Funding Through an Equity Lens in South Carolina

When we last spoke with the Mary Black Foundation (MBF) in Spartanburg, South Carolina, we highlighted its emerging role in advancing equity. But one question that still lingered was how this focus would translate into actual grant dollars committed. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for the next cycle of MBF grants to be announced to find out. In total, MBF recently committed $567,660 to local groups.

Early Childhood Education and Care

One of the biggest funding causes in the Southeast right now is early childhood health and education, and early literacy in particular. MBF made a few grants to this tune in the most recent grant cycle that had equity overtones.

For example, a $66,500 two-year grant to Reach Out and Read for an early literacy program in physician offices. A $10,000 grant went to United Way of the Piedmont for its early literacy intervention program called Imagination Library. And a $50,000 grant went to the Spartanburg Academic Movement to pilot a kindergarten readiness assessment.

Meanwhile, other grants for Spartanburg County’s youngest residents had more of a health angle, as typical with this funder. MBF gave $25,000 to Impact America for vision screenings for low-income preschoolers and $40,000 to Healthy Smiles of Spartanburg for a mobile dental clinic that will deliver free oral care to uninsured and low-income kids. The focus on low-income children though these types of grants is indicative of MBF’s equity focus and how it’s pushing equity through health grants.

Outdoor Exercise

Although MBF doesn’t really support environmental causes, this also a funder that values trails, parks, and green spaces. The funder gave $49,630 to Hatcher Garden to extend a paved trail onto its property. It also gave Spartanburg County Parks a grant of $50,000 to help build a path for bikes and pedestrians under Asheville Highway to connect Cleveland Park and Berry Field. These grants also exemplify MBF’s equity focus because they aim to provide access to recreation and outdoor space to underserved groups, while quietly promoting exercise at the same time.

People with Special Needs

The deaf, blind and disabled are also of concern to this funder, which awarded several new grants to groups serving those with special needs. These types of grants have been going to larger foundations that promote health access. The Charles Lea Center Foundation received a MBF grant to bolster its healthy lifestyle curriculum for people with special needs, and the Walker Foundation got a grant to re-brand its service offerings for the deaf and blind.

Practical Operational Needs

Grantseekers should know that you can also go to this foundation for practical needs within your nonprofit to improve your general operations. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Upstate secured a $2,500 grant to get a new phone system, and Temple Education Ministries got $77,350 to build a new temperature-controlled storage area for its soup kitchen.

The Mary Black Foundation has awarded over $49 million in Spartanburg County since 1996 to further its mission of improving the health and wellness of residents here. The next opportunity to submit a grant application to MBF will be in January. Equity should continue to be a top focus of any program or general operating support need that you pitch to this funder. 

Related: The Mary Black Foundation Is Another Funder Thinking More About Equity, in South Carolina