Rural Philanthropy Spotlight

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Rural communities face different challenges than their urban counterparts, ranging from access to healthy foods, lack of adequate housing, lack of public transportation and jobs.  The list is extensive, and each of these challenges requires unique solutions given significantly smaller populations and limited resources.  What some may not realize is that only 10% of current philanthropic giving goes to rural communities, so nonprofits that serve in these areas face a debilitating challenge to find funders who will look at small and under populated areas.  Funders, on the other hand, seek to connect with rural constituents, and with each other, to explore new opportunities and learn about the region from those who are closest to it.

In response to this growing need, Philanthropy Southwest offers several educational programs throughout the year that convene rural funders.  One such event, Rural Philanthropy Days, took place this summer in both West Texas and Colorado.  This conference brought together rural nonprofits and funders wanting to invest in rural areas.  The Montalvo House, which participated in West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days, serves as an example of the many rural nonprofits who attended.  They are diligently responding to the needs of their community while staying true to their rural ideals.

The Montalvo House is a 501(c)(3) located in Brackettville, Kinney County, Texas – a rural county of 3,600 residents with a 21% poverty rate and an average per capita income of $17,000.  Its mission is to restore Recorded Texas Historic Landmark 3440, the only historic landmark of Hispanic roots in its county and one of a handful of remaining cedar post and caliche buildings left in existence in Texas. It seeks to utilize this restoration as an educational platform for two areas of sustainable living practices:  First, sustainable construction methodologies via lime plaster construction, which dates back more than 3,000 years and can reduce building costs by two-thirds, and second, sustainable agriculture through its farm-to-table organic market and the development of an educationally based organic farm.

“The fact that only 10% of philanthropic giving goes to rural communities certainly mirrors the challenge that all rural nonprofits face,” commented The Montalvo House Executive Director Silk Waters.

“That challenge is limited resources.  Limited resources means fewer donations, fewer volunteers and fewer funders who look at communities as small as we are.  That’s why our team worked through first a flat tire, then an engine failure, then a 300 mile tow, and then a subsequent 2 am arrival time to attend West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days,” she continued.

“All the while we were having vehicle problems getting to the conference, we were loading and unloading ten 30 pound watermelons (a gift to the conference) from vehicle to vehicle, and all in 110 degree heat.  As a small, rural nonprofit, working this hard is the norm” she laughed.

The Montalvo House highlights the emergent needs of rural communities today: innovative solutions that stay true to the ideals of local residents and rural America. The goal of Rural Philanthropy Days is to convene funders and rural nonprofits such that they can jointly invest in solutions that can improve quality of life in rural communities.  Want to learn more about how your foundation can fund in rural communities? Attend our Rural Funders of the Southwest Gathering 2 on November 13 - 14 in Austin. Register here.

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