Rural and Small Town Action Summit

New Profit hosted a virtual, high-participation Action Summit focused on the rural and small town philanthropic gap—what it is, why it exists and why it matters.


As Eric Nee wrote in Stanford Social Innovation Review earlier this year, “…the rate of poverty is significantly higher in rural America than it is in urban America.” Yet, philanthropic funding to organizations based in rural and small towns is less than half the average given to organizations in metropolitan areas. New Profit’s initial exploration of the rural philanthropic capital gap has shown us that there are major opportunities to deploy significant resources in rural and small town regions. But applying grantmaking and investment methods based on scale and sustainable growth—methods often used in urban areas—is not what is needed in these communities. This understanding requires reimagining what is needed to close the rural philanthropic capital gap. 

As a step toward reimagining philanthropic strategies, New Profit held its inaugural Rural and Small Town Action Summit over the course of three Fridays in March and April. The summit brought together a group of national philanthropic institutions, individual donors, researchers, business leaders, local community organizations, and policymakers to explore how significant pools of philanthropic resources could be powerfully deployed in rural and small town areas. What resulted was an honest discussion and fruitful assessment of what is needed to drive sustained impact, develop local power and agency, and build thriving communities.

“We need to place higher value on alternative models for social change, especially those best suited to the work of creating high-performing communities, and recognize their viability for major, catalytic philanthropic investment,” said Kim Syman, Managing Partner at New Profit.