The role of philanthropy in sustaining rural life has received considerable attention in recent years. Funders like Kellogg, Ford, and others have evinced no interest in promoting rural people’s cultural and social ideals. Quite the contrary. The economic and health difficulties faced by America’s rural residents are considerable, and to some extent, the philanthropic establishment is helping to alleviate these difficulties.

What are some challenges that rural areas face?

Let’s start with health care, with special attention to the opioid crisis that has in recent years captured public attention. Additionally, the elderly brain-drain, the out-migration of the most talented youths year after year, from rural to metro districts, and the rise of single motherhood, to name a few.

What are some potential ideas for what can be done?

There is a growing recognition among some funders, at least, that the philanthropy establishment’s typical prejudices stand in the way of their being more generous and effective patrons of rural communities. What sorts of projects or ideas might a rurally focused, localist funder support? The list is doubtless a large one, and should vary by place, but a few possibilities suggest themselves:

  1. The return of the talented. Rural communities cannot flourish if they continue to hemorrhage their most able young people.
  2. Capital and credit for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  3. The growth of small farms and local food economies.
  4. Embedded rural “missionaries.” Older married couples might befriend and offer informal mentorship to younger ones; and, more importantly, for our purposes, that charitable foundations ought to “partner with a church or nonprofit to subsidize ‘charity organizers,’ who would live in working-class neighborhoods and perhaps even take working-class jobs.
  5. Anything that promises to combat family breakdown. 

Read the full article about rural philanthropy by Jeremy Beer at Philanthropy Daily.