State of the South/Passing Gear

RESEARCH & DATA Passing Gear Philanthropy

Philanthropy as the South's Passing Gear:
Fulfilling the Promise

The groundbreaking report produced in partnership with MDC

"Passing Gear philanthropy seeks to engage society’s inventiveness and focus its capabilities on situations where current performance is missing the mark. It cultivates the will, imagination, and know- how to enable caring and concerned people to address contradictions between the ideals we hold and the disappointing realities we confront daily.

Philanthropy as the South’s Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise


Ten years ago, MDC’s report The State of the South 2007: Philanthropy as the South’s “Passing Gear,” asked a key question of the field: How can philanthropy accelerate progress toward a South that is both equitable for all its residents and competitive with other regions of the country?

The original “Passing Gear” report leaned heavily on data about the current state of the South and the trends that were then shaping its future. That data – and the recommendations made to both respond to and shape it moving forward – sparked years of conversation, deeper research and ongoing questions about philanthropy’s role throughout our region. Since then, several foundations have intentionally applied Passing Gear principles to their work, reshaping their roles and significantly transforming systems, attitudes, and outcomes.

Now, a decade later, this second iteration of the MDC “Passing Gear” report, commissioned by Philanthropy Southeast and released at our 48th Annual Meeting, explores what has changed in terms of data, landscape, and philanthropic capacity and activity in our region.




Passing Gear Case Studies

Passing gear practitioners discuss their work at SECF’s 48th Annual Meeting (from left to right): Jera Stribling of the Joseph S. Bruno Charitable Foundation, Mary Thomas of The Spartanburg County Foundation, Gladys Washington of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and MDC President David Dodson.

Since the publication of MDC’s State of the South report “Philanthropy as the South’s Passing Gear” in 2007, foundations across the South have embraced many elements of strategic philanthropy and focused their work “upstream,” at the root causes of systemic inequities. Several SECF members and partners are among these organizations and are highlighted in this report. They include:

  • Alabama Giving – The Alabama School Readiness Alliance
  • The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation – ForwARd Arkansas
  • The Rapides Foundation – Strategic Grantmaking Framework
  • The Spartanburg County Foundation – Spartanburg Academic Movement
  • The Duke Endowment – The Nurse-Family Partnership
  • Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation – Support for Community Development Financial Institutions

What’s Next?

The Annual Meeting was only the beginning of the conversation around Passing Gear philanthropy. Since then, we've held events throughout the region where David Dodson joins grantmakers for a deep dive on conditions within their state. Materials from these programs will be posted in our Program Archive (member login required).

If you're interested in planning a Passing Gear convening in your state, contact the Philanthropy Southeast staff at (404) 524-0911.


Philanthropy as the South’s Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise


Download the report

Special Thanks to Our 'Passing Gear’ Report Sponsors

Connecting with Philanthropy Southeast:
The Philanthropy Southeast staff works remotely – the best way to reach us is by email or by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)

On Fridays, staff work on a flexible schedule. Members can reach our team via email or by calling (404) 524-0911 between 9:00am and 6:00pm (ET). We will respond to all urgent and time-sensitive matters promptly.

Mailing address:
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Atlanta, GA 30303

Mission: Philanthropy Southeast strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.