Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

SECF’s online Research Library is regularly updated with the latest reports relevant to Southern philanthropy. SECF members can browse over 400 research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

Below are some of the key findings and highlights of the newest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Director of Research and Data, at or (404) 524-0911.


#JusticeIsTheFoundation: New Data on Racial Equity and Racial Justice Funding in Education Philanthropy

Schott Foundation for Public Education (2021)

The Schott Foundation for Public Education partnered with Candid to critically examine the distribution of grant dollars within education philanthropy, specifically the amount of funding directed towards racial equity and racial justice in education. This website offers key findings from their analysis, which looked at education grantmaking by foundations from 2010-2019. Results of the analysis showed that both racial equity and racial justice are dramatically underfunded categories in K-12 education, with only 10 percent of education funding in recent years focused on racial equity and less than 1 percent focused on racial justice. Furthermore, the amount of grant dollars awarded in these areas has actually declined over the past decade as need has increased. Findings also show that the geographic distribution of funding is uneven, with 63 percent of grants for racial justice in education going to recipients in the Northeast, 17 percent to recipients in the West, 16 percent awarded in the Southeast, and only 5 percent to Midwest recipients. 


11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2021

Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University (2021)

This white paper from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University offers eleven key trends for the social sector in 2021. Each trend is highlighted in an essay written by a faculty member or expert in the field. Key trends for 2021 include continued disruption and change in the field; a unique opportunity to build civic trust; the growth of social justice funding; increasing scrutiny of community grantmaking; adoption of trauma-informed grantmaking practices; recognition of philanthropy's role in historic inequities; growing involvement of philanthropy in the public sphere; blurring of boundaries between philanthropy and business; globalization of philanthropy; increased prominence of data in decision-making; and coming shifts in philanthropy driven by next-generation donors and practitioners.


Building Power in Place - Nashville: Reshaping the City Towards an Economy for All

Neighborhood Funders Group, Funders for a Just Economy (2021)

NFG's Building Power in Place project seeks to identify specific urban and rural communities with organizing, advocacy, and other efforts in place concerning issues related to low-wage workers. The initiative seeks to bridge individual donors, institutional funders, and organizations working on the ground to strengthen relationships between key stakeholders and share promising practices. The hope is that the initiative will strengthen relationships between local and regional funders in the profiled communities and facilitate deeper partnerships between national funders and local community groups.

Acknowledging that there is no “one size fits all” solution to addressing low-wage worker issues and economic inequality, the project seeks to identify and showcase regional initiatives. This report profiles the work of three organizations in Middle Tennessee: Stand Up Nashville, The Equity Alliance, and the Central Labor Council of Nashville & Middle Tennessee. 


Norms and Narratives that Shape U.S. Charitable and Philanthropic Giving

Urban Institute (2021)

Authored by Benjamin Soskis – journalist, historian, and coeditor of HistPhil, a web publication devoted to the history of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors – this report explores the profound shifts in philanthropic giving in recent decades. The report examines changes in the norms and narratives surrounding philanthropy - the rules governing accepted or valued charitable and philanthropic behavior and the replicable, archetypal stories that have developed to make sense of that behavior. The report also assesses how these norms and narratives have been shaped by and have shaped responses in the United States to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the mass protests after the killing of George Floyd. The analysis focuses on two groupings of giving norms and narratives: one surrounding the relationship between large-scale and small-scale giving, and one surrounding time-based considerations in giving.


Philanthropy and COVID-19: Measuring One Year of Giving

Candid, Center for Disaster Philanthropy (2021)

Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy tracked $20.2 billion in funding from corporations, foundations, public charities, and high-net-worth individuals to address the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This was nearly double the total tracked through the first six months of the pandemic as shared in an August 2020 report published by the same organizations. Key findings from analysis of the giving data reveal that corporations accounted for 44 percent of this funding through cash and in-kind gifts, estimated at more than $9.4 billion. Community foundations distributed more than 17,000 grants for COVID-19 response and recovery, accounting for more than half of all awards by number (54 percent). In terms of individual giving, pledges by high-net-worth individuals accounted for at least $5.8 billion, and a combined $14.6 billion was donated through the donor-advised funds of the leading commercial sponsors at Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard. MacKenzie Scott’s $4 billion pledge alone accounted for nearly three-quarters of all giving by high-net worth individuals. The largest foundation contributors to COVID relief included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, each awarding over $1 billion. The report further explores trends in giving by geography, subject area, and recipient population. The authors close with an assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. nonprofit sector and offer recommendations for philanthropy. 


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