RDI GRANT GUIDELINES
Rural Democracy Initiative (RDI) invests in civic and political infrastructure in rural communities, small cities, and towns. Our grants build power in rural areas and strengthen broad-based, multi-racial coalitions at the local, state, and national level. The grants support organizing that delivers concrete solutions that make a real difference in the lives of rural people.
RDI’s 501c3 and 501c4 grants will build capacity in four areas:
- Organizing: Amplifying the voice and political power of rural people
- Civic Engagement: Registering, educating, and mobilizing rural voters for local, state, and federal elections as well as defending access to democracy and fair representation
- Communications: Investing in research, narrative development, and communications delivery as well as fighting disinformation
- Policy Change: Advancing policies that make a difference for rural communities
RDI invests in rural areas in 23 states across the country, prioritizing funding in our key states: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. We also have grants in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia. We occasionally grant in other states for model programs that strongly align with our other grantmaking criteria. We also invest in national organizations that are uniquely rural and working on key rural issues.
We evaluate grant requests based on the following criteria:
- Geographic Fit: Is the work deeply rooted in rural areas, small cities, and towns? Is the organization committed to building power in these communities for the long term? Is the work in an RDI-priority state?
- Impact: Would RDI’s funding have a high impact on civic, political, and/or community outcomes? RDI is interested in scaling up new organizations and projects as well as funding long-standing organizations.
- Racial Equity: Does the organizing have an anti-racist analysis and commitment? Is the work led by and/or serving communities of color? Is organizational leadership representative of the community it is serving? Is racial equity incorporated into the organization’s leadership, staff, and membership?
- Collaboration: Is the organization connected to broader networks of political and civic infrastructure? Is the work uplifting rural priorities in state-wide, regional, or federal efforts?
- Strategic Alignment: Does the organization work on priority issues for rural communities, including democracy, climate justice and clean energy, economic justice, narrative change and communications, family farms and regenerative agriculture, healthcare, broadband, and affordable housing?
- Leadership: Does the organization have strong leadership? Does the organization have a theory of change or realistic plan to achieve key political and/or policy goals?
- Learning and Movement Analysis: Is the organization generating knowledge or tools that will benefit other organizations in the RDI network?
Our 501c4 grants fund work that will impact legislative and political outcomes:
- Candidate development and leadership pipeline work
- Deep canvassing and relational organizing
- Voter persuasion efforts
- Lobbying, ballot measures, and issue advocacy
- Political research and message development
Our nonpartisan 501c3 grants fund:
- Leadership development and training
- Nonpartisan deep canvassing and relational organizing
- Nonpartisan civic engagement and get-out-the-vote
- Multi-issue organizing and policy change
- Communications: messaging, media, platforms
- Grassroots organizing and community education
Funding requests may include:
- Existing local projects with proven track records
- High-potential new civic engagement programs
- National or state organizations with programs based in rural areas
- Media platforms that reach rural communities (e.g., a communications hub)
- Experiments - new ways to engage rural communities
- Organizational support, tools, training, and leadership development
To learn more about RDI and our grantee network, see the RDI 2021 Impact Report.
It’s our goal to gather essential information about potential grantees with the least amount of duplicated effort or special requests. For this reason, we ask groups to begin by sending an informal one-to-two-page letter of inquiry (LOI). The LOI should include a brief description of the organization, geographic focus, essential goals and strategies for the year ahead, and budget needs. The LOI should also include whether the application is for 501c3 or 501c4 funds. After receiving the LOI, RDI will respond with the next steps.
To submit an LOI or to learn more about our work, please contact RDI Program Officer Stephanie Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.