Since I moved to Atlanta last year, I’ve seen attempts to confront economic distress head on. Bottom-up initiatives in communities like Thomasville Heights, Grove Park, and historic English Avenue-Vine City are examples. These community revitalization efforts are tackling both place- and people-based economic distress by raising funds, channeling investment, and delivering programs and infrastructure for improved education, affordable housing, preventive health care, and small business development. They represent important efforts to address our economy’s deepest challenges.
Neighborhood-based initiatives like these are critical to unlocking economic growth potential. And they rely on grants from government sources and foundations. Atlanta has a rich ecosystem of funders who support community-driven solutions like these. But it will take more than local funding.
Work by my team suggests that initiatives like these in Atlanta (and in the Southeast generally) are underfunded by national foundations. Our bank’s Following the Money research finds that Atlanta attracts only about $15 per capita in national grant dollars per year. This compares to $22 in New York City, $25 in Denver, $30 in Boston, and $50 in San Francisco in support of similar community-driven programs.
In Atlanta and throughout the Southeast, we need as many resources as we can muster to confront these challenges.
To attract more national funding, we need to do two things. First, we need to ask for it. Public officials, local funders, and business leaders should continue their long history of engaging with national philanthropic leaders and press for greater support of our city and region. We need to challenge national foundations to support local initiatives, like those mentioned above and others, with programmatic funds.
In this context, I am excited about a new opportunity for Atlanta to tap into philanthropic resources. Two major philanthropies that have collaborated with the Fed — the Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative— recently announced the Communities Thrive Challenge, which is a $10 million funding opportunity to find, strengthen, and grow community-driven approaches across America. We need to make sure our community-led initiatives compete for this funding.
Second, we need to make it easier for philanthropic dollars to land. This means clarifying our shared local and regional priorities. This also means supporting local efforts to collaborate and share resources across community-led initiatives to elevate a region-wide pipeline of philanthropic opportunities. Finally, it means strengthening the partnership between public agency leaders and local funders to build the capacity of our local community-led initiatives so they can absorb philanthropic investments from national foundations.
Success in these areas holds the promise of improving outcomes for the many families and communities in our region that are not reaching their potential. I encourage everyone to come together to advance this important goal.
Raphael Bostic is president and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.