Summary Report to the Field #3: State and Regional Philanthropy Serving Organizations and Rural-Focused Activity

towm in a valley at dusk

This is the third in a series of brief summaries representing contributions to the philanthropic field as part of the work of the national Rural Philanthropic Analysis (RPA) project at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.  Report #2 examined the rural work of 35 nationally focused philanthropy serving organizations (PSOs).  As a follow-up project and to provide a more comprehensive understanding of PSO rural work, we conducted a similar investigation of the rural activity across state and regional PSOs.

Methods for examining state and regional PSO rural work paralleled those used for national PSOs.  RPA compiled a list of 36 PSOs: 34 groups were determined through the Council on Foundations website and United Philanthropy Forum website, and two groups were determined through other research.  All groups were defined by a geographic area of service and were not issue-specific.  To research rural activity among the groups, we used methods consistent with the national PSO project.  Rural activity included web posts, publications, convention agendas, upcoming conferences, and other resources over the past five years.

Findings revealed that of the 36 groups, 34 show recent engagement in rural work.  Particularly notable is the presence of rural-focused work groups within several PSOs (e.g., Arizona Grantmakers Forum, Appalachia Funders people sitting on park benchNetwork, Colorado Association of Funders, Council of Michigan Foundations, among others) that are designed to establish a network of local leaders that can identify issues and share strategies.  Additionally, examination of rural work revealed a number of recent and upcoming conferences tailored to rural community development and investment strategies.  There seemed to be a trend of collaborative rural-focused events and initiatives across PSOs with overlapping or adjacent geographic areas of service.  One key example is the collaboration of the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Council of Michigan Foundations, and Philanthropy Ohio in launching the Tri-State Community Foundation Webinar Series, a program that explores lifelong community vitality.  Overall, rural activity was not targeted at specific issues, but was instead place-based and included interconnected topics like economic development, healthcare access, aging, youth development, food systems, and other factors influencing community vitality.


We expected to find rural activity among regional PSO’s serving significant geographic rural areas (e.g., Appalachia Funders Netwo\rk, Philanthropy Southwest, Southeastern Council of Foundations, Philanthropy Northwest), however, we were somewhat surprised to uncover rural work in PSOs whose names suggest an area of service that is not rural, and even metropolitan (e.g., Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia).  This examination of rural work among state and regional PSO’s adds to the dialogue on associations’ strategies for supporting effective rural philanthropic work. For further information on RPA’s investigation of PSOs, please contact Anna Ault at