07/19/2010 10:34 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Fundraising in Rural America

All too often, when we think of fundraising, we focus on efforts and resources that are really only applicable to metropolitan settings. Foundations are more likely to be located in cities, and traditional fundraisers, such as galas and auctions, cater to an urban crowd. It is important to recognize that the same issues addressed in more heavily populated areas also impact rural communities - and the need for fundraising in these areas is crucial.

As the national association and accrediting body for Children's Advocacy Centers around the country, a large percentage of our members serve these rural communities where the issue of child abuse is ever more apparent. Like so many other organizations, rural-serving Children's Advocacy Centers may not be able to take the same approach to raising funds and awareness of their cause, and innovative methods must be employed.

An April, 2010, article from the Association of Fundraising Professionals' (AFP) introduced some challenges fundraisers face in rural settings. These challenges are based on the findings of a study conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Researchers found that although people from rural communities are less likely to give than those from urban communities, when they do give, they donate a higher percentage of their income than do their urban counterparts.

Interestingly, researchers found that "for both urban and rural residents, the amount contributed is closely related to some of the same factors that are associated with the probability of giving: being a college graduate, being married, frequency of religious attendance, level of wealth, level of income and itemizing charitable deductions." Knowing that a college education is a factor associated with giving, it is important for fundraisers in rural settings to inform college educated people about the work being done to service a population in need.

Researchers also found that rural donors share common beliefs and values about charitable giving. They express that:
•Those with more should help those with less (equity of responsibility) -- giving is a form of reciprocity for benefits received
•Giving is a way to express religious beliefs
•Nonprofit organizations are more effective in delivering services than government agencies.

While this insight is encouraging for rural fundraisers, it does not decrease the many challenges rural-serving charities face, especially in a difficult financial climate. Research such as the study produced by the AFP can help rural fundraisers come up with new methods for engaging donors. The sharing of best practices among these organizations is another method for inspiring innovation and achieving fundraising success. We at National Children's Alliance encourage our members to share their fundraising challenges and success stories across fields, believing that the more we know, the more success we will achieve.