Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder awards grants in the areas of economic opportunity, democracy and civic engagement, and supportive policies and institutions in the American Southeast. Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis.

FUNDING AREAS: Economic opportunity, democracy & civic engagement, supportive policies & institutions

IP TAKE: This funder has been strongly developing its equity focus, so play off that momentum with your proposal. Jobs in Appalachia continues to be a big priority.  

PROFILE: The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation focuses funding on the Southeastern U.S. It was founded in 1953. Mary was the daughter of daughter of R.J Reynolds and Katharine Smith Reynolds and inherited wealth from the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

This funder’s overall mission is to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice. The foundation revamped its strategic direction in late-2016 to adopt a stronger equity focus. Areas of funding include economic opportunity, democracy and civic engagement, and supportive policies and institutions.

Economic grants are focused on job training, connections to employers, non-predatory lending, and entrepreneurship. Democracy grants support community organizing and planning, leadership development, voter education, and get-out-the-vote efforts. This foundation also supports research, strategic communications, and advocacy efforts in the South and Southeast.

The foundation seeks to work with nonprofits concerned with low-income residents, that have long-term views and clear strategies. It also looks for new approaches to the problem of poverty in the region. Geographically, MRBF is most interested in economic transition work in central Appalachia, civic engagement for local and state policy change in Arkansas and North Carolina, and community economic development efforts in South Carolina.

General operating support, project support, grassroots networking support, and organizational development support are all provided by MRBF. Grants are typically made in one-year and two-year increments. There is a rolling deadline process in place for proposal submissions, and the foundation’s board meets to review proposals in June and October each year.

MRBF also engages in mission investing for market-rate investments and below-market-rate program-related investments. According to the funder, “Our investment policy establishes a goal of spending 5.5 percent of a 12-quarter moving average of the market value of our endowment, allowing the fund to exceed the IRS mandate of spending 5 percent.” The foundation rarely make grants that exceed 30 percent of a project or organizational budget.

At the end of a recent year, MRBF had over $173 million in total assets. Current financial information can be viewed here.

General questions can be directed to the staff at 336-748-9222 or via online form. You can keep up with this funder on the foundation blog. New staff positions opened up shortly after the foundation’s focus shifted, so get to know the staff here.


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