October 1, 2022
Rural communities, while often small, have a large impact on the livelihood of all Americans. As resource centers for water, food, energy, and recreation, rural areas provide many of the resources for communities in urban, suburban, and rural settings to thrive. In fact, 97% of the United States is technically geographically defined as rural, with much of the Southwest being considered rural, by measures of both geography and population density. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans live in rural communities, representing 59.5 million individuals. Philanthropy Southwest, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administrative coordination from the United Philanthropy Forum, hired Dr. Colton Strawser with Colton Strawser Consulting and the Community Leadership, Engagement, and Research (CLEAR) Institute to do an exploratory study of rural philanthropy in the southwestern United States. The purpose of this study was to capture the current practice of a small group of foundations, understand innovative approaches to rural grantmaking, and seek wisdom on how funders can shift their grantmaking to support rural communities through different approaches via grantmaking, community leadership initiatives, and community capacity building.