Who’s championing rural philanthropy?

Posted in Vibrant Rural

Around our office, you often hear – “If you’ve been to one rural community, you’ve been to one rural community.” Understanding that every rural community is unique and has its own challenges and opportunities is central to our work.

Sometimes, though, a challenge is so pervasive that it does impact all rural communities. Philanthropy in rural is one such challenge.

Last week, Nonprofit Quarterly writer Rick Cohen penned a thought-provoking piece entitled, “What Ails Rural Philanthropy and What Must Be Done.” In it, he talks about the downward spiral of philanthropic funding in rural communities across the U.S.

He says,

“Summarizing other reporting we have done on rural philanthropy comes out roughly the same, a picture showing that the philanthropic resources devoted to rural America have not kept up with the moneys flowing to metropolitan and suburban locales…rural is falling behind in its access to philanthropic grants.”

The philanthropic trends, he says, seem to be going against rural. What are those trends?

  1. The big leadership foundations are not stressing rural
  2. There is no big rural philanthropy advocate
  3. There is a lack of government accountability
  4. Economic development is failing to count philanthropic resource flows

In the article, Cohen names eight foundations that “lead rural stalwarts,” and of the eight, four serve Minnesota (Northwest Area Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation and Blandin Foundation).

So what does Minnesota’s urban/rural philanthropic pie look like?

The Minnesota Council on Foundations just released their 2014 Giving in Minnesota report. The report shows that in 2012, $1.59 billion grants were paid in Minnesota – 8% (or $127.2 million) went to Greater Minnesota and 31% (or $492.9 million) to the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. The 2012 percentage for rural carried over from 2011, which was a 2% decrease from the previous year. Below you can see the grants distribution since 2001, according to the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ Giving in Minnesota reports.

  • 2011: Greater Minnesota 8%, Twin Cities Metro 30%
  • 2010: Greater Minnesota 10%, Twin Cities Metro 31%
  • 2009: Greater Minnesota 10%, Twin Cities Metro 30%
  • 2008: Greater Minnesota 11%, Twin Cities Metro 32%
  • 2007: Greater Minnesota 12%, Twin Cities Metro 32%
  • 2006: Greater Minnesota 11%, Twin Cities Metro 32%
  • 2005: Greater Minnesota 11%, Twin Cities Metro 33%
  • 2004: Greater Minnesota 13%, Twin Cities Metro 34%
  • 2003: Greater Minnesota 9%, Twin Cities Metro 33%
  • 2002: Greater Minnesota 13%, Twin Cities Metro 35%
  • 2001: Greater Minnesota 11%, Twin Cities Metro 30%

What do you notice about the data? Post below!