Philanthropy should fund climate mitigation in rural communities like lives depend on it—because they do.  

Late last month, a long-track tornado tore through Mississippi and Alabama, killing 26 people and decimating the entire town of Rolling Fork, MS. The experience in Rolling Fork, a rural town with a population of 2,000 people—three-quarters of whom are BIPOC—is far from an anomaly. Already this year in the United States, nearly three times as many people have died in tornadoes compared to all of 2022. 

Rural communities, already with access to fewer resources, are experiencing increased climate disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. We witness, time and again, the stark gap between what people need and what local, state, and federal governments are willing to provide; it’s clear there’s an opportunity and responsibility for philanthropy to step in. 

Philanthropic funders, even those outside of the climate change space, are uniquely positioned to experiment with expanded giving strategies and pools to acknowledge the full impacts of the climate change crisis on people of color living in rural communities.  

In the short-term, philanthropy can help by filling gaps that exist at the intersection of market and policy failures. And, in the long-term, philanthropy can help identify and shine a light on better solutions that can be scaled through government or business.  

The following recommendations can help funders prepare to add climate change to their racial equity funding portfolio.  

Consider who is typically funded. Most funding is distributed to larger corporatized NGOs and organizations based in the Global North.

Support community-driven initiatives. The people most impacted by the climate crisis generate some of the most innovative and transformative solutions, born out of their lived reality.

Focus on long-term success. These community-driven initiatives need multi-year, unrestricted grants to support them.

Connect local movements with national and global ones. Grassroots movements are especially powerful when linked to regional, national, and international organizations because they strengthen their networks and can achieve results at scale.

Help define impact. Funders can work with their grantees to capture feedback directly from the affected communities.

Read the full article about climate-driven philanthropy in rural communities by Ann Mei Chang and John Simpkins at Nonprofit Quarterly.