By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Charities and other funding organizations that help rural communities can often rely on the people who live there to let them know what’s needed in terms of infrastructure and rural development, according to recent reporting in The Daily Yonder.

“We use traditional community organizing techniques to bring together resident teams who identify and prioritize challenges to health equity in their community,” Dr. Ned Calonge, president and CEO of the philanthropic organization The Colorado Trust, said last month at the National Rural Assembly held in North Carolina. “Then we allow them decision making around how and what they spend their money on as they prioritize their issues. [Our strategy] really came out of visiting rural communities and realizing that they know what they have, what their problems are, what their assets are, and what they need to make their things better.”

Others who work in rural philanthropy shared Dr. Calogne’s observations at the gathering, emphasizing also that field staff are essential to helping rural communities.

“Over the course of 12 years we trained over 6,000 people in rural communities,” said Anne Kubisch, president and CEO of the Ford Family Foundation in Oregon. “Which really means that in almost any community that you go to we know people. We do a lot of direct relationship building and, as a result, try and keep track of what’s going on in each community and figure out how to be responsive to that.”

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