About The Heartland Fund/Rural Democracy Initiative
About the Organization
The Heartland Fund, part of the Rural Democracy Initiative, is a funding collaborative that connects rural leaders with funders to build powerful, permanent civic infrastructure in small towns, small cities and rural areas. Our coalition of rural innovators and aligned funders is working in 20 states across diverse regions. We challenge the stereotype of the conservative white rural voter, and instead center racial justice and partner with groups working in rural communities of color and modeling groundbreaking anti-racist organizing in majority-white communities.
Small town, small city and rural voters maintain disproportionate power to shape national politics. The progressive movement was built on a strong coalition of rural farmers and urban laborers. But in recent decades, progressive leadership and funding infrastructure has largely withdrawn from non-metro areas.
At the same time, regressive interests have invested heavily in rural voters. They’ve built organizing, policy, and communications machines to spread disinformation and ignite fears among rural electorates, promoting their own political agendas to deepen urban-rural divides.
Progressives are winning again in small towns and rural communities. 2018 and 2020 made clear that with focused organizing progressives can win in rural communities. Even though rural areas voted overwhelmingly for Trump, rural Democratic gains in the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election were actually larger than the gains made in urban and in many suburban areas, and were decisive in the battleground states.
With small, grassroots investments in strategic rural engagement, a motivated coalition comprised largely of rural women, people of color, and younger voters fueled a historic progressive bounce-back in small cities, towns and rural areas.
The Heartland / RDI approach
The Heartland Fund is a 501c3 grantmaking and power building organization that, alongside the 501c4 Rural Victory Fund, comprises the Rural Democracy Initiative. RDI invests in civic infrastructure in small towns and rural areas. Building power in these communities is essential to establishing an enduring progressive, multiracial national majority, and to implementing the policies required for rural and small city communities to have vibrant, thriving futures. For example, our Rural Climate Partnership invests in rural-led climate solutions such as clean energy deployment, sustainable rural electric cooperatives, and regenerative agriculture to support a just transition.