Building A Strong Foundation

Arkansas' Rural Community Alliance launches endowment building effort.

February 15, 2016 |


Front row: CFO, Renee Carr, Fox; Pres., Lavina Grandon, Everton; Erma Brown, Stephens; Chapter Advisory Rep., Candy Webb, Paron. Back row: Youth Rep., Lily Webb, Paron; Andrew Taylor, Eudora; Kerry Cunningham, Plainview; ED, Candace Williams, Elaine native; Dorothy Singleton, Sherrill; & Mattie Allison, Marianna. <\/p>"

We are proud to announce the establishment of the Rural Community Alliance Endowment Fund. The fund, a cooperative venture with the Rural Schools Collaborative, will support the day-to-day work of the Rural Community Alliance (RCA) and serve as a catalyst for endowment building in RCA’s member communities.

The Rural Community Alliance serves rural Arkansas by helping its members become advocates for their rural school and community and uniting their voices on statewide initiatives. RCA facilitates grass roots-led community revitalization projects in low-wealth rural communities, provides training to its members, and supports youth development projects. RCA currently has 2,000 members in 64 chapters located in small rural communities throughout the state of Arkansas.

Promoting local philanthropy is of the utmost importance to rural development efforts. Community-based philanthropy presents real economic development possibilities for small towns and rural regions. Synergistic approaches between community foundations, school foundations, and planned giving initiatives have the potential to attract external resources and combat "capital flight," which refers to the outflow of wealth from rural places.

Rural school districts, in particular, have a unique opportunity to determine their own futures through intentional philanthropy. Because of alumni’s strong identification with rural schools, the potential to establish and build school foundations is real. Whether it is leading a community discussion on planned giving or rekindling relationships with alumni who have gone elsewhere, a strategic approach to rural school foundation building can pay real dividends in the years ahead.

The Rural Schools Collaborative believes public education is the linchpin issue in rural economic development. This simple statement is also the credo of our partner, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks's, which has garnered national attention through a Rural Schools Partnership that includes nearly 100 Missouri Ozarks school districts. RCA is following this lead and is already promoting foundation-type efforts in the Arkansas communities of Valley Springs, Lead Hill, and the Rural Special school district.

Renee Carr, RCA chief financial officer (and Rural Schools Collaborative board member) summarized the importance of her organization's new Endowment Fund: “We know there are tremendous opportunities to retain and attract wealth to rural communities. Establishing an endowment fund through Rural Schools Collaborative shows RCA's commitment to the future of rural Arkansas. We also want to model this type of long term planning for the communities we serve, so they too will begin to establish funds to help ensure sustainability.”

Congratulations to everyone associated with the Rural Community Alliance! RCA has done so much for small and financially-challenged communities in their state. Taking a leadership role in the development of locally-driven endowment funds is just one more step in an organizational history steeped in public service.

Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on Missouri’s Rural Schools Partnership program! For more information on the importance of community-based philanthropy click here.

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