Rural Democracy Initiative (RDI) offers a high-impact program of coordinated rural civic engagement, communications, policy advocacy, and community organizing efforts.
In 2020-22, our grantees recruited and supported local candidates with strong connections to their communities, knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and communicated about the issues on voters’ minds. We saw decisive increases in voter participation in many of the counties where our grantees worked, which helped determine electoral outcomes in states like Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.
About Rural Democracy
Rural Democracy supports rural people working to transform their lives and communities to advance widely shared prosperity and democracy. We invest in civic infrastructure in small cities and towns to impact public opinion, elections, and redistricting processes, as well as pass policies that make a difference for rural people. We are building sustainable organizations that support rural people working to transform rural America — and therefore our national politics — for decades to come.
Our two funds — the 501(c)(3) Heartland Fund and 501(c)(4) Rural Victory Fund are the first funding collaboratives built to support and connect local leaders working for progress across diverse communities in rural areas and small cities.
The challenges in rural communities have been growing over decades as communities struggle to recover from corporate concentration and disinvestment. People in rural communities have limited access to quality healthcare, education, and other essential services. The lack of government and philanthropic investment in rural communities has exacerbated the challenges. But, rural communities are ready for change, and many inspiring leaders around the country are engaging their communities for exciting policy and political progress.
Build Rural Power
Rural areas and small cities hold outsized power in state and federal governments. Legislation can’t pass the U.S. Senate without some rural support — rural states with 25% of the population control 60% of the Senate. In states like Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, over 40% of voters are in small towns and rural areas. And in many states, gerrymandered districts give rural voters disproportionate power to affect outcomes.
Rural Democracy invests in rural advocates who lift up local solutions and truly represent their communities. Our network of over 100 groups and leaders engage hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas to change major local, statewide, and national policy and political outcomes and increase their energy and influence heading into 2024.
In 2022, donors to the Heartland Fund and Rural Victory Fund helped us grant over $13 million to groups in places where rural action will define policy and electoral outcomes, and we advised an additional $7million in timely, aligned investments.
Narratives & Communications
Rural Democracy develops and funds projects that engage rural people with interesting, meaningful, and truthful information using all the communications channels available. Rural communities and small cities are disproportionately impacted by the fall of local journalism and leave our communities particularly susceptible to misinformation. Our network generates quality news, shares critical information, and actively fights the disinformation targeting their communities.
Policies That Make a Difference
The Rural Democracy network works with local, state, and federal government to advance policies that ensure all working families, no matter where they live or the color of their skin, have the opportunity and tools to build a good life and strengthen their communities. We help ensure policies are effectively implemented and benefit rural communities including the most marginalized rural residents.