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Narratives & Communications

RDI initiates and funds projects that engage rural people with interesting, meaningful, and truthful information. Our network actively fights the disinformation targeting their communities.






We fund rural and small city groups to engage their communities through local trusted messengers, who create messages and tactics tailored for their local audiences. RDI also supports and shares the latest communications research, content and messaging, training opportunities, and best practices.


Real people from the community are the best spokespeople. People connect with people they can trust and identify with — working people, small business owners, and family farmers. It helps when people share their own experiences, speak with everyday language, and avoid jargon. If content feels authentic, then it doesn’t need to be highly produced.

RDI grantees connect with local reporters and editors, who are often hungry for content. The RDI network also has had great success with direct communications, including social media, texting, email, yard signs, and billboards.



To center rural people and working families, we provide support and tools so they can be the spokespeople leading change for themselves and their communities.

RDI helped launch and support the Winning Jobs Narrative and Toolkit, which brought together top narrative practitioners and advocates to create a blueprint for successful messaging on issues relating to jobs and the economy. We also fund and promote other effective rural messaging frameworks, such as the Race Class Narrative and issue-specific campaigns.



The challenges in rural communities have been growing over decades as communities struggle to recover from corporate disinvestment The lack of government and philanthropic investment in rural communities has exacerbated the challenges. But, rural communities are ready for more, and leaders around the country are engaging their communities to change major policy and political outcomes.


Publicize Policy Opportunities & Wins

Better communications and narratives show how federal and state policies improve rural lives, and build momentum for future policy advocacy and electoral campaigns. Groups like Main Street Alliance make the case for funding projects that support rural communities, and supported trusted leaders to publish op-eds showing how these policies lead to new, local projects.

Change the Perception of Rural

We’re changing the conversation about who lives in rural communities and what we can achieve. Misperceptions about rural America contribute to the lack of investment from both private philanthropy and government. Black Appalachian Coalition supports Black storytelling to create the conditions where residents are ready to engage on policy issues and policy makers are ready to listen. Coverage from Rolling Stone and Blue Tent helps build national support for rural communities. We also engage donor networks, convene dynamic grantee and partner events, and foster thought leadership to change the conversation.

Neutralizing Disinformation

The rise of disinformation and the loss of local media has disrupted normal communication methods, putting our democracy and communities at risk. Many people’s first instinct to fight disinformation is to argue with it on social media. But this backfires and amplifies the disinformation, causing more confusion.

The RDI network builds relationships to help short circuit disinformation before it starts. Effective narratives insulate people from divisive lies and prepare them to spot bad actors. We also fund news services like Courier Newsroom and communication hubs like Amplify NH that provide truthful coverage to a growing audience base. Our grantees serve as trusted messengers for a specific issue area, geography, or community. For example, when people in Mid-Missouri see something they aren’t sure about, they reach out to Missouri Rural Crisis Center for confirmation. Groups like New Georgia Project and Vote Vets have programs to respond and redirect disinformation strategically.


We fund organizations with innovative strategies that test ideas and try new tactics. We learn from our grantees and facilitate opportunities for grantees to learn from each other. We share what’s working and innovations, as well as match groups in our network with technology platforms, research, and training to enhance their success. 




Drawing on our network, RDI creates materials to support grantees. RDI’s Federal Resources Toolkit provides an overview of recently established programs and how people can access them.


Rural Policy Action Report helps organizations advance solutions that create new opportunities for people to improve their lives. Using the report, advocates can select their priority issue and then quickly access talking points and content.


We frequently convene learning spaces for our grantees, donors, and partners. RDI-grantee United Today, Stronger Tomorrow led a well-received workshop on Directing Federal Funds. They shared examples from recent powerful campaigns, how to determine a local project and strategy, and ways to use the campaigns to build a permanent base that holds elected officials accountable.

Our policy work creates a foundation for effective communications and a winning network.



We need to give people the opportunity and tools to make a difference in their lives and communities. Our grantees are working with local officials to ensure that the American Rescue Plan and infrastructure funds can quickly help with broadband, housing, and small businesses.




Our network of over 100 groups and leaders will engage hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas, small towns, and small cities to change major local, statewide, and national policy and political outcomes and increase their energy and influence heading into 2024.