Intro Image - Tackling the “Rural Blindspot”
Genesee Country Village & Museum school programs

Tackling the “Rural Blindspot”

May 1, 2024

The “Rural Blindspot” is an insight coined in the Stanford Social Innovation Review indicating that communities where people live farther apart are often overlooked in grantmaking. Even when the need for resources is great, the data shows that rural communities are some of the least likely to both apply for and receive funding to address inequities.

As part of an effort to tackle this problem, the Community Foundation infused more than $210,000 to 16 nonprofits serving Genesee, Livingston, and Orleans counties.

A man in a teal shirt and glasses and a woman read papers together at a desk.
OCALS fosters literacy in Orleans County.

Equitable grantmaking is about unlocking the potential for those who have had less access to resources needed to thrive. These three counties are full of dedicated nonprofits, kind neighbors, and resilient youth, but have not historically received the same investment as their more populated neighbors.

Community Foundation staff knew they could not sit back and wait for funding applications to come to them. They used a proactive outreach strategy and a simplified application process to increase investment in the counties outside of Monroe.  

“The Community Foundation covers eight counties in our region, not just Monroe,” says Senior Program Officer Sara Bukowiec. “This dedicated funding was part of an intentional shift in our approach to make our grantmaking opportunities more inclusive of rural counties.” 

The first phase of this regional approach focused on Wayne and Yates counties, where additional investment led to a 227 percent and 126 percent boost, respectively, in grant distribution over the previous year. 

A woman stands under a blue tent outside offering materials on internet access.
United Way of Orleans County helps residents with internet access.

The second phase took staff members into Genesee, Livingston, and Orleans counties to listen to nonprofits, community leaders, and chambers of commerce and let them know there would be more grant dollars available. Through these efforts, the Foundation received 39 letters of intent from the three counties, seeking $864,538. 

A grant to Alianza Agrícola will enable the purchase of a passenger van to connect undocumented farmworkers across the region to programming and community. Support for PathStone Foundation will address critical building improvements for its Orleans-based domestic violence shelter. Cancer Support Community Rochester will use its grant to provide screening kits and information about cancer to rural residents in all three counties. 

Girl playing basketball.
Cal-Mum Youth Basketball Association in Livingston County.

With requests big and small, the message was clear: Our region is full of organizations using innovative solutions to tackle poverty, close academic achievement and opportunity gaps, and foster racial and ethnic equity. 

The Foundation was proud to leverage a combination of unrestricted dollars, specific field of interest funds, and donor-advised funds to increase investment in these communities. 

These grants were made possible by the following Community Foundation funds: 

Greater Rochester Women’s Fund; The Sarah Collins Fund; L. Ruth Kohler Fund; Joe Moran Endowment Fund; VJ Stanley Sr. Fund; Edward R. Lane Fund; Fox-Knoeferl Family Fund; Richard C. & Mary Anne Palermo Fund for Livingston County; Robert C. and Jane K. Stevens Legacy Fund; Feinbloom Family Fund; Thomas P. Ryan Jr. Youth in Action Fund; and Tin Mountain Fund. 

Additional funding came from Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Community Impact Fund, which pools contributions from more than 100 permanent funds that support changing community needs. 

The next phase of funding focuses on Seneca and Ontario counties.

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