In the first three months of 2022, Rural Democracy Initiative’s 501c3 Heartland Fund and 501c4 Rural Victory Fund granted $6,470,000 to 97 groups developing creative and effective ways to engage voters, shape policy, and build support. Thanks to our generous donors, that’s the most we’ve ever granted in the first quarter.

The stakes are high this year, and it’s essential to fund groups as early as possible so they can build their leadership, field, and communications teams, strengthen relationships, and increase momentum ahead of campaign season. The same faction that attacked the Capitol last year is placing deliberate barriers to voting, drawing districts to prevent competitive elections, and stacking how elections are regulated and certified. Additionally, the rise of disinformation and the loss of local media has disrupted normal communication methods. At the same time, the federal government is debating historic, progressive legislation.

Rural Democracy Initiative (RDI) grantees engage hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas, small towns, and small cities to change major policy and political outcomes. By impacting local, statewide, and national government, the RDI network improves people’s lives and changes what’s possible in rural communities.

In 2022, we renewed grants to diverse groups leading powerful grassroots campaigns. Voces De La Frontera is engaging tens of thousands of voters in key parts of rural Wisconsin. Led by low-wage workers, immigrants and youth, they have a groundbreaking relational organizing campaign. Faith in Public Life supports a diverse network of 2,500 faith leaders in Georgia. They particularly focus on South and Southwest GA, where there are critical opportunities for progressive power-building and electoral outcomes at the local, state, and federal levels. Through the RAZE Leaders program, Rural Arizona Engagement supports young people in identifying the issues they want to work on, becoming their own subject matter experts, and creating solutions. Their campaigns have shifted the political landscape in Pinal county, and they are moving assertively into Yuma and other counties this year.

603 Forward helped elect 54 candidates in New Hampshire

We also offered new grants to exciting emerging programs and initiatives. 603 Forward led a bold effort to recruit and support young leaders to run for office in New Hampshire. Last month, 54 of their 60 candidates won school board and local municipal elections. Michigan Rural Advocates are implementing an ambitious rural engagement and messaging strategy to elect candidates running on rural healthcare, affordable housing, accessing healthy food, public education, reliable broadband, climate, and protecting small businesses. The Wabanaki Alliance is building multiracial coalitions that support tribal sovereignty in Maine. Having only recently hired their first Executive Director, they already achieved multiple victories in the Maine legislature this year, demonstrating the popular support for policies that end historical discrimination and for statewide campaigns led by Indigenous people.

A number of our grantees are national organizations doing work in our key states that complement our state-based grantees. Some national highlights include One Fair Wage launching a ballot measure to end the subminimum wage in Michigan, RuralOrganizing.Org deepening its network in Ohio, and 1000 Women Strong expanding into East Texas. A new grantee, Courier Newsroom, is increasing civic engagement and combating disinformation by delivering local, relevant news to millions of low-information voters with local newsrooms in Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, and other battleground states. 

The path to progress runs through rural America. Our grants ensure the groups in our network can build their capacity, engage in policy work that gives people the tools to make a difference in their lives, and mobilize people to engage in this year’s elections. This work requires ongoing, year-round engagement, and the opportunities far outstrip our current resources. With your help, we will continue to offer ambitious grant support to the highest-impact efforts in small cities and rural areas.

Support rural people working to transform rural America. Make a gift to RDI today!