MDC launches Passing Gear Philanthropy Institute to equip Southern foundations to address barriers to opportunity and inclusion

After 15 years equipping individual foundations to invest in solutions to the South’s most pressing challenges, MDC will expand its approach to reach cohorts of Southern foundations through a new Passing Gear Philanthropy Institute.

Applications for the 2020 Institute opened on April 5 and will be accepted through July 31. Participation is fee-based, and start-up funding for the Institute has been provided by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Duke Endowment, Marguerite Casey Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.

The Institute will build the network by creating annual cohorts for the next five years. Each cohort will be open to six organizations and will prepare those organizations to work individually in their own communities and collectively with other Passing Gear Philanthropy alumni to address barriers to opportunity and inclusion.

MDC’s goal is to build a network of Southern grantmakers actively using their financial capital and institutional influence to break down systemic barriers to equitable opportunity and catalyze shared wellbeing for all people in the South.

“We hope to inspire and equip Southern philanthropy to  build a more equitable future for the South, one in which all people can thrive,” said MDC President David Dodson.

MDC has worked since 2004 with leaders of such grantmaking organizations as North Carolina’s John M. Belk Endowment, the Danville (VA) Regional Foundation, and the Humana Foundation to deploy Passing Gear Philanthropy principles and approaches to address drivers of social and economic inequity. Through this work, more than $1 billion in philanthropic assets has been redirected to advance equity in education, community development, health, and family economic security across the South.

MDC documented this work in a State of the South report commissioned by the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF), Philanthropy as the South’s Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise. The report noted a Southern philanthropic landscape marked by “peaks, valleys, and deserts” of bold philanthropic investment and called for increased philanthropic investment to address the upstream causes of enduring barriers to equity and progress. Widespread interest in the approach led to the creation of the Passing Gear Philanthropy Institute.

Learn more and apply at