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Grant Program

Rural Democracy Initiative (RDI) invests in civic and political infrastructure in rural communities, small cities, and towns. Our grants build power in rural communities and strengthen progressive, multi-racial coalitions at the local, state, and national level. The grant projects 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: Amplify the voice, votes, and power of people for progressive policy change
  • Civic Engagement: Register, educate, and mobilize rural voters for local, state, and federal elections, and other related efforts such as redistricting
  • Communications: Research, develop content and narrative, and deliver communications 
  • Coordination: Increase the effectiveness of rural organizations building capacity or linking to statewide and regional plans and networks

RDI invests in rural areas in over twenty states across the country. The grant program prioritizes projects in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona. Our next tier includes Montana, Alaska, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, we consider grants in all states that fit our other grantmaking criteria.

RDI encourages applicant organizations to present a coordinated rural program that describes how organizations will work together to build multiple capacities supporting rural communities. The ideal project will have a long-term impact and support a strategy beyond the grant period.

Grantmaking Criteria

We will 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, 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 serving communities of color? Is there a priority to organize white people against white supremacy? Is organizational leadership representative of the community it’s serving? Is racial equity incorporated into the organization’s leadership, staff, and membership?
  • Collaboration – Is the organization and grant project connected to broader networks of state and national civic infrastructure?
  • 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 and a theory of change or realistic plan to achieve key political and policy goals for 2021 and beyond?
  • Learning and Movement Analysis – Is the organization generating knowledge or tools that will benefit other organizations in the RDI network?

Grant Process

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 the application process 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 promptly with the next steps.

To submit an LOI or to learn more about our work, please contact