Describing Unique Rural Assets
Rural America encompasses a broad range of communities spread across at least 86% 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
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
Social Environment in Rural America
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
Talking Rural Issues
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