Speaking at the 57th annual conference of the Council on Foundations in Pittsburgh, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) charged that grantmakers have shortchanged rural regions that need help and urged foundations to double their grants to rural areas within five years, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.
Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, cited statistics showing that the ten rural states which receive the fewest foundation dollars — Alaska, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Vermont, and Wyoming — averaged $35 per resident in foundation grants in 2005, compared with a national average of $104 per resident. "Rural America has the need," said Baucus. "But rural America has not received the grants. That just does not seem fair." He then urged foundations to double their grants to rural America within five years, and to make a commitment to do so by Labor Day.
The ten states singled out by Baucus all lack big cities, which, he noted, have "a wealth of people, expertise, and money" that could benefit rural areas. The senator also pledged to work with the council on ways to coordinate public-private efforts to revitalize rural regions and to help foundations cut through red tape when they work with federal programs on rural projects.
Baucus' call to action was endorsed by eleven foundations and the Dallas-based National Rural Funders Collaborative, which was created in 2001 to attract more money to rural areas. "We look forward to having other funders join us as we work together to respond to this timely challenge," said Jim Richardson, the group's executive director, in a statement.