In April and May, Rural Democracy Initiative’s (RDI) 501c3 Heartland Fund and 501c4 Rural Victory Fund committed over $2.4 million in grants to 37 groups to build on the momentum of our network’s 2022 rural wins. These groups are defending against emboldened attacks on democracy, healthcare, core freedoms, and economic security, and also maximizing opportunities with new state governing majorities, cross-partisan partnerships, and federal funding. Along with our early 2023 grantmaking we hope these grants can help transform what is possible in our country and bring shared prosperity to all parts of our communities. Please read below for highlights from our recent grantmaking.

Elevating Rural Interests and Voices in Elections

Rural Victory Fund is supporting time-sensitive election engagement efforts in Virginia. Rural Ground Game (RGG) is focused on critical rural state legislative races to help achieve a pro-democracy State House, as well as local races for city council, state attorney, and school boards. RGG recruits candidates for these important races, many of which are currently uncontested. In addition, RGG has developed a new rural cooperative exchange model –  a centralized resource hub for campaigns featuring a regional database, content library, and best practices, workshops, and trainings.

In Pennsylvania, RDI is supporting PA United's efforts to advance policy priorities identified by the community. One of their key strategies is developing and electing champions, who engage with the community in co-governance. In 2021, PA United supported 14 grassroots candidates elected to local office. In 2022, PA United helped elect a pro-democracy Governor, Senator, and State Representatives. Now, PA United is ensuring rural interests are being represented in the powerful Allegheny County Executive office. The executive can enact sweeping changes through the implementation of the $5 billion of public funding they oversee regarding issues that include the environment, housing and homelessness, reproductive justice, and business and real estate deals. The executive plays a leadership role working with the 12 counties in mostly rural SW Pennsylvania and has significant power to prevent pollution from facilities and to direct federal infrastructure funding. 

Policies That Make a Difference

The US Postal Service has been under attack since 2020 with insidious policies to slow down the mail, raise prices, cut workforce, and outsource key functions. These policies have had devastating effects such as veterans not receiving their heart medications in the mail, agricultural animals not reaching farmers in time and dying in transit, stacks of mail piling up in sorting centers, and ballots not arriving in time to be counted. The post office continues to be a critical component of how rural communities function, how they do business, and increasingly how they conduct elections. RDI is supporting the Save USPS Campaign's efforts to sustain and improve postal services by finding new ways to generate revenue and envisioning the next 20 years of the post office. They are exploring initiatives such as postal banking, fishing licenses, and other vital resources for rural communities. Additionally, Save USPS is taking action on climate change through a policy to transition 95% of postal fleets to electric vehicles and invest in charging stations.

Investing in Power Building in Alaska

A strong coalition in Alaska is committed to mobilizing community voices and identifying community-based values and solutions. Rural and tribal communities in Alaska elevated hunting and fishing rights, food access, subsistence rights, and environmental protection as top issues. However, commercial fishing industry practices pose serious threats to communities’ livelihoods. RDI is investing in the Bycatch Fish Campaign, in partnership with the Mobilization Center and Salmon State, to address the crisis caused by indiscriminate ocean trawling in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Bycatching non-targeted species such as crab, halibut, and salmon, has led to the decline of vital fish populations, causing food insecurity and harming small boat fishermen. Through grassroots efforts, including door knocking and phone canvassing, this campaign seeks to build support and raise awareness. This culturally important and economically critical effort will lead to a more sustainable future for Alaska's fisheries and deepen the trust and power we have built with our Alaskan communities.

Media and Communications as a Tool for Change

To shift public attitudes and unite shared values across different geographies, RDI invests in tools, training, and groups advancing a persuasive narrative. We renewed our support of the Winning Jobs Narrative Project, an economic narrative framework that has trained thousands of progressive leaders to engage with working people across the urban-to-rural continuum, across race, and across issue areas about the economy and high-quality jobs. Additionally, a grant to Amplify NH, which educates New Hampshire voters about controversial policies through traditional and social media, will roll out a New Hampshire Narrative Handbook, which has a strong connection to the Winning Jobs Narrative. In 2023 Amplify NH will also produce nonpartisan research and messaging recommendations to support advocacy efforts and work with State House leadership on communications about a bipartisan budget compromise.

Support rural people working to transform rural America, make a gift to RDI today!