Rural

Rural communities are the backbone of the U.S. economy. While urban centers get most of the media attention, small towns and rural areas of the state are the engine that fuels the country’s economic vitality and is responsible for more of the job growth. The following are resources that are primarily national in scope and are designed to spur discussion, ideation and most of all, action. To find local resources in your state, contact the national organization or your state economic development organization.

Reports

Promising Practices for Increasing Access to Transportation in Rural Communities – Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis

Rural Transportation Toolkit

Rural Community Health Toolkit

Rural Communities, Older People, and the Opioid Crisis: An Introduction for Funders – Grantmakers in Aging

New Frontiers for Funding: An Introduction to Grantmaking in Rural Aging – Grantmakers in Aging

What’s Next? Practical Suggestions for Rural Communities Facing a Hospital Closure – Texas A&M University Rural & Community HealthInstitute (RCHI)

Keeping Wealth Local for Rural Communities – Ford Foundation

New Frontiers for Funding: An Introduction to Grantmaking in Rural Aging – Grantmakers in Aging

Turning the Tide on Persistent Rural Poverty: Blueprint for a Path Forward – NeighborWorks America

Building Rural Assets – The Rural Development and Community Foundations Initiative

Articles

The Remote Work Explosion that Will Transform Rural America

Rural renaissance and digital parity

Philanthropic Funding for Equity cant Exclude Rural

Rise in Rural Jobs but Gap with Metro Widens 

Community-Driven Solutions for Smaller Cities and Towns

Recreation is a bigger share of Economy

USDA Rural Development 2017 Performance Report

How Small Town Entrepreneurs Can Use Location to Their Advantage

Employee Ownership Pays Dividends in Rural Areas

Tech Hubs in Rural America

Using Telehealth to Improve Broadband

How To Market a Small Town

Kitsap County Race to Health Program

Regional Initiatives In Dental Education (RIDE)

How A Farm Town Emerged as a Major Food Distribution 

What We are Seeing and Learning in Rural Communities

Rural Upbringing Raises Kids Future Earnings

Top 10 Rural Health Priorities and Best Practices 2020 

Rural Communities Must Empower Youth

Microsoft Outlines Plans To Close Rural Broadband Gap

Key Studies: Why Local Matters

10 Reasons Why Rural Economic Development is Hard To Do

Broadband ‘Vouchers’ Won’t Help Rural America Connect 

6 charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America 

Top small town and rural small business trends for 2017 

Rural America at a Glance: 2015 Edition

The economic plan that could help rural America

Why rural matters: The condition of rural education in the 50 states

New economic development directions for rural communities

The following grants are open at various times throughout the year.  Please check their website for applications and deadlines.

Health Resources and Services Administration

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically or medically vulnerable. Tens of millions of Americans receive quality, affordable health care and other services through HRSA’s 90-plus programs and more than 3,000 grantees.

Rural Schools Collaborative Grants-in-Place Program

The Rural Schools Collaborative Grants-in-Place Program is a modest grant program that encourages rural school teachers to engage their students in place-based learning. Any rural public school classroom teacher in the United States may apply for a Grant in Place award

Business & Industry Loan Guarantees

This program bolsters the availability of private credit by guaranteeing loans for rural businesses.

Rural Business Development Grants

This program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas which will employ 50 or fewer new employees and has less than $1 million in gross revenue. Programmatic activities are separated into enterprise or opportunity type grant activities.

Rural Business Investment Program

This program provides a Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) license to newly formed venture capital organizations to help meet the equity capital investment needs in rural communities.

Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program

The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program provides funding for rural projects through local utility organizations. USDA provides zero-interest loans to local utilities which they, in turn, pass through to local businesses (ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas.

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program

This program provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to provide microloans to help microenterprises startup and growth through a Rural Microloan Revolving Fund and provide training and technical assistance to microloan borrowers and micro entrepreneurs

Value Added Producer Grants

The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of new products. The goals of this program are to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income.

Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program

The Rural Cooperative Development Grant program helps improve the economic condition of rural areas by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through Cooperative Development Centers.

Rural Energy for America Program

Provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Foundation for Rural Services

The Foundation for Rural Service provides annual grants and technical assistance. The goal of the program is to support local efforts to build and sustain a high quality of life in rural America by awarding grants and assistance in business development, community development, education, and telecommunications.

Community Development Block Grants (Rural Innovation Fund)

The Rural Innovation Fund provides for capacity building at the state and local level for rural housing and economic development, and the program supports innovative housing and economic development activities in rural areas. The program is designed to improve the quality of life for residents of distressed rural areas The program is modeled to support job creation through business development and expansion, investment in human capital through job training and education, and expansion of the supply of affordable housing with access to job centers or transportation.

Rural Housing and Economic Development

The Rural Housing and Economic Development (RHED) Program supports capacity building at the state and local level for rural housing and economic development and innovative housing and economic development activities in rural areas.

Rural Capacity Building

Through the funding of national organizations with expertise in rural housing and community development, the Rural Capacity Building Program enhances the capacity and ability of local governments, Indian tribes, housing development organizations, rural Community Development Corporations (CDCs), and rural Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs), to carry out community development and affordable housing activities that benefit low- and moderate-income families and persons in rural areas.

HOPE VI Revitalization Grants Program

The HOPE VI Revitalization grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors funds for areas that demonstrate financial need in order to revitalize their communities. The grants can be used to destroy distressed properties, or to replace, build and rehabilitate public housing dwellings for low-income families. These revitalization projects are also meant to improve the well-being and safety of all residents in the area.

Community Facilities Loans and Grants

Communities that are in need of money to pay for revitalization projects in their area can apply for the Community Facilities Loans and Grants administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These grants may be used to construct, expand, rehabilitate and renovate homes and buildings in distressed areas. Also these funds can be used for child care centers, assisted living programs, food centers, group homes, mental health facilities and homeless shelters. The beneficiaries, besides rural communities, can be farmers and ranchers. This program provides additional financing in the form of loans.

Rural Business Opportunity Grants

Rural areas can get a boost to their economic development by receiving the Rural Business Opportunity grant. The Department of Agriculture provides these grants to rural areas in need of technical assistance as well as to help businesses with training and planning support. Nonprofit organizations as well as Indian tribes in rural areas can apply for the grant.

Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG)

The Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program provides grants of $10,000 up to $500,000 for rural projects that help small and emerging rural businesses, distance learning networks, employment related adult education programs, and a broad array of activities. Any project funded under the RBEG program should benefit small and emerging private businesses located in rural area – an area with populations of 50,000 or less. Small and emerging private businesses are those that will employ 50 or fewer new employees and have less than $1 million in projected gross revenues.

Rural Economic Development Grant (REDG)

The Rural Economic Development Grant (REDG) program promotes rural economic development and job creation by providing funding to eligible Rural Utilities Service electric or telecommunications borrowers (intermediaries) for rural projects.

Value-Added Agriculture Producer Grant

The two main objectives of the Value-Added Agriculture Producer Grant are: 1) to increase the value of agricultural products to the end user by refining the products and 2) to create a center where information can be gathered, coordinated and disseminated. Information from this center will assist independent producers in adding value to their processes.

Economic Development Administration Planning Grants

Economic Development Administration Planning Grants fund up to 75% of the costs of preparing an overall economic development strategy or plan for a city, region or state with the balance of funds provided by a local match. The maximum grant amount is $200,000. Planning grants also can be used for program development planning.

Economic Development Administration Technical Assistance Grants

EDA’s Technical Assistance Grants fund up to 75% of the costs to initiate design, plan and implement economic development projects and programs. The maximum grant is $25,000. This program is a good source to fund early stage soft costs and “start-up” costs to plan and begin implementation on projects and programs. Uses can include: feasibility studies for development projects, research and planning to establish a new program or pursue innovative economic development idea or approach.

National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant program supports creative place-making projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places – achieving these community goals through strategies that incorporate arts, culture, and/or design. This funding supports local effort to enhance quality of life and opportunity for existing residents, increases creative activity, and create or preserve a distinct sense of place. Our Town requires partnerships between arts organizations and government, other nonprofit organizations, and private entities to achieve livability goals for communities.

Beneficial State Foundation Sponsorship Program

The Beneficial State Foundation Sponsorship Program supports nonprofit organizations in the communities the bank serves in California, Oregon, and Washington. Sponsorships of up to $1,000 are provided to organizations that are engaged in transformative social justice and environmental work. Focus areas include affordable housing, sustainable community and economic development, minority-owned businesses, clean and efficient energy, recycling, and sustainable food, fisheries, and agriculture. Sponsorship applications are reviewed throughout the year.

Some other grant giving foundations that award grants for rural development include:

  • The Ford Foundation
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • The McKnight Foundation
  • K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Charles Steward Mott Foundation

There are also funders who are interested in giving grants to organizations that provide housing and economic development activities to those living in rural areas. Check with local bank foundations, the Fannie Mae Foundation or the Home Depot Foundation for their guidelines and to see if funding is available in your area. Some other foundations to check out include:

  • The John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation
  • B. Heron Foundation
  • Citigroup Foundation

From Grants for Rural Nonprofit Organizations, by Cheryl Cirelli

For more information on grants from federal resources go to Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities and Reconnecting America

For information on Broadband grants, go to A Guide to Broadband Funding Opportunities

The Rural Development Innovation Center provides information about the Rural Development Innovation Center, which features resources and best practices for rural communities seeking to improve quality of life through job creation, infrastructure improvements, community partnerships, and more.

The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) is an impact investing social enterprise that focuses on rural communities in economic distress; communities with depreciated real estate values, a decline of working-age families, and falling wages. They work with towns that have the most immediate potential for success, due to a proximity to an institution of higher education, or a downtown district with under-used historic buildings ready for new life. They use a combination of unique data analytics and our extensive network of rural community leaders to identify our first engagements. Collaborating with community leaders, we plan and execute a downtown innovation hub using local, regional and national partnerships, and proven best practices for fostering resilient prosperity in rural economies.

The Orton Family Foundations Community Heart and Soul program is focused on building stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns across America. Founded in 1995, the foundation devoted more than a decade to working with small towns to develop a community development model that empowers residents to shape the future of their communities. Community Heart & Soul® projects are underway across the country creating positive change that is resident-driven, recognizes the value in the unique character of each place, and the deep emotional connection of the people who live there.

Local Futures mission is to protect and renew ecological and social well being by promoting a systemic shift away from economic globalization towards localization. Through its “education for action” programs, Local Futures develops innovative models and tools to catalyze collaboration for strategic change at the community and international level.

Emsi is a for profit consulting group using labor market data to connect and inform people, education, and business. They provide actionable data and consulting to help understand and communicate your economic and workforce strengths, respond to business inquiries, benchmark your region against your peers, and attract and retain skilled talent.

The Rural Schools Collaborative strengthens the bonds between rural schools and communities through place-based engagement, rural philanthropy, and developing teacher-leaders.

The mission of LOCUS Impact Investing is to empower place-focused foundations to invest their capital locally to build prosperous, vibrant communitiesLOCUS is the “on ramp” for foundations and donors who want to unlock their philanthropic capital. LOCUS provides a roadmap for foundations interested in building their capacity for direct impact investing and more.

The mission of the Institute for Local Self Reliance is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs.

The  Rural Resources Community Action has helped residents of Northeastern Washington State help themselves through education, resources and support.  They offer real hope to children, seniors and families by working to create a stronger and more stable community for Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Whitman and Stevens Counties. Their Community Resource Guide contains local information on housing, jobs, transportation and lots of other services.

The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative (REI) is a program of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The Initiative helps rural entrepreneurs overcome the hurdles they face. REI aims to provide rural entrepreneurs with world-class business training, networks and resources to help them succeed. More than 70 businesses in 26 states have been helped through REI projects

The Rural Development Innovation Group (Aspen Institute) is made up of rural development practitioners, intermediaries and others who have been deeply involved in advancing rural community and economic development. The Group’s principal goals are to accelerate the adoption, adaptation and impact of innovative rural development strategies and convene key innovators to increase leadership, learning and dissemination to the field. 

The Rural Information Center (RIC) assists rural communities by providing information and referral services to local, tribal, state, and federal government officials; community organizations; libraries; businesses; and citizens working to maintain the vitality of America’s rural areas. RIC provides information and tools to support our nation’s rural communities.

The National Rural Health Resource Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining and improving health care in rural communities. The Center provides technical assistance, information, tools and resources for the improvement of rural health care. It serves as a national rural health knowledge center and strives to build state and local capacity.

The Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition promotes practical, equitable and sustainable solutions that are grounded in the experiences of rural community members, workers, and businesses.  Our approach is to strengthen and empower the voices of rural leaders on issues such as collaborative all-lands stewardship, renewable energy, climate change, and local workforce development. By bringing rural leaders together to share their work, we serve as a vital peer learning and capacity building network that accelerates the practice of land stewardship and aligned economic development. 

Rural Development Initiatives, Inc. is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Eugene, Oregon. RDI supports rural communities as they work through challenging economic conditions. RDI’s nationally recognized programs and services help communities help themselves with effective and results-oriented training and resources necessary for individuals living in rural communities to build and sustain a better future in their communities. Our work is based upon our genuine commitment to help rural people and communities build rural capacity through Leadership Development programs and strengthen Rural Economic Vitality through moving capacity into action.

Rural Community Assistance Partnership is part of a much larger group of many entities that are concerned about and work on challenges facing rural America. These include government agencies at the federal, state, regional and local levels that provide funding and operate a wide range of programs from housing to job creation. This group also includes many private organizations and associations that address an array of issues as well.

The Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) provides unbiased analysis and information on the challenges, needs, and opportunities facing rural America. RUPRI’s aim is to spur public dialog and help policymakers understand the rural impacts of public policies and programs.

The Center for Rural Affairs mission is to establish strong rural communities, social and economic justice, environmental stewardship, and genuine opportunity for all while engaging people in decisions that affect the quality of their lives and the future of their communities.

The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship helps rural communities leaders build a prosperous future by supporting and empowering business, social and civic entrepreneurs. With our roots and hearts in rural America, we help communities of all sizes and interests by bringing empowering research together with effective community engagement to advance community-driven strategies for prosperity.

Rural LISC provides a wide range of services including training, technical assistance, information, and financial support to help rural community developers address the problems rural communities face. Rural LISC staff collaborates with CDC’s to help identify priorities and challenges, delivering the most appropriate support to meet local needs.

The Rural Health Information Hub, formerly the Rural Assistance Center, is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to be a national clearinghouse on rural health issues. The RHIhub is your guide to improving health for rural residents—we provide access to current and reliable resources and tools to help you learn about rural health needs and work to address them.

NeighborWorks America creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities.

Agracel’s mission is to be the premier provider of development services to Agurb® communities, facilitating and retaining manufacturing and hi-tech jobs, resulting in a strong portfolio of buildings, thus creating long-term value for our stakeholders. Founded by Jack Shultz, author of BoomTown USA, Agricel has developed over 14 million square feet of industrial space in 20 states.

The Alliance for Rural Impact is a nonprofit organization serving rural and tribal communities across America.  We are a collective partnership of technical assistance experts focused on community equity for rural and tribal regions. Our team is solutions-focused and adept in financial stabilization and growth, strategic planning and analysis, capacity building and long-term implementation of priorities. Our ultimate goal is to bring about positive changes that result in community prosperity.

The Edward Lowe Foundation’s entrepreneurship initiatives are focused on second-stage companies — growth-oriented firms that have moved beyond  startup but haven’t yet reached maturity. Our peer learning, leadership education and strategic information programs are geared to help these companies continue growing. We also educate communities about the challenges second-stagers face and how to work with them.

Art of the Rural is a collaborative organization with a mission to help build the field of the rural arts, create new narratives on rural culture and community, and contribute to the emerging rural arts and culture movement. We work online and on the ground through interdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships to advocate for engaged conversation and policy that transcends imposed boundaries and articulates the shared reality of rural and urban America.

The Rural Gateway is an information clearinghouse providing technical assistance, training workshops, and peer learning and resource sharing to support rural housing and economic development.

Smart Growth America helps communities plan for smarter, strategic growth as an investment for their future. We teach local leaders about the technical aspects of smart growth development, and provide customized advice on how communities can use smart growth strategies to their advantage.

The Alliance for Rural Impact is a nonprofit organization serving rural and tribal communities across America.  They are a collective partnership of technical assistance experts focused on community equity for rural and tribal regions.

WealthWorks is a 21st-century approach to local and regional economic development WealthWorks brings together and connects a community’s assets to meet market demand in ways that build livelihoods that last. WealthWorks aims to advance a region’s overall prosperity and self-reliance, strengthen existing and emerging sectors, and increase jobs and incomes for lower-income residents and firms — all at the same time.

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, represents thousands of communities and conveners, entrepreneurs, investors and funders. Their mission is to create local economies that work for all by equipping people with the tools and connections needed to prioritize equity and make well-being possible.

The American Independent Business Association (AMIBA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities become more self-supporting and resilient through fostering a culture that values and supports independent business and local entrepreneurs. We do this by helping communities launch and successfully operate an Independent Business Alliance® (IBA), as well as providing extensive support, templates and resources for chambers, downtown organizations, local governments, independent trade associations and other entities working to help their local independent businesses thrive.

The Alliance for Lawyers and Rural America was conceived by group lawyers who lamented the lack of national-level unification and dialogue at the intersection of law and rurality. The Alliance for Lawyers and Rural America aims to bring greater awareness, attention, energy, and momentum to the efforts of rural people, community leaders, and any other individuals or organizations working at or near the intersection of law and rurality

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) believes in order to ensure a safe, adequate supply of healthy food, they must protect farm workers and encourage environmentally sound farming. Their mission is to cultivate markets, policies, and communities that support thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms.

The Center on Rural Innovation is an impact investing social enterprise. Their focus is on rural communities in economic distress; communities with depreciated real estate values, a decline of working-age families, and falling wages. Collaborating with community leaders, they plan and execute a downtown innovation hub using local, regional and national partnerships, and proven best practices for fostering resilient prosperity in rural economies.

Grantmakers in Aging

The Association for Rural & Small Libraries provides resources and support that empower those in small and rural libraries to deliver excellent service for their communities.

The National Rural Economic Developers Association is a member organization dedicated to the advancement of rural economic development through providing education and networking opportunities.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 5,000 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience.

The National Rural Assembly is a movement of people and organizations devoted to building a stronger, more vibrant rural America for children, families, and communities. Participants include more than 500 local, regional, and national organizations based in 47 states and the District of Columbia. The goal of the National Rural Assembly is to make the country stronger by improving the outlook for rural communities. The guiding principle is that an inclusive, prospering, and sustainable rural America improves prospects for us all.

The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s regional development organizations. The association and its members promote regional strategies, partnerships, and solutions to strengthen the economic competitiveness and quality of life across America’s local communities.

The National Community Development Association (NCDA) is a national nonprofit organization comprised of more than 400 local governments across the country that administer federally-supported community and economic development, housing and human service programs.  The Association provides timely, direct information and technical support to its members on federal housing and community development programs

The National Association for County and Economic Development was established to develop the technical capacity of county government practitioners that administer federally-funded affordable housing, community development, and economic development programs benefiting low- and moderate-income households.

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, known as LISC, is one of the largest organizations supporting projects to revitalize communities and bring greater economic opportunity to residents. These include more affordable housing, better schools, safer streets, growing businesses and programs improving the financial stability of people.

The American Independent Business Association (AMIBA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities become more self-supporting and resilient through fostering a culture that values and supports independent business and local entrepreneurs. We do this by helping communities launch and successfully operate an Independent Business Alliance® (IBA), as well as providing extensive support, templates and resources for chambers, downtown organizations, local governments, independent trade associations and other entities working to help their local independent businesses thrive.

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