FAQs on RDP
What is Rural Development Philanthropy?
Rural Development Philanthropy (RDP) is the process and practice of creating and strengthening locally controlled endowment, grantmaking and community programs to improve rural livelihoods, economies and community vitality.
- RDP engages community foundation staff, boards, grantees, donors, partner organizations, volunteers and their communities, embracing local people and cultures of all incomes, ethnicity and professions, to capitalize on local charitable traditions, organize and build local philanthropic capacity.
- RDP resources are invested in the people, strategies and organizations that will make rural places better for living and working.
- The work of RDP helps to raise the expectations of rural communities, to reduce their dependency on outside funding, and produce outcomes that strengthen rural places and families.
How is RDP different from traditional philanthropy?
The image that most Americans have of philanthropy is that it is something that wealthy people do to share their good fortune, give back to the community and leave a legacy that improves society. Philanthropy in this country really had its start in the early 1900's in metropolitan areas that were rapidly industrializing. As both wealth and population became increasingly concentrated in urban areas, so too did the practice of philanthropy. It both drew its donors from these areas, and grants that were made were generally made to organizations located there.
Rural development philanthropy expands the geographic focus of philanthropy to include rural areas that were not typically the focus of early philanthropic endeavors. It also expands the traditional image of who fills the role of philanthropist. RDP focuses on philanthropy as a community development activity, where anyone can become a donor, not just wealthy citizens, and various kinds of asset development activities are used, including community event fundraising. RDP expands philanthropy across the community in an inclusive manner, and has been described as "the democratization of philanthropy."
What makes "rural" so different, besides having fewer people?
In most rural areas social customs are different from those in large urban centers. Very wealthy people in rural areas are not necessarily the best dressed or live in the biggest house; and much wealth in rural areas is tied up in land, which often means that the owner is land-rich but cash-poor.
The residents of rural places are often members of families who have lived in the area for generations, and that tends to make for strong feelings of connectedness and ownership to both the land and the community. In rural places with small populations it is not uncommon to find residents juggling multiple volunteer roles to keep the community viable.
Additionally, due to the recurring boom-and-bust economic cycles of many rural areas, rural residents often feel their communities are poor and without good prospects for the future. Establishing organized philanthropy in these places calls for a different template than that used in large metropolitan centers.
How widespread is RDP?
It's very widespread...and growing, as rural communities, seeking ways to improve the quality of life and build self sufficiency organize to establish community funds and community foundations. RDP practitioners in rural areas throughout the county and in many countries throughout the world are actively using the principles involved in rural development philanthropy to build community and improve livelihoods.
What types of organizations engage in RDP?
Often the organizations are community funds in very rural areas, seeking to build endowment. Or, they may be community foundations, either free-standing or affiliated with a larger foundation in a larger metropolitan area. Some are community or economic development organizations focused on improving the local economy of their rural area.