• Nikki Zeuner

    Thanks, Rick for the data and the analysis. Will repost this on our Southwest NM Nonprofit Daily News. In our area, the absence of foundations (not only their funds, but also any sign of strategic leadership) has been a reality for so long that nonprofit organizations have pretty much given up on philanthropy. As a result, rural nonprofit revenue depends largely on public funds, which tend to buy services without building capacity. The lack of capacity is a direct result of the absence of unrestricted funds.

    You are also right on about the issue of advocacy. But even advocacy requires funds and capacity… a vicious cycle?

  • Kyle Erickson

    Thank you, Rick, for your excellent article calling attention to an acute area of concern. As a one-man development shop for a rural non-profit (Leech Lake Tribal College), I can tell you that my institution – and many others like it – are squarely behind the 8-ball many times when it comes to funding.

    I can’t tell you how many foundations I have researched and found a great mission match, only to discover that they either fund only in the 7-county Twin Cities metro area, that they fund only in Minneapolis or St. Paul (or a specific suburb), or that they do not accept unsolicited proposals.

    LLTC is having an incredible impact on the communities and students it serves, but its ability to grow is severely hamstrung by lack of viable funding options.

  • rick cohen

    Kyle: All so true, but you’ve raised another phenomenon that NPQ readers are experiencing but we haven’t written about–the increase in the number and proportion of foundations that no longer accept unsolicited proposals. This is a serious and troubling trend. I’d love to hear whether additional NPQ readers, from rural and urban nonprofits, are finding that there’s no transom at the foundations over which they can toss their proposals.

  • rick cohen

    Nikki: The absence of foundations in rural areas is also a problem. We’ve written about that in the past, using some of the “philanthropic divide” information that Mike Schechtman at the Big Sky Institute originated some years ago. The lack of indigenous philanthropic institutions (and philanthropic assets) in rural states or, more particularly, rural areas, is a significant issue. That’s a justification in favor of the notion that the Council on Foundations has been promoting about generating new endowments for rural areas at community foundations, etc., but the problem is, that’s an awfully slow process, usually works best in the wealthier rural areas, and doesn’t deal with the huge structural between rural and urban philanthropic assets and philanthropic grantmaking.

  • rick cohen

    Nikki: re advocacy, the issue is more than resources and capacity: nonprofits have to make philanthropy, philanthropic assets, and foundation grantmaking an advocacy issue. We’re talking about a national grantmaking budget well into the billions that nonprofits don’t advocate about, compared to how much they advocate about government revenues and expenditures. As a percentage of the nation’s GDP, philanthropy is worth nonprofit advocacy energies.

  • Denise L Harlow

    We are stressing the struggle for rural investments in our calls to preserve the Community Services Block Grant formula structure. The current structure ensures that all parts of New York State receive funding to help low-income families. From counties with 5,000 people to Manhattan, every county receives an allocation which local boards allocate to local needs. Without this gaurentee we are very concerned that many rural communities will lose out in a competitive environment. Thanks for your efforts to highlight rural needs!

  • Susan McGuire

    This is a subject near and dear to my work. In Wyoming, only one community meets the US Census Bureau definition of urban (pop.>50,000). Corporations that make a great deal of money from natural resource extraction in the state have their headquarters elsewhere, and that’s where the corporate foundations give their grants–not here. When I approach national foundations, they tell me we can’t show enough impact of our work. But that’s because they rely so much on numbers served as opposed to success in achieving our goals. Local community foundations are very small so they aren’t much of an option. Yes, it’s true that we have less capacity than an equivalent urban nonprofit, but that’s because no one will fund us. It’s a Catch-22.

  • rick cohen

    Dear Susan: You’re exactly right. I wrote some of that in my rural philanthropy pieces for NCRP some years ago, particularly the fact that corporations that made their money on natural resource extraction were headquartered in cities and like most corporations giving the bulk of their philanthropy in the HQ city area. That report was the first big challenge to foundations on rural and I’m pretty proud of what we wrote (http://www.ncrp.org/files/Beyond_City_Limits.pdf), though foundations are still using the catch-22 arguments to sidestep rural needs.

  • paula smith arrigoni

    Rick, this is such a spot on analysis. Before starting my own free-lance consulting a few weeks ago, I was an analyst for the CDFI Fund and a lender and consultant for Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), where I focused in California. I’ve been struck at how limited the foundation resources are in places such as Northern California (north of Marin County), the Central Valley, and the Central Coast. Thankfully we have some statewide funders that are making a big impact in their sectors, like California Endowment (noted in your article), California Wellness Foundation, Blue Shield of California Foundation, but the response could be a lot broader. Cases like the one that you cited, where the only community health center or domestic violence shelter closes due to lack of funding (particularly now with steep government cuts), are extremely dire. When these agencies close, it’s hard to pick up the pieces. Better funded or managemed agencies from a couple of counties away are usually not positioned to step in to acquire abandoned servies, and moreover, is unlikely to garner locally-based support.

    On the issue of capacity, I have seen evidence that greater investement from foundations to support the development of more effective and durable nonprofits, can also extend to local community foundations and other institutions, like United Ways and local banks. A good example of this is the Community Leadership Project (CLP), a collaborative initiative funded by the Hewlett, Irvine and Packard Foundations. In my obsevation, the CLP is a vehicle for intermediary capacity-building organizations (like NFF or NetZero) to engage with small rural nonprofits in the Fresno area, or Monterey/Salinas area, as well as to partner and train their community foundations. The process takes times (and will probably end of up costing more than initially anticipated), but the potential for increased capacity and access to funding seems very positive.