Rural Nonprofits Face Funding Gap, Report Finds
July 23, 2009 — Rural nonprofits are lagging their urban counterparts in funding from federal government, private foundations, and corporations and are less able to help disadvantaged residents in their communities, a new report from the Bridgespan Group finds.
Funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, the report, Nonprofits in Rural America: Overcoming the Resource Gap (23 pages, PDF), examined the funding structure of rural nonprofits in California and New Mexico and found that the organizations were disproportionately smaller than their urban counterparts. Because most of the nonprofits were unable to amass assets of more than $1 million, the groups did not have the resources needed to build strong organizations and fully serve the needs of their communities.
The report identified lessons learned from successful rural youth-serving organizations, including the National Indian Youth Leadership Program in Gallup, New Mexico, and the Boys and Girls Club of Fresno. Moreover, it found that rural nonprofits in particular require leaders with exceptional abilities to develop relationships and networks and recommended that organizations focus on the quality rather than the quantity of proposals while tailoring programs to meet the specific needs of rural communities.
"Despite undeniable funding challenges for rural nonprofits, our research also revealed that a small number of rural nonprofits are making headway," said Bridgespan partner Barry Newstead, who co-authored the report. "So while there is more work to be done to deeply understand how best to strengthen this sector, our preliminary research surfaces a handful of practices that rural nonprofits might find helpful, particularly in these tough times."