Election day is four months away, and Rural Democracy grantees will play a critical role in mobilizing people to strengthen our democracy, advocate for better conditions for working families, and participate in elections. Our years of investment have created a growing network of trained organizers, trusted messengers, and local leaders with the tools and resources to lead transformational conversations with rural people. 

These rural leaders engage their communities all year, every year. This steady, powerful force strengthens democracy and makes life better for working people in all parts of the country. It's what will get us through this critical election cycle with trusted champions who will fight for our communities up and down the ballot.

We know the importance of staffing up to run outreach efforts well ahead of election day. In the first half of the year we granted nearly $15 million to 150 groups. Read below for inspiring examples of rural leaders working in critical battlegrounds and on big ballot measures.

Engaging Rural Youth

This spring, Rural Democracy doubled down on youth efforts. Young people–especially young people of color in rural areas–are among the most undecided and least contacted voter demographics. 

Our Rural Youth Voter Fund grantees include Forward Montana, the largest youth civic engagement organization in the Big Sky State. Forward Montana builds political power with and for young Montanans. People under age 35 make up 28% of Montana’s electorate, and Forward Montana is using its targeted approach to spur 58% youth turnout in the 2024 election. 

Forward Montana galvanizes youth advocacy around popular issues like affordable housing, a top concern identified among rural voters in our recent electoral poll. Their strategy includes door knocking, phone calls, digital efforts, handwritten postcards, and mailing 75,000 voter guides. The group also planned 40 membership events as well as five candidate forums for down-ballot races. These efforts will prove vital in the local, state, and federal elections.

Rural Poll

Our recent polling revealed the essential impact rural voters will have in upcoming elections. In particular, young rural voters of color emerged as one of the most swingable and least contacted groups.

Building Power in Battleground States

We supported voter engagement in rural parts of battleground states by granting to organizations like North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT). This rural power-builder in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across North Carolina catalyzes increased voter engagement of AAPI voters statewide. 

NCAAT takes a culturally competent approach that accounts for diverse language needs. North Carolina’s AAPI electorate grew by 86% over the decade between 2010 and 2020, yet research shows 70% of Asian Americans in the South have never been contacted by a candidate or political party. 

With these challenges in mind, NCAAT played a key part in mobilizing a multiracial coalition to elect Black working-class nurse Diamond Staton Williams to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2022. Now, NCAAT boasts an engaged membership and strengthened infrastructure, ready to mobilize in this swing state for the presidential election and the high-profile governor's race that will have tremendous impact on the future of the state and the well-being of its residents.

In 2024, NCAAT will collect 3,000 voter registration cards, make 115,000 GOTV calls, knock on 75,000 doors, send 600,000 texts, and mail 180,000 multilingual mail pieces. 

Improving Living Conditions with Ballot Measures

Just as essential as electing leaders who will advocate for rural people is the importance of mobilizing around big ballot measures in front of many voters this year. That’s why we directed support to folks fighting against alarming attacks on basic rights like worker protections. 

Better Jobs for Alaska, for example, is focused on a ballot measure campaign  spearheading economic justice and improving conditions for working-class families in Alaska.

Their ballot measure campaign focuses on:

  1. Raising the minimum wage
    Alaska’s minimum wage hovers at just $10.85 an hour, amounting to $23,000 a year for a full-time worker. Alaskans know that’s not enough to support a working family, and now they have the opportunity to vote to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour.
  2. Requiring paid sick leave
    Thousands of Alaskans currently working full time don’t earn any paid sick days, a clear opportunity to improve quality of life for Alaskans who are working hard to support their families.
  3. Ensuring worker freedom
    Corporations in Alaska force workers to attend mandatory, closed-door “captive audience meetings” where they receive threats and harassment for their interest in joining a union. Workers can be fired if they don’t attend. The ballot measure proposes to stop these mandatory meetings. 

Increasing Indigenous Investment

Effective organizing utilizes strengths specific to each community. That’s why we’re supporting Wingbeat 88 and their traditional kinship form of organizing, based on matriarchal leadership and ancestral clan groups of Diné (Navajo) voters in Arizona. This Indigenous-led group runs an ambitious voter registration program that scaled up its field team with our support. 

Wingbeat 88 is focused on deepening local relationships early in the year to ensure success come election season. They exemplify the need to take a local, culturally aligned approach to achieve desired outcomes, and we’re committed to ongoing support of this work and other Indigenous leaders across rural America. 

More Work to Do

These four examples showcase the variety of civic engagement and electoral work in our grantee network. They bring diverse rural experiences to establish widespread prosperity and a thriving democracy. We’re inspired by our grantees making early impacts engaging voters across the country, but we know more work remains. Consider donating so we can sustain our support as groups ramp up their efforts to build a healthy democracy and protect core freedoms in rural America and beyond.