As The South Grows

Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) revisits our groundbreaking series to explore what is transpiring on the frontlines as the South grows. In the spirit of collective learning (and unlearning), we hope the resources you find here will inspire collaboration between movement leaders and funders to support systems change work in the region.

Our Storytellers

As the South Grows would not be possible without the contributions of 
movement leaders and funder allies.
Meet the genius behind the stories. Click on the photos for our storyteller bios.

Erin Dale McClellan

Executive director of The Partnership and Partnership Action Fund

Tamieka Atkins

Executive Director of ProGeorgia

Cliff Albright

Co-founder and Executive Director of Black Voters Matter


Southern communities are rich with natural leaders and existing organizations but often funders don’t recognize them. Meet the grassroots movement leaders who are moving mountains on shoe-string budgets.


Communities across the South already have the assets and capacity to build locally grown and owned wealth and protect other assets such as culture and heritage. But philanthropy has to be willing to invest in their success. Learn about the link between community-driven economic development and equity in the South.


Southern communities need to be whole in order to remain resilient in the face of ongoing climate crises – culturally, socially, economically and politically. Philanthropy within and outside the South has a key role to play in supporting Southern leaders who seek to build that community cohesion necessary to overcome environmental threats.


Atlanta is home to the largest charitable sector in the South, but most philanthropic resources deployed in the city have gone to provide direct services rather than to build power and change systems. As movements keep growing in power and size, they will need the support to expand their work beyond Atlanta to ensure that their freedom and safety exists at the state level.


The South has often been the proving ground for some of the nation’s most regressive public policies and rhetoric. Choosing not to invest in Southern structural change work puts marginalized people across the country in harm’s way. Trust between philanthropy and movement is key to turn vision and skill into larger-scale change.

Looking Back,
Moving Forward

In 2017, GSP partnered with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) to create a series of reports that lifted stories from across the South. These stories highlighted both the beauty of the region – the most diverse demographics in the nation, vibrant and varied cultures, and breathtaking natural resources – as well as the many challenges preventing Southerners from living whole and happy lives – persistent poverty, racialized violence, the disastrous effects of climate change, underinvestment in communities, and more. The goal was clear: use these stories as a catalyst to increase and sustain funding for marginalized communities in the South, fund strategies that are informed by directly impacted communities and improve the quality of life and build power among Southern people.

Why Now?

A new relationship between movement organizations and philanthropy sparked in 2019. Under the pressure of COVID-19 and racial uprisings, we saw several social justice funders reimagine their definitions of risk and test the limits around how quickly money can be moved through institutions. Today, the fallout of those events coupled with multiple climate catastrophes, a volatile economy, and an increasingly hostile political climate have brought on a new series of challenges. Led by the voices of grassroots organizers and social justice funders across the South, a new As the South Grows report series will unpack learnings around the work identified as present-day threats and victorious paths to liberation.


It’s been five years since GSP worked with National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) to release the first As the South Grows (ATSG) report series. We’ve seen a pandemic, racial uprisings, and the birth of many movements in that timeframe. If anything is for certain, it’s that As the South Grows has an even more significant meaning now. Southern communities are facing a new day of assaults, leaving them more vulnerable than ever. It is undeniable that the last five years have shown us that funders have a particular role in the social justice ecosystem. Funders should not view themselves as drivers, gatekeepers, or even sustainers of the ecosystem, but rather as strategic allies and resource generators. As funders, our role requires us to align with the solutions created by social justice movements led by Black, Brown, and Indigenous organizations, which will help shift the needle toward equity and justice. We can no longer shy away from supporting the transformation of unjust structures in our society that collectively hold us back. Social justice organizations across the South are putting everything on the line to protect our most vulnerable communities. As the South grows, funders must move resources consistently and deeply to strengthen the structural change infrastructure in the South.

Read the report.

Propagating Power

Southern political organizing is an entity all its own. While the South has historically been the most politically visionary region in the nation, extractive funding practices, voter suppression, persistent racism, and the misrepresentation of the South as a “lost cause” continues to hold Southerners in political limbo.  

As we consider the continued growth of the South, our political power, and the legacy of resistance movements continuing to shape the region, we think about philanthropy’s responsibility in the work. We believe we must recognize the wisdom and tactics of those who came before us, partner with movement organizers who show up for their communities year-round and share strategies that will sustain Southern progress long-term. We see this responsibility as an act of propagation, whereby we continue the cycle of growth for Southern movement infrastructure through consistency, investment, and care. In As the South Grows: Propagating Power, Grantmakers for Southern Progress and our movement partners explain the complicated political conditions Southerners must navigate daily and offer solutions philanthropy must implement to ensure that Black, Brown, Indigenous and all directly impacted communities in the South are no longer left behind.

Read the report.

Southern Climate Infrastructure

In a region where climate response happens year-round, the South has been disproportionately impacted by increasing storm fronts without the necessary investments into the infrastructure needed to prevent, plan, and prepare for extreme weather. Building infrastructure outside moments of crisis is especially crucial in the South where Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to natural and manmade disasters. The time to build a cohesive strategy to support the infrastructure of just climate work is now. Philanthropy must invest resources in climate activists who understand the importance of response and what it takes to slow the increase of climate disasters in the region.

Healthcare Access in Black, Brown & Indigenous Communities

The dichotomies around health and healthcare access for communities in the South clearly illustrate the need for strategic investment in health infrastructure. With an astounding rate of hospital and clinic closures unfolding across the region and the continuous fight for Medicaid expansion, opportunities for quality, affordable care for Southern communities are dwindling. The overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 has led to a surge in harmful legislation banning essential, life-saving healthcare services like abortion and gender affirming care. It is no coincidence that as healthcare access is becoming increasingly limited, marginalized people are experiencing extreme health disparities.

Economic Justice & Security

The South is home to extreme class disparity. The Southern economic infrastructure is built on and creates the outcomes of a plantation economy system, where the success of agriculture and manufacturing are predicated on the exploitation of Black and Brown communities. For folks on the ground fighting for workers, dismantling extractive industries and harmful capitalist practices poses an increased risk. ATSG will explore ways that philanthropy can double down on its commitment to building a just economy for Southern communities.

Solidarity & Infrastructure Building

No matter which topic, geography, or community is considered, frontline leaders cannot be successful without being grounded in solidarity. The South is not a monolith, and the South has before us a great opportunity to build a coalition of movement leaders who are working in concert towards the goal of liberation. Philanthropy plays an integral role in this fight and has the ability to harness the collective power, resources, and influence of the sector to sustain the vision, strategies, and mobilization of movements that will irrevocably change the South.

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