How Can Philanthropy Ensure that the Most Distressed Communities Aren’t Left Behind?

Communities’ human, social, and financial assets determine their residents’ opportunities to enjoy safe parks and playgrounds, live in affordable housing, drink clean water, and shop in stores that sell healthy and affordable food. These community characteristics do not just influence the well-being of adults but also predict the opportunities children will have to attend good schools and participate in extracurricular activities like sports teams and youth groups.

Because of the strong correlation between these community characteristics and residents’ health, a growing number of grant makers are shifting their resources to focus on equity to build healthier communities. These funders aim to reduce barriers and create greater opportunities for well-being, educational achievement, and economic mobility. This equity-attuned grantmaking approach is committed to distributing more resources to the most socially and economically distressed communities.

A new analysis by Bob Atkins, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Director of New Jersey Health Initiatives; Sarah Allred, PhD, Associate Professor and Faculty Director of the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Af­fairs at Rutgers University-Camden, and Daniel Hart, Distinguished Professor and Senior Vice Chancellor at Rutgers University-Camden and published in the Spring 2021 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, explores whether philanthropy suffers from a blind spot.

Their research determined that even when grant makers are focused on equity, traditional grantmaking approaches benefit dis­tressed metropolitan communities over distressed, more rural ones. To address this blind spot, the analysis highlights funding approaches from within New Jersey and across the nation as possible solutions to ensure that resources go where they will do the greatest good.

Read the analysis here.

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