Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Aha" Moments

At the end of July, the Council on Foundation’s national Rural Philanthropy Conference produced these “aha” moments according to a report in The Nonprofit Quarterly:

• Rural America is actually several rural Americas, ranging from amenity-rich growth areas to persistently poor rural areas of the South or population-depleted areas of the Great Plains. It isn’t clear that philanthropy writ large has a powerful idea of what to do about these conditions, particularly issues of race, class, culture, and power that were highlighted as core themes of the rural philanthropy conference.

• There is a big movement among rural community foundations to capture a portion of the intergenerational transfer of wealth for community-controlled philanthropic endowments and giving. The notion is what advocates call “rural development philanthropy,” the creation of new philanthropic resources and funds whose operations are directed by community leaders.

• Studies suggest that there is an intergenerational transfer of wealth looming, perhaps some $73 trillion by the year 2060, that has not been wiped out by the prolonged recession. In fact, the major losses of household wealth in the U.S., largely concentrated in residential housing, tend to be less prevalent in rural areas where wealth is held in businesses and land, asset categories that have not plunged during the recession like housing.

• To effectively access and tap the transfer of wealth for rural development philanthropy, rural areas need to develop a rural organizational infrastructure. While some rural community foundations, such as the Nebraska Community Foundation, have gotten out ahead of the curve with the creation of well over 100 “affiliate funds” in rural counties, in others the community foundation apparatus is weak or in some cases just about nonexistent. As a result, the Council on Foundations is promoting a Rural Philanthropy Growth Act through which the Department of Agriculture would incentivize and support rural philanthropic capacity-building.

Posted by Myrna Meadows, NRS, International Falls

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