Fundraising in Rural Communities

Published: 2021-06-17 09:38:55
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As with any forms of fundraising, “it’s all about relationships.” This is even more of the case in rural communities. There is an assumption that it is more difficult to fundraise in rural communities than in urban or suburban settings. There is certainly some truth to this belief. Rural communities have fewer people to ask and fewer corporate and foundation support than those in urban communities. Thus, making large-scale campaigns more difficult. However, small and rural colleges serve as the engine in their respective communities by providing key educational opportunities, offering job training for incumbent works, playing a significant role in economic development activities, and supporting small business growth. In many cases, they are the focus of the community. It is this focus that it is not only possible to raise money in rural communities; it is sometimes possible to raise large amounts of money. The following strategies are:

Understand the need for longer timelines. Expect to have multiple meetings with prospects and use these initial meetings to seek advice and feedback. Many prospects like expressing their opinions and views and you need to understand and respect them. Rural residents also place a high value on both loyalty and privacy. Residents tend to be reluctant to publicly share information about others.
Have a large and diverse prospect pool. The typical giving pyramid should include a larger number of suspects and prospects. The fact that rural communities have part-time residents, a community college will need to expand its reach to business and corporate support, regional or national foundations, and the possibility of partnering with other non-profits to increase exposure and financial support.
The college president is the key. The president, as the chief advancement officer of the college, must be visible and respected. A key mechanism for developing relations and connecting with external audiences is through presentations to civic organizations, governmental officials, and community forums. Everyone wants to support a successful organization and must have faith in the college’s leader.
Provide multiple social interactions. Consider this the “first date.” A community college needs to engage people with your mission and your leadership. Trust is especially true in rural communities. Social networks are highly overlapping and understanding the spheres of influence is critical. Have an excuse to meet and mingle in a social setting with no fundraising involved. House parties, sponsored by board members or a prominent volunteer, can be effective.
Personalize your approach with everyone. As with any type of fundraising, a personal approach is even more important in a rural community. Never use “Dear Friend” letters. Personalize every invitation, write thank you notes (notes from the college President are even better), and be sure to report back to your donor regularly on how their gifts have made a difference.

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