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Describing Unique Rural Assets

Rural America encompasses a broad range of communities spread across at least 84% of the land area of the U.S., according to the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy's definition of rural. Many local economies are built on agriculture, but others produce manufactured goods, extract natural resources, or support tourism. Some communities have growing populations, and others have seen large population declines in recent decades. Culturally, some regions have a large number of Amish residents, tribal populations, or migrant agricultural workers and their families. The values and priorities of a community are rooted in the experiences of its residents.

Rural organizations should be prepared to describe the unique assets and characteristics of their rural community to philanthropies. It is important to be able to answer the question What makes this rural community unique? The answer may focus on:

  • Population demographics including age, race, ethnicity, culture, and language
  • Unique assets, like a large immigrant population
  • The economy, like the importance of the mining industry to the local economy
  • Other information that provides community context, like a unique community partnership

Additionally, rural organizations should consider what attributes might be important to philanthropies and speak to these attributes. For example, if 20% of the community is Latino, the rural organization should be able to describe how it is serving this population.

Resources to Learn More

Rural Culture is a Diversity Issue
Document
This article, written about mental healthcare in rural Minnesota, discusses some of the differences within and between rural communities compared to urban ones. Also describes some of the primary aspects of rural culture that can influence access to mental health and healthcare services.
Author(s): Slama, K.
Citation: Minnesota Psychologist
Date: 1/2004

The Social Environment in Rural America
Document
Summarizes a meeting that was convened to discuss the wide range of economic interests, healthcare needs, demographic changes, socioeconomic, linguistic, and racial/ethnic diversity, and infrastructure that impact the health of rural residents in the U.S. Describes some of the areas in which rural programs may want to discuss unique challenges with funders.
Organization(s): Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine
Date: 2006

Talking Rural Issues
Document
Describes research conducted to determine how people from urban and non-urban areas think about rural communities and rural issues, and how that thinking can influence policymaking. Rural programs who review this report may be able to use it to prepare for discussions with philanthropic organizations that are less familiar with rural areas and experiences.
Author(s): Bales, S.N. & Grady, J.
Organization (s): FrameWorks Institute