Community Foundations

On Behalf of the Common Good

A rural community foundation is a place where caring people and needed organizations can come together. It is all about developing local assets for local solutions.

Nancy Van Milligen, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

“Listen to the community members and support them in their efforts to create strong schools and strong communities.”

Rural community foundations are places where caring people develop local assets for local solutions. These organizations can be incredible catalysts for change in rural places, and vehicles for strong schools and strong communities.

Check out a few examples of incredible work being done in the rural sector by local and regional community foundations:

20+ years of Impact: Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

When the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) opened their doors in 2003, they had one simple goal in mind: help people give back to the local community. Today, the foundation continues to help invest in the Dubuque region through sustained partnerships, and has embarked on a two-decade long journey to strengthen communities and inspire giving.

CFGD's passion for supporting educational initiatives shines through several of their programs. Their Every Child Reads program is a collaborative effort among parents, educators, nonprofits and civic leaders in the Dubuque region to ensure that all children succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. Their YAPPERS initiative teaches high-school youth about philanthropy and gets them involved in acts of service to help the community thrive and be a positive space for everyone. Both initiatives seek to improve knowledge, relationships, and resources necessary to improve the quality of life in Dubuque’s rural communities.

Read more about their impact:

Community Foundation of the Ozarks: $500 Million Dollars in Grants

In 2021, Community Foundation of the Ozarks surpassed $500 million out in grants and distributions since their inception. The half-billion-dollar figure represents countless competitive grants, grants from donor-advised funds, scholarships for students to pursue higher education, and distributions made to nonprofit partners from their funds held at the CFO to advance their important work. The CFO’s first grant was made in 1975 for $10,000 to help fund the petting zoo at Dickerson Park Zoo.

According to the most recent Columbus Survey of community foundations in the U.S., the CFO is the 69th largest in assets but the ninth busiest in transaction volume. The rankings reflect the neighborly generosity of the Ozarks as charitable resources continuously flow from donors to nonprofit entities through the CFO. In the CFO’s 2021 fiscal year, 93.5% of grants and distributions stayed in Missouri, highlighting the power of place-based philanthropy.

Learn more about their work:

Our Community Foundation Partners Respond to Covid-19

The Rural Schools Collaborative is committed to the concept of rural philanthropy, and the work of our community foundation partners clearly illustrates why this is so important to small towns and rural places. The importance of strong public foundations has never been greater than during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

We invite you to learn how Minnesota's West Central Initiative, Missouri's Community Foundation of the Ozarks, and the Galesburg Community Foundation have been responding to this public health challenge.

Keeping the Beat for Rural Philanthropy in North Dakota

The North Dakota Community Foundation (NDCF) is a national leader in regional philanthropy, and the organization is committed to supporting public education throughout what is largely a rural state. As part of our partnership with our North Dakota Hub partners, the North Dakota Small Organized Schools, we interviewed Kevin Dvorak, NDCF President and CEO.

Read more of this instructive interview on the important role of a regional community foundation.

Seymour, Missouri: A Case Study
elderly man with glasses with paintings in background

At its most inspirational, a community foundation can transform a small town or community.

- Ron Giedd, Founder, Greater Area Seymour Foundation

Dr. Ron Giedd likes to tell people how he and his wife, Joanne, moved to Seymour, Missouri, in 1992 after firing a dart at a United States map.

The story is pure malarkey, but coming from the usually disheveled and grinning Giedd, his eyes twinkling, you are almost ready to buy it. Giedd is one of our favorite things about Seymour, along with its wonderful local newspaper, the Webster County Citizen. He tries hard to be a “character,” but he is in reality an extremely intelligent and thoughtful retired physics professor from the University of Connecticut, who moved to this small Ozarks’ community of 2,000 because of nearby relatives.

Giedd and the Greater Area Seymour Foundation are an inspiration to every small community. That’s why Giedd, current GSAF President Janice Blankenship, and other board and community members are featured in a new video the CFO produced to show that, yes, philanthropy can be very successful even in small communities that don’t have a lot of wealthy family or institutional benefactors.

Read the Seymour Story.

Brian Fogle, Community Foundation of the Ozarks

“As I reflect on our 48-year history and the impact that $500 million has had . . . it comes with a gratitude of the thousands of donors who cared enough to share their resources selflessly to make for a better world.”

Local philanthropy and school foundations are gaining momentum as a rural strategy to invest in local education and local solutions. RSC has been privileged to work with the following Community Foundations:

Joshua Gibb, Galesburg Community Foundation in Illinois

“This work is more important than ever as people are looking to their communities more. They’re looking at their teachers; they’re looking at their principals. So the opportunity for education to be a defining factor of community is more important now than it’s ever been.”