This monograph documents the rich traditions of self-help and civic engagement that are found in America's "tough" communities -- communities most often found in the inner city, where resources are scarce and where it is difficult to live and to raise a family. There is also inner-city wisdom here for the Volunteer Centers, community foundations, nonprofits, the business community, and others searching for better ways to partner with the resident drivers of low-income neighborhood renewal. A Matter of Survival is the product of a 1996 invitation from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to the Points of Light Foundation to explore the role of volunteering in building the social capital necessary to transform distressed neighborhoods into family-supporting communities. We set out to document volunteering activities in these communities, but along the way, we came to a much deeper understanding of the myriad homegrown, informal networks and service vehicles that animate residents and empower them to drive reform. The Points of Light Foundation utilized this opportunity to listen, learn, and share our learnings. We convened national, regional, and grassroots leaders who shared their experience and wisdom in focus groups and workshops, and we recorded their wisdom. From them, we learned what worked and why, and under what circumstances. We used our own grants as vehicles to create partnerships that supported and strengthened local initiatives, and because we listened carefully, many of these initiatives bore fruit. This report shares that experience and that knowledge.