Partnering with Regional, State, and Local Foundations
For rural organizations that have never partnered with a philanthropy, partnering with regional, state,
and local foundations can be a great place to start. Regional, state, and local foundations
often have a strong understanding of the communities they serve and the geographic and demographic
characteristics of their service area. They are highly interested in creating improvements in their
region, state, or local community. Rural organizations should also consider opportunities available
from community foundations.
Every community has local foundations. Local foundations are
deeply invested in the success and growth of their communities and generally have small geographic
areas where they invest. Though endowments at local foundations are generally smaller than
foundations that make grants nationally, rural organizations may often begin the process of seeking
support and funding for their programs by securing partnerships with local foundations and local
philanthropy. In some instances, larger national
funders may prefer to see that organizations first attempt to secure local funds, and this may make the
organization a more competitive applicant.
As with national foundations, many local foundations are private family foundations, and they may be established
by an individual or family with a connection to the area. Some private family foundations may focus on one
particular topic of interest, like education or the environment, and others may prefer to keep their grants open
to a broad range of missions and organizations. Often a member or members of the founding family are still
active on the board and help guide investment decisions. Other families may decide to set up a rural
donor-advised fund, which is more informal
than foundations but can
be a good source of charitable funding for nonprofit organizations.
Local foundations generally know one another and are part of a tight-knit network in the community.
Their goal is to help connect organizations to resources and make an impact in the community.
One particular type of local philanthropy is the United Way.
There are local United Way organizations affiliated with the national office in rural communities
across the country. Unlike many other
national nonprofits, local United Ways set their own priorities for action and giving based on the
most important needs identified in their communities. United Ways play a role as a convening
organization to bring together local partners to address these needs. United Ways can also support
local nonprofits through donor engagement, public relations support, and grant funding. Many United
Ways have a community impact fund, which collects and disperses donations to nonprofits working in
their areas of interest. Information about how to apply for these grants can be found on local United
In addition, philanthropies may invest in rural communities
across a state. State-level foundations serve a larger population, so grant funding may be more
competitive than at the local level but not as competitive as many national-level grants. The
Colorado Health Foundation is a private foundation that
funds projects in communities across the state. The Colorado Health Foundation has program officers
on the ground at the local level in order to build connections with stakeholders and build community
engagement. The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, another
state-level philanthropy, has made major investments in rural North Carolina counties to improve
health in the state.
Philanthropies may also serve a region of the country.
For example, the Dorney-Koppel Family Charitable Foundation, along with other partners including Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, funded the creation of 11
and cardiac rehabilitation clinics in Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Louisiana. The
Benedum Foundation supports initiatives in West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania and is the
largest funder in West Virginia besides the government. Regional
philanthropies may invest in a specific geographic area and have staff located in the region.
Philanthropies participating in a network or affinity group may also work together to support a
region. For example, the Appalachia Funders Network
serves as a resource for funders located in the Central Appalachian region of the U.S. Established in
2010, the purpose of the Network is:
“to accelerate an equitable Appalachian
transition by convening and connecting funders for learning, analysis, and collaboration.”
The 40 network members' goals include coordinating local and regional grantmaking in Appalachia.
Examples of Regional, State, and Local Foundation Models
Colorado Health Foundation serves Coloradans with low
income or who are in some way economically or socially disadvantaged by addressing four focus areas
for improving health: physical health, mental health, community health, and health equity.
Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is a nonprofit
organization investing in health policy, research, and demonstration projects throughout Kentucky.
Current initiatives include reducing tobacco use, promoting responsive health policy, and improving
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has made a major investment in
underrepresented and financially challenged rural North Carolina counties. This initiative, expected to span
the next decade, is called Healthy Places North Carolina,
and the goal is to improve the health and well-being of residents living in some of the most impoverished
rural North Carolina counties. Each county that is awarded money through the Trust has a different focus
area depending on the needs of the community. For example, Halifax County is
addressing childhood obesity while McDowell County is addressing workforce issues like access to
The Rasmuson Foundation provides grants to Alaska-based
nonprofit organizations, nonprofit leaders, and individual artists that support promoting a better
life for Alaskans. In 2017, the foundation provided funds to construct the Bethel Family Clinic, located in remote southwestern
The Columbia Gorge
Collective Impact Health Specialist (CIHS) position was funded in 2014 through a grant from
Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital to the United Way of the Columbia Gorge. The CIHS helps to
identify community needs and secure funding for those programs. Read more about this position in
RHIhub's Models and Innovations.
From July 2010 to June 2013, Power Up, Speak Out! — a
program striving to prevent teen dating violence — became part of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Local Funding Partnership and was implemented in several rural Montana counties. The curriculum was
provided free of charge to schools and violence prevention agencies due, in part, to the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation.
While not foundations, electric cooperatives are
not-for-profit, consumer-owned energy providers that provide funding to rural communities through
programs and through charity events such as golf
tournaments or silent
auctions. Funding is generally given out to local organizations in the form of grants.
The Rural Health Care Coordination Network Partnership connects federal
grantees with local philanthropic organizations to provide additional support. As part of this program,
Williamson Health and Wellness Center has partnered with
universities, FQHCs, and foundations to improve the health in their region.
Considerations for Implementation
The presence of regional, state, and local foundations varies widely among rural communities. Some
areas may be relatively small with limited resources while others may have one or more foundations in
their geographic area.
Funders may have particular regions that they invest in, so it is important to check whether your
program meets the eligibility criteria.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
Your Regional Philanthropy-Serving Organization
List of philanthropies providing regional-level grants, organized by state.
Organization(s): United Philanthropy Forum
List of regional-level philanthropies organized by type of organization, including: funder networks,
regional associations, academic centers of philanthropy, philanthropic support organizations,
nonprofit policy organizations, and nonprofit infrastructure organizations.
Organization(s): Council on Foundations