2,763,885 people live in Utah. Of that, 314,923 live in rural areas (as defined by USDA). That’s 11.4% of Utahns.
In the US, 33% of Americans live in cities, 51% in suburbs, and 16% in rural areas. Here’s a map from smartplanet.com that visually represents our nation’s concentrations of populations:
You probably heard reports that “the rural population is the lowest in US history” with the release of the first data sets from the 2010 Census. ABC reported it, as did NPR and most other news outlets.
In rural areas, resources (in terms of people and money) are inherently low, while resources such as land and natural resources are inherently high. With just 16% of the population, rural areas account for 75% of the land area. The small margin of rural residents have stewardship over a vast majority of the land and its resources.
We exhibited on our blog in February the Rural Policy Research Institute’s findings that “[rural] communities receive less than 3% from the major national foundations. (Many estimates put this number as low as 1%.)” RUPRI calls this an “institutional and moral failure.” Out of 65,000 grant-making foundations researched, only 184 made grants characterized as “rural development.” Mr. Charles Fluharty testified before Congress that “not only is this an example of a gross inequality, but it’s also a breach of public trust.” (His full testimony can be found on the Daily Yonder.)
Outside of the non-profit foundations (set up often by successful Americans to do good and give back [while receiving tax breaks]), are the state legislatures also failing to adequately and fairly serve the rural areas of their states? It wouldn’t be hard to imagine: the land area is vast, projects seem to serve isolated, small populations, and in the times that we are in where the dollar has to serve the largest amount of people, rural areas are at a disadvantage.
Isn’t this what we signed up for? Are we not “RURAL AND PROUD?” Don’t the people living in rural areas want less traffic, less noise, less government, less everything? The answer is most likely “yes.” But still, it wouldn’t be out of line to ask for a fair shot.
It is disappointing to see state agencies not distributing funding for much-needed programs fairly. No, we’re not asking for a redistribution of wealth. We’re asking for 11.4% of the funding to return to the rural areas that paid in 11.4% of the taxes. That alone would be an improvement. Start to factor in the resources for which we, as rural residents and landowners, are stewards of (75% of land area) and then that number should very well grow to match the value the people of Utah place on the natural resources they need to import to resource-poor cities.
In Utah, grant after grant has within their guidelines “primary funding for organizations operating and serving on the Wasatch Front.” Sometimes they go so far to say the funding is exclusively for that same area. At the same time, there are not a multitude of private foundations based in rural areas (where they could better understand the rural dilemma).
When a foundation is found that would fund a rural program, we often compete one-to-one against the urban and suburban organizations. Overcoming the hump is difficult; proving value beyond number of people affected (which we can’t help) is more difficult.
We need foundations focused on the rural. Those foundations need to be funded as equally by the general public. We need state agencies to recognize the disparity that exists. It is the role of these foundations and state governments to ensure equality.
This is not something we’ll be able to solve. This will not change systems. But it is our goal to educate you, our readers, and to seek support. If there is a way we don’t know to make our case better, to talk to the right person to learn how to better position ourselves, we’ll pursue it. We’re whining just because we wish it was a little less uphill for us. But I could guess that’s what a large majority of non-profits, rural or urban, face too.