RDI invests in a network that can transform the lives of rural people. Our network of over 100 groups and leaders will engage hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas, small towns, and small cities to change major local, statewide, and national policy and political outcomes and increase their energy and influence heading into 2024.
BUILDING VIBRANT COALITIONS ACROSS RACE AND GEOGRAPHY
FUNDED $1M TO INDIGENOUS ORGANIZING and civic engagement in places like AK, WI, MI, MN, MT, and UT in 2021
LAUNCHED RURAL TEXAS STRATEGY in 2021 and invested and aligned $700,000 in transformative grassroots organizing and rural communications
BROADENED SUPPORT through deep canvass programs, the most effective method for persuasion
Rural Utah Project
41% of grant funds support groups led by or primarily focused in Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian American, and immigrant communities
Down Home North Carolina
SUCCESSFULLY ORGANIZED WORKERS at some of the biggest employers in rural areas: Amazon, Walmart, Target, and restaurants
We support grassroots groups doing voter registration and turnout as well as recruiting and developing grassroots candidates. Organizations in the RDI network are key to increasing participation, and winning state and local races, including Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Supreme Court, legislatures, and local municipal races.
Rural Voters Have Political Power
Rural voters have disproportionate voting power. Less than half of the US population is represented by 82 of the 100 Senators. And rural and small-town voters are central to deciding state-wide races in many battleground states. For example, in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, 40% of voters are in small towns and rural areas.
Rural voters are swing voters
Between 2012 and 2022, rural voters swung 8%, moving in both directions. That’s more than urban and suburban voters.
We Are Winning
Local engagement changes outcomes in local, statewide, and national elections. Changes in rural and small-town votes were critical to Biden’s 2020 victory. RDI-supported groups in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin profoundly impacted those state outcomes. Other recent electoral highlights include:
- Our grantees’ organizing leads to decisive increases in voter participation in nearly all counties our grantees work in.
- 14 of 20 local candidates recruited by PA United won for school board and city council in Erie, State College, and Beaver County in 2021.
- Montana rural voters elected progressives in Red Lodge, Livingston, and Lewiston in 2021.
- 603 Forward won 54 out of 60 of their small town and school board races in New Hampshire in 2022.
'The only way we were going to win is if we held the line in SW GA, which was the most rural and poorest part of the state.' -Shakya Cherry-Donaldson, @1kWomenStrong— Rural Democracy Initiative (@DemocracyRural) September 17, 2021
Shakya shares how funding rural organizing helped elect 2 GA Senators. pic.twitter.com/Xpz8UMg5tR
WE ARE LEARNING TOGETHER
We fund organizations with innovative strategies that test ideas and try new tactics. We learn from our grantees and facilitate opportunities for grantees to learn from each other. We the importance of funding rural leaders, share what’s working and innovations, as well as match groups in our network with technology platforms, research, training, and other resources to enhance their success.
RDI seeks to optimize our strategy and the work of partner organizations. The Importance of Investing in Rural and Small-Town Voters reviews voting trends to establish effective funding strategies for rural civic engagement.
Drawing on the work of our network, RDI creates materials to support grantees. RDI’s Federal Resources Toolkit provides an overview of recently established programs and how people can access them.
We frequently convene learning spaces for our grantees, donors, and partners. RDI-grantee United Today, Stronger Tomorrow led a well-received workshop on Directing Federal Funds. They shared examples from recent powerful campaigns, how to determine a local project and strategy, and ways to use the campaigns to build a permanent base that holds elected officials accountable.
The RDI network creates a foundation for effective communications and policy.
The RDI network drives effective communications by establishing local trusted messengers, reaching people through local press, and showing the connection between national talking points and local impacts. Local and national organizations collaborate on narrative, opinion research, and communications.
We need to give people the opportunity and tools to make a difference in their lives and communities. Our grantees are working with local officials to ensure that the American Rescue Plan and infrastructure funds can quickly help with broadband, housing, and small businesses.