Philanthropy’s Blind Spot

The informative report on “Philanthropy’s Rural Blind Spot” by Robert Atkins, Sarah Allred & Daniel Hart, in the Spring 2021 Stanford Social Innovation focuses on the lack of philanthropic support for rural areas in New Jersey. It also rightly acknowledges that that imbalance exists nationwide.

The pandemic has intensified the challenges that many of our nonprofit organizations face in funding local programs and services for residents already struggling with social and economic needs. Other nonprofits involved in community and business development have seen traditional funding sources dry up as events and other revenue-generating programs no longer exist.

To help Appalachian nonprofits navigate through the COVID-19 crisis and strengthen their ability to identify sustainable solutions, we created a new place-based technical assistance program similar to those cited in the article. The “Appalachia Nonprofit Resource Center,” launched as a virtual platform in November 2021 and funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, delivers custom Cohort instruction along with one-on-one coaching in three areas: fundraising, financial management, and mission/operations. The 160 participating directors, staff, and board members representing 96 nonprofit organizations from 12 states receive real-time strategies and solutions to address their most pressing needs during 5- and 10-week sessions. An online “Resource Directory” of curated content in each of those three areas is available free of charge to any organization seeking additional information on nonprofit management.

The results to date have been outstanding. Confidential survey responses on course evaluation show that all the respondents are using/applying the concepts and materials to increase organizational sustainability and growth, and 100% would recommend the instruction to others. One participant shared, “it was a practical, solutions-based course, and I think many nonprofits would benefit from it.” Additionally, as one organization said, “we have written a fundraising plan and changed the focus of our grants committee … with plans to include all our board members in some capacity moving forward.” That’s good news, especially for organizations seeking to increase philanthropic support. We are proud of this work and look forward to helping other nonprofit organizations navigate through COVID and beyond.