Brookings: Philanthropic Response to Suburban Poverty

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July 21, 2011; Source: Brookings.edu | More poor people now live in city suburbs than in cities but how does philanthropy track to that change? The Brookings Institution yesterday released a study on philanthropic responses to poverty outside of municipal centers. Specifically, the report “Building a Stronger Regional Safety Net: Philanthropy’s Role” (PDF) by Sarah Reckhow of Michigan State University and Margaret Weir, Professor of the University of California at Berkeley looked at philanthropy in the regions where Denver, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta are located.

The study found that in many cases the cities’ suburban areas surrounding the city where many poor were living had foundations that were newer and smaller and that the foundations in the city proper often did not extend out far enough to help support a regional approach to safety net services.

Detroit was the one exception to this – the suburban-based charities were as well funded by philanthropy as their city counterparts. Metropolitan Atlanta is reported to have the highest rate of suburban poverty and the lowest rate of suburban grant making per person among the regions studied. Denver is the opposite – having the lowest suburban poverty and the highest per-capita grant making per person.

The report concludes with the good news that there are strategies in play in each of these regions’ philanthropic communities to address regional realities. The study says that each region is supporting existing regional organizations, creating new regional organizations, supporting regional networks, and establishing new suburban community foundations.—Ruth McCambridge