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Partnering with National Foundations

National foundations are private foundations, which may be independent, family, or corporate. These foundations range widely in asset size and priorities. National foundations distribute grants across the country and often have larger endowments than foundations at the state or community level. They may prioritize certain regions of the country or focus their grantmaking on specific states. National foundations fund programs that support their vision and mission and align with their priorities. It is important to consider how your rural organization's programs and activities align with the mission and focus areas of the foundation.

Examples of Partnerships

  • The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust strives to improve lives in the U.S. and around the world. It has invested millions of dollars in its Rural Healthcare Program, which aims to improve healthcare access and quality in the Midwest region of the country. The Rural Healthcare Program began in 2009 and continues to expand as new needs and solutions to improving care are identified. The program works with nonprofits in the upper Midwest to implement programs that focus on healthcare delivery and the health workforce. Several of the initiatives include bringing telehealth to rural communities to increase access to medical services as well as programs that train staff at rural hospitals, including staff trained in Emergency Medical Services. One prominent example of this work is a Helmsley grant awarded to North Dakota State University for the American Indian Public Health Institute and Sustainability Project, which works with tribal communities in the upper Midwest to improve maternal and child health outcomes as well as focus on tobacco cessation and heart disease and diabetes prevention. Helmsley also supports the work of many Critical Access Hospitals.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports communities working toward health equity with strong community partnerships through a program called the Culture of Health Prize. The program aims to support communities that use innovative and collaborative methods to address health holistically, understanding how access to healthy foods, safe housing, education, and economic stability affect health. The 2017 Culture of Health Prize winners include the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York and several rural communities.
  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is one of the world's largest private foundations that awards grants in the U.S., Mexico, and Haiti and invests in rural communities. Its priorities are “Thriving Children,” “Working Families,” and “Equitable Communities.” A foundation grant was awarded to Delta State University and its Healing With A Groove program, which promotes racial healing through music education among young men of color in the Mississippi Delta. The foundation also supports tribal health through programs aimed at improving children's development and increasing healthcare capacity in American Indian/Alaska Native communities.
  • The Ford Family Foundation has been providing leadership training and funding support for thousands of rural residents since the early 2000s. The foundation is embracing a Community Building Approach, which engages rural communities by investing in community development initiatives “in an inclusive and comprehensive way.” Ford has a specific focus on improving health and well-being in rural Oregon and rural Siskiyou County, California.

Considerations for Implementation

National foundations may have more funds to invest in rural communities, but they may not have the local connections and deep ties to specific rural regions that other smaller, regional foundations have. However, some national foundations do have regional offices or staff located near the rural communities they serve. While many national foundations historically have not had a rural focus, in the past decade there has been a shift in this momentum.

Program Clearinghouse Examples

Resources to Learn More

Foundation Funding to Improve Rural Health Care
This article lists several foundations funding programs in rural communities addressing access, hospitals, and telehealth.
Citation: Health Affairs, 35(1), 174-5
Date: 1/2016