In 2021, the Foundation began a review of its rural grantmaking framework and funding priorities, in order to reflect and respond to the needs of rural communities that we serve. The Foundation conducted 40 interviews with a diverse set of leaders in rural areas across the country and reviewed more than 100 sources addressing issues related to rural America and vulnerable populations residing therein. The Foundation remains committed to supporting rural initiatives within, or near, its priority communities because of longstanding barriers to accessing financial resources and services in these regions. Some examples—
- Of the 429 US counties facing persistent and intractable poverty, 86 percent are rural. In these counties, the poverty rate has remained at or above 20 percent since 1990 or earlier.
- Of the 21 million people living in the rural counties impacted by persistent poverty, 60 percent are people of color. The poverty rates of people of color are higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
- Despite high rates of poverty, rural communities receive less private funding than urban areas—only 6.3 percent of all philanthropic grant dollars primarily benefit people in rural areas.
It is also true that rural communities are resilient and hold the key to creative solutions. As a result, one immediate shift in focus is to support community-led models that bring together government, private philanthropy, and local resources within federally designated rural areas. The Foundation will also develop core, strategic initiatives in its two priority communities that are primarily rural: Hawai’i and Northeastern Pennsylvania. This includes working with national partners and technical assistance providers whose work will help advance health care, housing, and food security solutions uniquely tailored to these rural priority communities.
To learn more about the Foundation’s rural grantmaking, click here.