then demonstrate how the legislative process works. The Congress has successfully petitioned state lawmakers to approve Medicaid expansion.
The 2016 elections highlighted the voices of the nation’s rural areas, and there have been calls to pay closer attention to the plight of those who live there. Fortunately, the Foundation saw fit to do so well before last November, and our next work in the South will reflect that.
- A grant to the Institute for Policy Studies enables it to work with Mississippi grantee Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative to develop a report on job opportunities for black women in the rural South. The Equal Voice for Florida’s Families Network has created a separate rural network, comprising five grantees to empower families in rural communities statewide.·
- The surprise victory of Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, along with GOP victories in the U.S. House and Senate, has given the nation its own trifecta, prompting Greater Birmingham Ministries Executive Director Scott Douglas to proclaim, “We’re all in Alabama now.”
- The upside is that given what they’re accustomed to, virtually nothing should catch our South grantees unawares. Even prior to the general election, they began planning around midterm elections, gauging ways to make gains locally and statewide. For them, it’s business as usual.
To Learn More about the Marguerite Casey Foundation Grantmaking in the South.