If you want to predict how long someone is going to live and how healthy they will be throughout their life, find out their address. All around the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that postal codes predict health and well-being. Communities’ human, social, and financial assets determine their residents’ opportunities to enjoy safe parks and playgrounds, live in affordable housing, drink clean water, and shop in stores that sell healthy and affordable food. These community characteristics do not just influence the well-being of adults but also predict the opportunities children will have to attend good schools and participate in extracurricular activities like sports teams and youth groups.

Because of the strong correlation between these community characteristics and residents’ health, a growing number of grant makers are shifting their resources to focus on equity in order to build healthier communities. These funders aim to reduce barriers and create greater opportunities for well-being, educational achievement, and economic mobility. This equity-attuned grantmaking approach is committed to distributing more resources to the most socially and economically distressed communities.

Evidence suggests that the most distressed communities are not benefiting from the shift in philanthropic resources. University of Michigan professor of social work and public policy Luke Shaefer, along with colleagues at Princeton University, developed an Index of Deep Disadvantage to identify the most disadvantaged communities in the United States. They found that while grant makers can name some of these communities—Flint and Detroit in Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; and Camden, New Jersey—most remain invisible. The 100 most disadvantaged communities are on tribal lands or clustered in less densely populated geographic regions, like Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. These communities are in what we call our “blind spots,” and, as Shaefer and his colleagues have contended, “our poverty policies suffer when social science research misses so many of the places with the greatest need.”

We believe that philanthropy suffers from a blind spot. Even when grant makers are focused on equity, the examples above suggest that they are likely to systematically overlook the most distressed communities, which are in more rural areas across the United States. Philanthropy is unlikely to achieve its equity aims when the people living in communities with the greatest needs are getting fewer grant dollars than those living in more advantaged communities.

Read the full article about rural philanthropy by Robert Atkins, Sarah Allred and Daniel Hart at Stanford Social Innovation Review.