RDI Kicks Off 2023 Grantmaking with Webinar
There are no off years for Rural Democracy Initiative (RDI). Joined by our funders and supporters, RDI hosted a Kickoff Webinar to start the year. We welcomed two guest speakers from our grantee network, Davis Hammet from Loud Light and Valerie Rawls from EcoWomanist, as well as new RDI programs Rural Youth Voter Fund and Resource Rural. In an inspiring and lively conversation, we shared recent successes and highlighted our priorities for the year.
Above Image: Left - EcoWomanist supports local farmers on food security;
Right - Through a joyful organizing approach Loud Light mobilized young people to vote in historic numbers.
- RDI launches Rural Youth Voter Fund. Rural young people are among the most persuadable and least contacted voters of any demographic group, and young rural voters of color lean strongly towards progressive candidates and issues. Activating these voters could be the difference in many close elections and ensure young people of color have leaders in government that truly represent them.
- Davis Hammet showed how Loud Light engaged young voters to change outcomes in Kansas. Several years of successful base building, voter registration, and weekly legislative recap videos prepared them for last year’s high-stakes campaign to protect abortion rights. Through a joyful organizing approach featuring pink cowboy hats and “ponies to the polls," the Vote Neigh campaign mobilized young people to vote in historic numbers.
- 2023: a generational opportunity for climate action and federal investments. Following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and other historic investments in rural climate solutions, 2023 presents a unique and urgent opportunity to accelerate climate action in rural communities. By supporting successful implementation, we create important economic and quality-of-life improvements in communities while building political will for even more ambitious solutions.
- Valerie Rawls, from EcoWomanist Institute (EWI) in Georgia, demonstrated that rural communities will show up for climate and clean energy when we invest in organizing. EWI supports Black women farmers, advocates for restorative justice, and engages rural Black voters to participate in elections. In a top-performing digital radio campaign about energy democracy, EWI engaged Black rural women in southern Georgia to turn out at the polls and come together for locally tailored climate solutions.
- Ann Lichter, from RDI’s new Resource Rural program, reminded us that the work we do is personal for all the communities we invest in. As part of the Appalachian Climate Technology (ACT Now) Coalition, Ann worked with several community groups on an intensive strategy to create and grow climate and clean energy jobs in West Virginia, in the heart of coal mining country. While successfully securing federal funding for their program was a competitive and grueling process, the real work of implementation is just beginning. Leaders in the coalition are directly impacted every day by the clean energy transition, so letting up on this work is not an option for them. RDI’s continued investment in implementation empowers these local leaders to make the best changes for their communities.
To meet the opportunities and threats in this consequential year, RDI will need to grant at least $14 million through the Heartland Fund (501c3) and $4 million from the Rural Victory Fund (501c4). These grants will support 150+ groups across 20 carefully targeted states focused on civic engagement, multi-issue advocacy and federal funding implementation, climate solutions, political action, and communications.