Over the last year and a half, we had the privilege of interviewing rural leaders across the country as a follow-on to our report Rural America: Philanthropy’s Misunderstood Opportunity for Impact. We spoke with individuals building resident-led spaces for organizing in rural North Carolina, connecting community foundations in Kansas, addressing health inequities in the Imperial Valley of California, investing in Native communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and more. The final interview series reflected a small snapshot of the innovation, wisdom, and diversity of rural communities across the United States.

We believe that there is much to be learned from rural communities, and we wanted to share a few reflections from these conversations for funders considering how to engage rural communities in their work:

  1. Rural communities know how to innovate
  2. Investing in rural communities is an investment in equity
  3. Funding rural communities requires challenging ideas about capacity and scale
  4. Funding rural communities is an opportunity to apply overall best practices for philanthropy

It is imperative for us to pay greater attention to rural communities for our country as a whole to thrive. National challenges including growing political polarization, increasingly visible and severe effects of climate change, and rising inequities in wellbeing can only be addressed with rural communities as part of the solutions. Funders have a large role to play in building bridges across communities and fostering new sources of innovation, and we hope that you will join this journey with the many organizations already deeply invested in rural America. We encourage you to check out the rest of this interview series, to connect with and learn from rural leaders, and to find ways to bring a rural lens to your work.

Read the full article about rural leaders by Chris Carlson and Joelle Cook at FSG.