Family philanthropy has been present in rural America long before there was even the thought of a field of philanthropy. With a robustly developed body of work that is rural-specific and not just urban downsized, family funders now have the opportunity to support the kind of long-term systems change that we know is necessary for rural communities to spark and sustain.

The history of the United States is marked by wealth created in rural America. Timber and wood products in the northwest and northeast; fossil fuels in Appalachia, the southwest and Rocky Mountains; textiles in the south, among others. Related philanthropic funds have been created alongside these rural industries—often from multi-generational family commitments to these rural communities. With the renewed focus on the challenges and opportunities in rural America, it’s a good time to take a look at how rural philanthropy fits into the philanthropic field as a whole.

Importantly, it’s a time to look at how an evolving field of rural philanthropic learning is helping to support more and better rural investments.

The best data we have indicates that rural philanthropic investment is only at 7% of the total private foundation dollars vs rural America representing 20% of the population – and 90% of the land!

The best rural philanthropic work, however, also recognizes and works towards creating equity around opportunity. This might be broadening the voices that are heard in a rural place; bridging access barriers between urban and rural around broadband and healthcare, or opening up the chances for higher education for those previously shut out.

Concurrently, rural communities can be dominated by leadership structures that leave lots of people on the outside looking in. Because of historic roots in these communities, family philanthropy is in the best position to promote and support inclusion for the next version of the communities’ success.

Read the full article about family philanthropy in rural communities by Allen Smart at National Center for Family Philanthropy.