June 16, 2020

A Multiracial Rural Equity Summit: Why Now

As part of Neighborhood Funders Group’s virtual convening series, NFG’s Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG) will host its first ever Multiracial Rural Equity Summit on July 1. 

As Americans across the country rise up in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, IRSG calls on philanthropy to: 

  1. Uplift the voices of rural communities demanding economic and environmental justice.

  2. Uplift the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color in rural places.

  3. Uplift racial solidarity and shared prosperity.

IRSG’s Multiracial Rural Equity Summit will explore how systemic racism is harming rural communities and how grantmakers can support building rural resilience in the future. Funders will gather virtually to learn from rural organizations that have a racial justice analysis.

Paralleling rural & urban divestment

Since the 1980s, rural areas throughout the U.S. have been decimated by globalization, automation, the opioid epidemic, population decrease related to the financialization of our economy, and more. Rural communities have suffered from divestment in social safety net systems and lack of access to healthcare, education, and quality jobs. A robust rural economy once populated by family famers has been replaced with corporate factory farms, resulting in loss of land and livelihood for farmers across the country and an ironic reality in which some of the most food insecure counties in the country are rural.

During the same time frame, the rural prison and detention center economy grew exponentially; prisons and detention centers have become a bedrock of employment for many rural communities with 70 percent of U.S. prisons located in rural areas. The U.S. maintains the world’s largest immigration detention system, and more than half of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are housed in remote rural prisons. 

Comparing farmer and prisoner populations, data shows that there are currently more prisoners than farmers in the U.S. Today, many states are now leasing out prisoners to support corporate agriculture and other industries based in rural areas, a practice tragically reminiscent of “convict leasing” adopted by former slaveholders during the Jim Crow era. In order to justify such a massive expansion, the prison industrial complex amplified a narrative that cast Black and Latinx people of color as “dangerous,” marketing it to predominantly white rural communities as an appeal to personal and economic security.

People of color in urban areas have experienced similar divestments that parallel those of rural communities. Decades of racialized divestment in housing, healthcare, and education have re-segregated cities, declined living standards, accelerated health disparities, and criminalized Black and brown communities across the country. In striking fashion, we can see that both rural and urban Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities are suffering from lack of access to healthy food, healthcare, education, quality jobs, and economies that are non-extractive of the local populations or the environment.

Climate change continues to be an existential threat to both rural and urban communities; it is devastating for farmers, and populations across the world are struggling to contain fires, droughts, storms, and the spread of diseases. The parallel experiences of disinvestment in rural and urban communities show that they have much to gain by standing together around a set of shared values. 

The path forward and philanthropy’s role

This all points to the fact that the fates of rural and urban America are intimately intertwined. As the country reckons with its racial history and calls for racial justice proliferate mainstream politics, rural communities will play a vital role in shaping outcomes on all of the issues we care most about. Rural communities are vital to creating the systems we need to survive climate change. Ninety-seven percent of America’s land mass is rural and as climate change forces massive relocation, the composition of rural communities will continue to change and the need for multi-racial community solidarity will be paramount. The existence of strong, stable rural communities is a critical part of moving the needle toward the future we would like to see. The path forward requires divesting from prisons and other extractive industries in order to invest more in resilient ecosystems, racial solidarity, and multiracial economic development.

As a group of funders across the U.S. interested in pursuing this path forward, IRSG is providing opportunities to learn together and understand the role of systemic racism, economic injustice, and climate change in harming rural communities — and the role of grantmakers in building their resilience in the future. Philanthropy’s role requires an understanding and sustained investment in the communities that are doing this work.

This is why IRSG is hosting a Multiracial Rural Equity Summit. The summit will feature funders and rural community leaders who will speak about the historical and systemic divestment in rural communities and the importance of investing in a multiracial approach to resilience and prosperity.

Join us to learn, connect, and explore a path forward together.

The summit is co-sponsored by 11th Hour ProjectCeres TrustCommon Counsel FoundationEngage New York, Meyer Memorial Trust, and NFG’s Democratizing Development Program.

April 27, 2021

Building rural power for racial, economic, gender, & climate justice: NFG's April 2021 Newsletter

At Neighborhood Funders Group, we know that local grassroots organizing is key to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities building power to influence decision-making about the places where they live, work, learn, and play. It’s how we can make sure our communities have access to clean water, stable housing, and economies that sustain people and planet. Power building is also how we will achieve community safety models that do not perpetuate violence against and criminalize Indigenous women and girls, migrants, those living in poverty, and Black and Brown people living in rural communities.

With nearly 1 of every 5 people in the U.S. living in a rural area, the trajectory of rural America is tied to the entire country’s future regarding democracy, healthcare, workers’ rights, food systems, climate change, immigration, and more. We have seen the influence and impact that rural communities have in designing and implementing progressive policy solutions that benefit all communities, regardless of their zip code. And yet, rural communities receive a sliver of philanthropic resources, with very little of this funding going to support community organizing and power building work — particularly that led by and serving Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities in rural areas.

NFG launched the Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG) four years ago in partnership with funders who needed a space to learn, connect, strategize, and move resources in support of multiracial community power building in rural places. As part of our commitment to building power in place, IRSG partnered with Engage New York to commission a landscape scan of the community organizing infrastructure in New York State. Rural organizers in New York contributed to the recent passage of statewide policies, which provide critical support and solutions to BIPOC and low-income communities — in both rural and urban places. These successes were accomplished in the face of significant challenges — challenges that can be addressed if philanthropy recognized and fully resourced the power and potential of rural communities.

The community organizers and advocates interviewed for the scan have called for funders to support transformative movements to build rural power, instead of transactional models that perpetuate the status quo. The scan offers three overarching recommendations for grantmakers to take action and resource multiracial rural organizing infrastructure.

read the report!

We invite you to take a look at the report and at our launch event on May 20, explore with us how your foundation can invest in a future for rural communities and the rest of the country that is grounded in a multiracial democracy, sustainable agroecology and economies, decriminalization, and the abolition of the prison industrial complex. This new stage for IRSG's work parallels an exciting era for investments in rural communities coming from the federal level. Connect with me and IRSG funder members and sign up for IRSG’s newsletter to learn more about how your grantmaking can support rural communities to build power and thrive.

In solidarity,

Lindsay Ryder
Senior Program Manager
Integrated Rural Strategies Group

Domenico Romero
IRSG Co-Chair
Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock

Allistair Mallillan
IRSG Co-Chair
Common Counsel Foundation

May 4, 2021

Introducing Philanthropy Foward: Cohort 3


We are excited to announce the launch of Philanthropy Forward's Cohort 3 in partnership with The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions!

Philanthropy Forward is a CEO fellowship community for visionary leaders who center racial and gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy. This fellowship brings together CEOs of foundations who are supporting racial & gender justice and community power building to make deeper change at the individual, organizational, and philanthropic field levels.

  • ALEYAMMA MATHEW, she/her — Collective Future Fund
  • AMORETTA MORRIS, she/her — Borealis Philanthropy
  • ANA CONNER, they/she — Third Wave Fund
  • CARLA FREDERICKS, she/her — The Christensen Fund
  • CRAIG DRINKARD, he/him — Victoria Foundation
  • JENNIFER CHING, she/her — North Star Fund
  • JOHN BROTHERS, he/him — T. Rowe Price Foundation
  • KIYOMI FUJIKAWA, she/her — Third Wave Fund
  • LISA OWENS, she/her — Hyams Foundation
  • MOLLY SCHULTZ HAFID, she/her — Butler Family Fund
  • NICK DONOHUE, he/him — Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  • NICOLE PITTMAN, she/her — Just Beginnings Collaborative
  • PHILIP LI, he/him — Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
  • RAJASVINI BHANSALI, she/they — Solidaire Network & Solidaire Action Fund
  • RINI BANERJEE, she/her — Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • TANUJA DEHNE, she/her — Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
  • YANIQUE REDWOOD, she/her — Consumer Health Foundation

learn more about each Fellow!

With a framework focused on liberated gatekeeping, accountability practices, and strategic risk taking, Philanthropy Forward is a dedicated space for leaders to organize together and boldly advance the transformed future of the sector. This growing fellowship of visionary CEOs from progressive philanthropic institutions is aligning to to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy.

Philanthropy Forward is a joint initiative started in 2018 by Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Learn more about the fellowship here.