Supporting rural people in rural America

Rural Democracy supports the ongoing transformative work of hundreds of groups and local leaders in rural communities across the country.

By joining national funding with growing local and state-level funder networks, we support groups to build power, create governing majorities, back local candidates running for office, and win elections. We invest deeply in places where rural voters will impact communities, protect core freedoms, and create momentum for local, state, and federal change. Our grants help build sustainable organizational infrastructure and effective partnerships to elect people closest to the issues and the solutions in their communities.

Rural Democracy is building capacity in three areas to support rural electoral victories and strong local leadership.

Grantee Stories

Increasing Civic Engagement and Organizing

We support grantees to register voters, develop leaders, and mobilize them to participate in elections and civic life. Our organizing support amplifies the voices and political power of rural people. We know that when rural communities get organized, we can create changes that have national impacts.

Rural Democracy Network

Bolstering Communications

Our network performs influential research, develops effective communications, and delivers messages that resonate. Our grantees combat misinformation in rural areas while amplifying the work being done to improve the lives of the people who live here.

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Advocating for Meaningful Policy and Implementation

Rural Democracy grantees research, create, and support policies that make a difference in the lives of rural people and communities. Their education campaigns ensure that rural people can advocate for policy that benefits their communities. And they provide robust implementation programs to maximize benefits for rural people.

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Rural Democracy Funds

RDI grants build power in small cities, towns, and rural areas and strengthen broad-based, multi-racial coalitions. Our civic engagement and multi-issue advocacy work includes the 501(c)(3) Heartland Fund and 501(c)(4) Rural Victory Fund. Rural Youth Voter Fund, part of the Rural Democracy program, mobilizes rural young people, who are among the least contacted voters of any demographic group.

Rural Democracy Grantmaking

Grantmaking Criteria

We evaluate Rural Democracy 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 a Rural Democracy priority state?
  • Impact: Would RDI’s investment have a high impact on civic and/or community outcomes? We are interested in scaling up new organizations and projects as well as funding long-standing organizations.
  • Racial Equity: Does the organization 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 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, economic justice, narrative change and communications, and policy change?
  • Leadership: Does the organization have strong leadership? Does the organization have a theory of change or realistic plan to achieve key goals?
  • Learning and Movement Analysis: Is the organization generating knowledge or tools that will benefit other groups in the Rural Democracy network?

Grantmaking Examples

Our nonpartisan 501(c)(3) 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


Our 501(c)(4) 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

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

 

In 2024, we are prioritizing funding for our existing network and are not accepting letters of interest for prospective new grantees for our Rural Democracy program.