Non-profit

Rural Victory Fund

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Parent Organization:

Rural Democracy Initiative

Fiscal Sponsor:

Sixteen Thirty Fund

Executive Director:

Sarah Jaynes

The Rural Victory Fund is a left-of-center political advocacy group that comprises one half of the Rural Democracy Initiative along with the Heartland Fund. The group is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-of-center fiscal sponsor, funder, and dark-money group operated by the left-of-center consulting firm  Arabella Advisors.

The Rural Democracy Initiative and the Rural Victory Fund were formed in 2020 to provide grants for rural organizing in advance of the 2020 elections: the RDI’s website specifically states that the organization focuses on turning our left-leaning voters in states such as Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, states that were critical to President Joe Biden’s victory. The Rural Victory Fund has funded groups including 1000 Women Strong, We the People Michigan, Main Street Alliance, and RuralOrganizing.org. 1 2

Background

The Rural Victory Fund is a part of the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s Rural Democracy Initiative, a group that was founded ahead of the 2020 election to funding rural organizing activity in order to boost Democratic candidates in the 2020 election, particularly the Presidential campaign of Joe Biden. The Rural Victory Fund serves as the political action and lobbying arm for the initiative, while the affiliated Heartland Fund serves as the charitable arm that funds left-leaning community organizations and, less explicitly, political organizing efforts. 3

While the organization claims to be focused on helping rural communities, the states that it listed as “key states” for its grantmaking investments ahead of the 2020 election were mostly closely contested swing states in the 2020 election including Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina. Less politically competitive states with large rural areas such as West Virginia and Missouri were flagged as “smaller investment states” while other states with large rural populations such as Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas were not targeted by the group. 4

While the grantmaking for the 501(c)(3) sister organization Heartland Institute focuses on nonpartisan canvassing and issue-specific organizing, grantmaking efforts from the Rural Victory Fund included voter persuasion efforts, lobbying, ballot measure advocacy, political research, and candidate development. 5

Activities

The Rural Democracy Initiative reports that in 2021 the Heartland Fund and the Rural Victory Fund combined to provide $10.2 million in grants to aids left-of-center rural organizing efforts and “advised” an additional $3 million in grants from aligned organizations. 6

Projects funded by the organization included funding a group called 1000 Women Strong to launch a Black women-led campaign to turn our rural Black voters in favor of the Democratic candidates in the January 2021 Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections. The group also funded the Rural Utah/Arizona Project to work with the Navajo Nation to register and turn out its 67,000 eligible voters. The group also funded We the People Michigan in its canvassing effort on behalf of the Biden Campaign in rural areas and funded the Wisconsin Farmers Union and Voces de la Frontera to advocate for Democratic-friendly redistricting and support new labor policies for meatpacking workers in rural Wisconsin. 7

The organization’s grantmaking criteria states that grantees must have “an anti-racist analysis and commitment” and that the grantee must work on “priority issues” for rural areas including “democracy, climate justice and clean energy, economic justice, narrative change and communications, family farms and regenerative agriculture, healthcare, broadband, and affordable housing.” 8

Leadership

The executive director of the Rural Democracy initiative, the Heartland Fund, and the Rural Victory Fund is Sarah Jaynes. Jaynes serves on the advisory committee of Our Story Hub, a project of the Proteus Fund which advises left-of-center politicians and groups on communications strategies. She lives in Washington state and previously led Washington’s Progress Alliance, a state-level left-of-center funding collaborative. 9 10

References

  1.  “RDIs Approach.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach
  2. “Support.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/support
  3. “Grants.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants
  4. “Grants.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants
  5. “Grants.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants
  6.   “RDIs Approach.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach
  7. “RDIs Approach.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach
  8. [1] “Grants.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants
  9. “Staff.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 8, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/staff
  10. “Advisory Committee.” Our Story Hub. Accessed October 7, 2022. http://ourstoryhub.org/index.php/home/about/who-we-are
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