Rural Philanthropy: Beyond Grantmaking

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May 29, 2013; Daily Yonder

The nation’s best online rural journal is, hands down, the Daily Yonder—and that’s not just because the Yonder has published work from Nonprofit Quarterly. Because it maintains a consistent lens on rural issues of concern to nonprofits and funders, it really merits a close read by philanthropic decision-makers whether they are rural focused or not.

One good example of the kind of Daily Yonder coverage that deserves more widespread attention is this piece by Max Rose about the Barry Community Foundation in Michigan. Rose describes the work of the foundation, led by Bonnie Hildreth, as more than that of a grantmaker, emphasizing its roles as “community convener, capacity builder and policy advocate.” Noting our work documenting the decreasing appetite of national funders for rural grantmaking, Rose says that rural philanthropy has to take on functions that are “beyond money.”

The Barry Community Foundation exemplifies a number of “beyond money” functions: making space available in its building (a converted church) for other nonprofits; promoting civic engagement, including the idea of encouraging people to run for local elected offices; and raising money for community facilities such as a public library.

One of the benefits of the Daily Yonder is that it profiles rural nonprofits and rural grantmakers like the Barry Community Foundation almost daily, charting the way for rural community progress. The challenges to rural communities are neither irreversible nor predestined. Foundations can make the choice to model themselves after the Barry Community Foundation and others to provide the array of financial and non-financial support to turn the tide for rural communities.—Rick Cohen