How Has the Mary Black Foundation’s Equity Strategy Been Playing Out?

 downtown spartanburg, Sc. 

downtown spartanburg, Sc. 

Back in September 2016, we interviewed the Mary Black Foundation’s vice president of programs, Molly Talbot-Metz, to learn more about its approach to equity funding in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Back then, MBF was just getting started with a new exploration of its role in advancing equity in the region. Talbot-Metz told us, an "equity lens can sharpen a foundation’s focus on outcomes and can target limited resources to populations or areas with the greatest disparities. In fact, a focus on equity can increase organizational effectiveness at every stage in the grantmaking process.”

So, now nearly a year and a half later, we got to wondering how that grantmaking process has been shaping up through MBF’s equity lens and if the pool of recent grantees looks different than it used to.

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

This past summer, MBF awarded five grants totaling $555,000 through its Adolescent Health Initiative called Connect. This initiative is all about providing adolescent-friendly services in Spartanburg to improve the lives of all adolescents. These particular funds were made possible through a grant from the federal Office of Adolescent Health, and MBF leveraged additional funds from there to make the grants. The largest grants went to BirthMatters ($160,000) to provide community-based prevention youth programs and to the City of Spartanburg ($134,000) for the Parks and Recreation Department's youth development and youth leadership activities.

Then in the fall, MBF made 11 new grants totaling $1,037,920 for a wider array of causes to help make Spartanburg a healthier and more vibrant place to live. Once again, BirthMatters was a top grantee, securing $116,500 for a home visitation program for young moms. Other top grants went to Partners for Active Living, which received $157,250 for general operating expenses, and Spartanburg County First Steps, which was awarded $124,500 to improve child care programs.

As you can probably pick up from this recent sampling of grants, children and youth have been major causes of concern for MBF lately. Recent posts on the MBF blog also highlight early childhood development work and interests, such as the FocusFirst Program and Erin’s Law, which is a South Carolina law that requires school districts to provide age-appropriate education regarding sexual abuse from pre-K through 12th grade. Other child-focused interests of this funder lately include literacy, new schools, and family strengthening programs. There hasn’t been quite as much talk about equity as a driving concept lately, but you can certainly see overtones of equal opportunity for children and youth if you look closer at the purposes behind MBF’s recent grants. After all, there always comes a time to stop talking about your mission and get down to work to apply it.

MBF is in the middle of its 2017-2019 strategic plan, which identifies broad goals of "impact, engage, and partner." Therefore, we're not expecting funding to deviate too much this year from last. The next grant application deadline is February 1, followed by August 1 this year. However, it is strongly recommended that grantseekers meet with the program staff at least 30 days prior to a grant deadline, especially if your field of work is early childhood development or healthy eating/active living.

In the most recent financial statement available, MBF reported over $77 million in total assets.