Older people in rural areas face challenges ranging from mobility and economic security to housing and health care, yet rural initiatives receive disproportionately little philanthropic support, a report from Grantmakers In Aging finds.
The report, New Frontiers for Funding: An Introduction to Grantmaking in Rural Aging (28 pages, PDF), examined the challenges rural communities are facing as their populations age and found that the needs of the elderly are compounded by their physical and social isolation, which can make it difficult for them to age in place safely and well. And even though many rural communities lack the financial resources to address those needs, they are often ignored by private philanthropy. According to the report, grantmaking for rural projects is disproportionately low and has been declining for years: an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that only 6.3 percent of large foundation grants benefited rural communities, which are home to about 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Part of GIA's Creating a Sustainable Network for the Rural Aging Movement, a three-year project supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, the report argues that reasons for funding rural aging initiatives include the potential for high impact, less bureaucracy, and the ability to leverage the resourcefulness of rural communities. Recommendations from grantmakers with experience funding rural aging projects include planning for sustainability from the beginning; reaching out to potential grantees; supporting community foundations and smaller funders; and maximizing the capacity of smaller organizations and individuals by listening to, learning from, and building trust within the community.
"Rural America is aging faster than the rest of the country, so if you are a funder, policy maker, or service provider working in rural areas, you are already working in aging," said John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers In Aging. "If you work in health, housing, transportation, technology, community development, or many other areas and want to consider adding a rural focus, New Frontiers for Funding can help you discover new opportunities for innovation and collaboration and help you increase your impact."