Rural America: Philanthropy's Misunderstood Opportunity for Impact
Imagine a group of Americans facing a barrage of structural challenges: rapid demographic change, mortality rates 75% higher than comparable populations, deep racial inequities, a housing affordability crisis, high rates of concentrated persistent poverty, systemic barriers to accessing state and federal resources, front line impacts of climate change, a profound economic decline, to name a few. Surely, you’d think, this community would be a primary focus of philanthropy and a topic of nuanced national discourse. Yet, for too long, rural America has been either ignored or the subject of derision. National philanthropy’s part in the failure to recognize the importance of rural communities contributes to the deepening of cultural and political division and represents a missed opportunity to build a fully inclusive coalition of low-income communities uniting to create a more equitable and sustainable America.
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re proud to be sharing Rural America: Philanthropy’s Misunderstood Opportunity for Impact, a paper providing a re-introduction to the current state of rural issues, and an invitation to funders to think more expansively about how incorporating a rural focus to their work can deepen their learning and impact. In the paper, we examine the inequities facing rural communities and their systemic causes, provide guidance on best practices for funders considering investing in rural, and introduce some of the key issues and opportunities in areas that many funders focus on, including health, education, economic development, and climate change.
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