Giving Back Bridging the Rural Charity Gap
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
By Robert J. Hughes
Rural areas get fewer charitable dollars per capita than urban parts of the country. Now some charities are trying to tackle this philanthropic divide.
Behind the gap are issues of perception and geography. Most foundations are based in urban centers and have a limited picture of what constitutes "rural," says Karl Stauber, chief executive of Northwest Area Foundation of St. Paul, Minn. Rural America includes four types of regions, all of which can have economic needs, he says: scenic areas that attract tourism, areas within commuting distance of metropolitan centers, agricultural regions and isolated parts of the country such as mountains and deserts.
In addition, the prevailing thinking at many foundations is that rural areas of whatever stripe are self-sufficient, with a can-do attitude that precludes outside help -- even though issues of poverty, health care and economic development plague these regions as much as cities, says Rick Cohen, who wrote a recent study on the topic and works at a quarterly magazine about nonprofits. That thinking is compounded by the limited foundation infrastructure in rural regions, meaning rural charities can have trouble meeting the people who give grants. Grant makers, in general, don't travel to rural regions, and "therefore they're not aware of the multiplicity of [charity] groups in the rural areas," he says.
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