The facts (and fallacies) about rural communities and philanthropy

The facts (and fallacies) about rural communities and philanthropy

// By Jacqueline Brennan

There are some assumptions about rural America and rural philanthropy that need to be addressed. Allen Smart will do just that during his Upswell workshop, “Connecting with Rural Communities.” He knows a thing or two about both, having spent a quarter of a century as a grantmaker with a focus on  philanthropic strategy and rural issues.

Smart is a longtime foundation leader and current national rural philanthropy spokesperson who writes, presents, and provokes under his consulting practice, PhilanthropywoRx. He also co-wrote an article about rural philanthropy for a 2018 series on 21st century civil society in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

His Upswell workshop will reflect the results of a two-year project that connected data from across the country about philanthropic activity in rural America with the goal of applying what was learned toward “more and better” rural philanthropy.

“Certainly the session will be informed by multiples of rural funders and rural communities we’ve spoken to over the years, as well as my 25 years of experience being in and around rural philanthropy,” Smart said. “We’ll talk about some of the preconceptions about how rural America works and how philanthropy might be helpful. We’ll also weave in some really tactical kinds of tools people can use to be more effective rural philanthropists.”

The workshop will also help attendees better understand some of the class structures in rural work that include but aren’t limited to race, land ownership, multi-generational leadership, and religion.

Smart’s will be the first Upswell workshop to offer “research-based, practical sense of how nonprofits and funders can be present in rural communities, elevate rural voices, and create more space at the table in rural communities.”

He wants to open our sector’s eyes about strategic investment in rural regions. “[Our sector] can be effective in a rural space, whether they’re currently there or considering being part of rural transformation. Importantly, one can be both a partner and an innovator while watching change happen in real time.

“We’ll take a look at the challenges to being an effective funder in the rural space,” he says, “as well as very specific tactics to respond to those challenges and develop close and long-term relationships in rural communities.”

Smart’s looking forward to the opportunity to speak to a wider, more diverse audience. “My standard audience is generally funders or rural advocates. Having an audience that is broader will help inform my work in the field going forward and sustain a discussion from multiple perspectives, rather than being funder-centric.”

Check out our presenter Q&A with Allen.

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1 Comment
  • Presenter Q&A with Allen Smart: getting beyond social sector walls – Upswell

    […] Smart, who’ll present the Upswell workshop, “Connecting With Rural Communities,” is a longtime foundation leader and current national rural philanthropy spokesperson who […]

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