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Rural Philanthropy

Across America, rural communities face big challenges as economies change, populations shift, and government resources and subsidies dramatically decline. But rural residents are responding with resilience and innovation, harnessing hidden resources to create permanent assets for the future of their communities.
 
Rural communities build philanthropy from the ground up, using strategies that tap into core values and engage everyone – not just the wealthiest residents. They get support and assistance from community foundations and private philanthropic foundations.
 
Rural areas of America have little in the way of endowed assets: according to a 2004 study by the Southern Rural Development Initiative, only about 3% of the nation’s foundation assets are found in rural places. Rural residents find that building community-based philanthropy from scratch organizes a community around its assets and connects long-term vision to concrete action. While community-based philanthropy is only one component of systemic social and economic change, it can be the lead component—the spark that ignites a community around positive dialogue and financial investment toward a common vision of the future.
 
Most of the first community foundations started up in large metropolitan areas, and that trend continued for years. Statewide community foundations sprouted up next, but focused most of their efforts for years on larger cities and towns, where they could find the most people. Together, these two trends left vast swaths of rural America essentially unserved by community foundations.
Around 1980, rural areas started setting up their own community endowments—and today this trend is accelerating. Some of these community endowments are being structured as brand-new, freestanding community foundations; others are established as affiliate funds of existing community foundations. Each of these routes has pros and cons, its own set of merits and challenges. Every rural community must determine for itself which choice makes the most sense in its situation.
 
We all benefit from rural philanthropy whether we live in a rural place or not. What affects one small, rural place can spill over to help – or hurt – an entire region. When a farm worker in Kansas benefits from better health care, so do the farmer, the miller, the baker, the trucker, and the child, many miles away, who carries the sandwich to school. Whether we care about our water supply, the environment, education, business development, or just about anything else, urban and rural places are tied together.
 
The momentum to build local rural philanthropic resources is growing substantially. The market for knowledge about how to do this well is growing along with that momentum.
Knowledgebase

The Wisdom of Communities, How the Ford Institute helps rural people achieve their own vision of vitality

Publication date: 
01/2013
The Ford Institute for Community Building, a program of The Ford Family Foundation, works to help community leaders learn how to implement local solutions based on principles of effective community building. This paper describes the development and work of the The Ford Institute for Community Building.
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Knowledgebase

Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network

Publication date: 
02/2009
The Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network is a diverse group of community foundations and funds, and philanthropic and rural development organizations that exchange experience, knowledge and skills to increase rural assets and improve rural livelihood.
Resource

Programming on a Blank Slate

Publication date: 
08/2008
Imagine starting a new grant-making program from scratch —no prior grantees, no established procedures, no set objectives. Read about one grantmaker's experience in establishing a rural poverty program in a casestudy from Grantcraft.
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Resource

Rural Philanthropy Knowledge Center

Publication date: 
11/2007
The Rural Philanthropy Knowledge Center contains practical information on how to start and manage a rural fund, and other useful resources on how to grow philanthropy in rural areas.
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Resource

Rural Fund Development 101:Starting and Growing Rural Community Endowments

Publication date: 
03/2007
Across rural America, people are joining together to do something new and different. They are launching and growing community endowments. Community endowments resemble savings accounts that grow over time. Local residents are using the interest earned on these community endowments—and the local energy and leadership that come from building them—to improve the quality of life for people, organizations and the places they call home.
Resource

Rural Philanthropy: Building Dialogue From Within

Publication date: 
03/2007
In this report, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy explores the disparity in giving between urban and rural nonprofits, and how geographical isolation and capacity-building needs greatly reduce the ability for rural nonprofits to secure funding. The report offers substantive recommendations on ways to make philanthropy more responsive to rural America.
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News

Latest Releases from the Field- Late April 2017

Release Date: 
04/26/2017

Check out the latest releases from around the nonprofit sector featuring items from PACE, Grantmakers in Aging, Philanthropy Northwest, The Center for Effective Philanthropy, National Center for Family Philanthropy, FSG, NeighborWorks and Foundation Center and the Peace and Security Funders

Event

2014 Forum Annual Conference

Monday, July 28, 2014 to Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Forum's Annual Conference is a key opportunity each year for regional association staff to come together for skill building sessions, networking, and thought provoking discussions with philanthropy leaders. We hope to see you in San Diego in July!