Other Group

Rural Democracy Initiative

Website:

ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/

Location:

Baltimore, MD

Status:

Project of the Heartland Foundation and Rural Victory Fund

Formation:

2018

Type:

Left-of-Center Rural Activist Organization

Executive Director:

Sarah Jaynes

Rural Democracy Initiative is a left-of-center coalition of rural organizations and aligned funders that build left-of-center civic and political infrastructure in small towns to influence public opinion, elections, and redistricting. [1] [2] RDI includes the social welfare group Rural Victory Fund and the left-of-center charitable advocacy group Heartland Fund. [3] [4]

2021, RDI granted $10.2 million to at least 112 organizations across 23 states and committed an additional $3 million in aligned investments to other organizations in hopes of shaping national policy and political outcomes in 2024. [5] [6] RDI’s grantees must serve the critical race theory-influenced concepts of racial equity and anti-racism and be strategically aligned with RDI on other critical race theory-influenced issues such as economic justice and climate justice to receive funding. [7]

RDI itself receives funding through donations made to the Rural Victory Fund (a project of the left-of-center Sixteen Thirty Fund) and the left-of-center Heartland Fund. [8] In 2021, RDI received $200,000 from the Stolte Family Foundation. [9] [10]

History and Leadership

Rural Democracy Initiative was co-founded by Ben Goldfarb [11] and Will Carter [12] in 2018. In 2019, RDI established the Rural Victory Fund under the umbrella of the Rural Democracy Initiative. [13]

Sarah Jaynes is RDI’s executive director. [14] She is also the director of the Heartland Fund [15] and a senior advisor to the left-of-center Committee on States. [16]

Activities and Funding

Rural Democracy Initiative is a left-of-center coalition of rural organizations and aligned funders that work on building left-of-center civic infrastructure in small towns to influence public opinion, elections, and redistricting. [17] [18] RDI includes the 501(c)(4) Rural Victory Fund and the left-of-center 501(c)(3) Heartland Fund. [19] [20]

RDI invests in rural areas in 23 states across the U.S., prioritizing funding in Alaska, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. [21] RDI’s network includes over 100 groups and leaders in hopes of increasing their influence to shape national policy and political outcomes. [22]

In 2022, RDI was “invested deeply” in Alaska at the time of the special election victory of Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK). [23] RDI also expressed “rage” about the Supreme Court of the United States’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson that overturned Roe v. Wade. [24]

In 2021, RDI granted $10.2 million to at least 112 organizations across 23 states and committed an additional $3 million in aligned investments to other organizations. [25] Grantees must serve the critical race theory-influenced concepts of racial equity and anti-racism and be strategically aligned with RDI on other critical race theory-influenced issues such as economic justice and climate justice to receive funding. [26]

In 2021, RDI worked with the left-of-center 1000 Women Strong to turn out African-American voters in rural Georgia. Following the victories of Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) in their respective 2021 runoff elections, RDI claimed these efforts were greater than the margin of victory in these races. [27]

RDI works with left-of-center Rural Utah Project and Rural Arizona Project to increase turnout on Navajo reservations in Arizona and Utah. RDI also works with left-of-center We the People Michigan, Wisconsin Farmers Union, immigration advocacy group Voces de la Frontera, [28] and New Georgia Project. [29]

In 2021, RDI co-hosted a summit with the far-left Family Farm Action and left-of-center RuralOrganizing.org. RDI released a report following the summit identifying a “call to action for the progressive movement in rural America.” The report calls for the passage of Biden administration legislative priorities such as the “For the People Act,” supports “reining in corporate monopolies,” and claims that minority groups have experienced the critical race theory-influenced concept of “systemic racism.” [30] Other organizations involved with the summit and rural policy action report include: Food and Water Watch, Health Care for America Now (HCAN), anti-business advocacy group Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Main Street Alliance, New Georgia Project Action Fund, left-wing People’s Action, United for Respect, Wisconsin Farmers Union, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Clean Energy Works, Headwaters Economics, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Small Business Majority, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, ReNew, and Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). [31]

In 2020, RDI grantees were active in rural counties in Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. [32] RDI also made strategic investments to influence state-level redistricting efforts to support left-of-center candidates, conducted get-out-the-vote efforts, and encouraged participation in the U.S. Census in 2020. [33]

RDI also operates the Rural Climate Partnership to utilize rural-led approaches to climate issues and promote environmentalist activism and weather-dependent energy projects. [34]

Grantmaking

In 2021 Rural Democracy Initiative distributed $5,235,000 of grants through the Heartland Fund and $3,560,000 of grants through the Rural Victory Fund. [35]

Heartland Fund’s 2021 national grantees included Advancing Equity and Opportunity Collaborative, All Due Respect, Alliance for Youth Action, Black Male Voter Project, Family Farm Action Alliance, Healthcare for America Now, Hometown Project, Main Street Alliance, One Fair Wage, People’s Action Institute, Rural Power Coalition, Rural Organizing.org, Small Business Majority, United for Respect, VotER, Winning Jobs Narrative, and Working America Education Fund. State-level grant recipients included Alaska Center, Alaska Progressive Donor Alliance, One Arizona, Rural Arizona Engagement, New Georgia Project, People’s Lobby, We the People Michigan, Minnesota Voices, Big Sky 555+, Montana Women Vote, Western Native Voice, Rights and Democracy New Hampshire, Blueprint NC, Poder NC Action, Rural Oregon Project, Center for Coalfield Justice, Pittsburgh United, PA Stands Up, Barbara Jordan Leadership Institute, East Texas Votes, Rural Utah Project, Appalachian Voices, Virginia Organizing, Black Voter Impact initiative, Together West Virginia, Progress North Wisconsin, Voices de la Frontera, Wisconsin Citizen Vote, Wisconsin Rural Coalition, and others.  [36]

National grantees from the Rural Victory Fund included 1000 Women Strong, America Votes, Black Male Voter Project, Family Farm Action, Galvanize USA, Rural Urban Bridge Initiative, RuralOrganizing.org, Winning Jobs Narrative (New Economy Fund), and Working America. At the state level, 2021 grantees included Alaska Native People’s Action, Chispa, One Arizona, Rural Arizona Action, Michigan United, Progress Michigan, Land Stewardship Action Fund, Amplify NH, Advance North Carolina, New Rural Project, Red Wine and Blue Ohio, Rural Organizing.org, Ohio Progressive Collaborative, CASA in Action Pennsylvania, PA Stands Up, Pennsylvania United, Deeds Action Fund, and others. [37]

RDI also funds several groups that conducted critical race theory-influenced “racial justice” case studies. [38]

Funding

Rural Democracy Initiative receives funding through donations made to the Rural Victory Fund (a project of the left-of-center Sixteen Thirty Fund) and the left-of-center Heartland Fund. [39]

The Stolte Family Foundation gave RDI $200,000 in 2021; $100,000 in 2020; and $75,000 in 2019. [40] [41]

References

  1. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
  2. “Fund Rural Organizing.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/fund-rural-organizing. ^
  3. “Support RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 12, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/support. ^
  4. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
  5. “RDI Fuels Rural Progress.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  6. “Invest in a Winning Rural Network.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rural-network. ^
  7. “Grants from RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants. ^
  8. “How to Donate.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/support. ^
  9. “Our Grantees.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/. ^
  10. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
  11. [1] “Ben Goldfarb.” McKnight Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://www.mcknight.org/person/ben-goldfarb/. ^
  12. [1] “Will Carter.” The Forge. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://forgeorganizing.org/author/will-carter. ^
  13. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
  14. “Staff.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/staff. ^
  15. “About Us.” Heartland Fund. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://www.heartlandfund.org/about-our-company/. ^
  16. “Staff.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/staff. ^
  17. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
  18. “Fund Rural Organizing.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/fund-rural-organizing. ^
  19. “Support RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 12, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/support. ^
  20. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
  21. “Grants from RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants. ^
  22. “Invest in a Winning Rural Network.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rural-network. ^
  23. “Peltola’s Win in Alaska.” Rural Democracy Initiative. September 8, 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/peltola. ^
  24. “Moving from Rage to Action.” Rural Democracy Initiative. June 24, 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/health-care-decisions. ^
  25. “RDI Fuels Rural Progress.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  26. “Grants from RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/grants. ^
  27. “RDI Fuels Rural Progress.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  28. “RDI Fuels Rural Progress.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  29. “RDI Fuels Rural Progress.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  30. “2021 Rural Policy Action Report. A Call to Action for the Progressive Movement.” Family Farm Action, RuralOrganizing.org, Rural Democracy Initiative. 2021. Pg. 7. https://ruralpolicyaction.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Rural-Policy-Action-Report-2021-1.pdf. ^
  31. “2021 Rural Policy Action Report: A Call to Action for the Progressive Movement.” Family Farm Action. RuralOrganizing.org. Rural Democracy Initiative. 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruralpolicyaction.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Rural-Policy-Action-Report-2021-1.pdf. ^
  32. “About RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  33. “About RDI.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rdis-approach. ^
  34. “New Rural Climate Partnership Launches with 3 Initial Grants.” Rural Democracy Initiative. March 25, 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/rural-climate-initiative-launches. ^
  35. “2021 Impact Report.” Rural Democracy Initiative. 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/sites/default/files/articles/RDI%20Impact%20Report%202021.pdf. ^
  36. “2021 Impact Report.” Rural Democracy Initiative. 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/sites/default/files/articles/RDI%20Impact%20Report%202021.pdf. ^
  37. “2021 Impact Report.” Rural Democracy Initiative. 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/sites/default/files/articles/RDI%20Impact%20Report%202021.pdf. ^
  38. “Racial Justice in Rural Communities.” Rural Democracy Initiative. October 25, 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/racial-justice-rural-communities#newrural. ^
  39. “How to Donate.” Rural Democracy Initiative. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://ruraldemocracyinitiative.org/support. ^
  40. “Our Grantees.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/. ^
  41. “Rural Democracy Initiative.” Stolte Family Foundation. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://stoltefamilyfoundation.org/our-grantees/rural-democracy-initiative. ^
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Rural Democracy Initiative

P.O. Box 38066
Baltimore, MD