April 13, 2020
Within philanthropy, conversations about equity are increasingly taking center stage.Striving for equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to thrive. This requires removing obstacles such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care (Braveman, Arkin, Orleans, Proctor, & Plough, 2017).For national foundations, working through and with regional organizations can advance equity in critical ways. Working with regional organizations can help national funders increase understanding of, relevance to, andconnection with local communities and stakeholders, ground high-level systems change in the reality of people's lives, and create common cause among a set of stakeholders across multiple localities, bringing scale andsustainability to community change initiatives. In the best-case scenario, foundation investments in regionalorganizations can catalyze powerful ripple effects, such as developing local leadership, spurring economic growth, and building a stronger nonprofit infrastructure.This paper seeks to inform national funders interested in more deeply understanding the opportunities to advance equity by working with and supporting regional organizations (as compared to local or national organizations). To do so, we reviewed the literature and conducted 20 interviews with national foundation executives who have workedwith regional organizations as part of their strategy, as well as representatives from organizations working regionally, such as community development finance institutions, regional and community foundations, and community colleges. Based on the insights shared with us, we examine how working with regional organizations can advance equity, how national foundations can work effectively with these organizations, and the potential pitfalls andchallenges of this work.