We all want to live in safe places. But right now, many rural communities and Native nations aren’t getting the support they need to prepare, respond to, and mitigate increasingly extreme weather.

When rural places face recurring flooding, drought, or fires, the response is usually limited. There is often the sentiment of ‘Why don’t they just move?’ implying that committing time or money in these communities isn’t worthwhile and continued climate change consequences are inevitable. This thought process misses these communities’ assets and opportunities.

Philanthropy has a unique role to play, given the history of underinvestment in rural places and Native nations. Funders have the opportunity to partner with communities to help mitigate disasters and create meaningful relationships that build prosperity with Indigenous and rural communities who are most vulnerable to recurrent disasters.

So, how can philanthropy support efforts to achieve equitable prosperity within rural communities beyond an immediate disaster?

To answer that question, we convened 39 rural economic and community development practitioners from rural communities and Native nations across the U.S. Their experiences and ideas provided the foundation for our recommendations to philanthropy on advancing rural prosperity after disasters.

In the long term, funders need to build trust with rural communities and Native nations. This lengthy process begins with learning and listening, grows with demonstration and change, and solidifies with mutual partnership and engaged work.

As a first step, funders should hire staff who come from and deeply understand their communities. Once those staff members are hired, ensure they have what they need to stay connected to those communities and facilitate learning for the organization.

Funders can also provide flexible and responsive funding for disaster preparation, response, and recovery so efforts can advance equity and increase regional prosperity instead of recreating inequitable pre-disaster conditions. Additionally, short-term ‘bridge funding’ enables communities to fill gaps before federal funds begin to flow.

Some funders are shifting gears to instead learn communities’ language, processes, and practices, enabling more equitable partnerships and impactful projects that truly meet community needs.

Read the full article about philanthropy investing in rural places by Bonita Robertson-Hardy and Chris Estes at Alliance Magazine.