Rural Funders Learning Network

About our Rural Funders Learning Network

The Rural Funders Learning Network (RFLN) convenes foundations, government agencies and other funding entities investing in rural regions of Colorado. These efforts help grantmakers deepen their understanding of the critical and unmet needs of rural communities, share strategies and find innovative ways of collaborating with local residents and leaders on solutions. The RFLN consists of both funding organizations located in rural areas and statewide philanthropies that fund in rural areas. 
 

Philanthropy Colorado makes a significant investment to support learning and collective action in rural philanthropy, through a full-time Director of Rural and Statewide Networks, RFLN Advisory Committee, programs, convenings, multi-day community visits and individual funder consultations. The RFLN is led by our experienced Rural and Statewide Networks Director, Amy Swiatek, and a 12-member advisory committee. The advisory group meets regularly to provide feedback and input on the network's overall direction, programming, convenings and research; and to advance rural collective action and learning with each other and other funders.

2022 Rural Funders Learning Network Advisory Committee 

Amy Latham, Co-Lead| Chief Impact Officer, The Colorado Health Foundation 
Tony Lewis, Co-Lead |Executive Director, Donnell-Kay Foundation 
Jason Corzine | Chief Executive Officer, Telluride Foundation 
Curtis Esquibel | Director of Communications & Community Engagement, Boettcher Foundation 
Joanne Kelley | Chief Executive Officer, Philanthropy Colorado 
Katie Kramer | Chief Executive Officer, Boettcher Foundation 
Blake McKinlay | Director of Programs, ZOMA Foundation 
Laia Mitchell | Community Development Senior Program Officer, Gates Family Foundation 

Doug Palmer | Social Impact Officer | The Beacon Fund
Morris Price | Vice President of Grants and Impact, The Colorado Trust 
Erica Snow | Executive Director, Aspen Community Foundation 
Chantal Unfug | Director of Division of Local Government, Colorado Department of Local Affairs 
Megan Wilson | Deputy Director, Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation 

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Thanks to the generous supporters of the Rural Funders Learning Network

Aspen Community Foundation
Boettcher Foundation
The Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Trust
Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation

Department of Local Affairs
Donnell-Kay Foundation
Gates Family Foundation

Telluride Foundation
ZOMA Foundation

 

More About the Rural Funders Learning Network  

Philanthropy Colorado has operated a Rural Funders Learning Network (RFLN) since 2018, advancing coordination, alignment and deeper learning among members and state partners on the rural funding landscape, issues and trends. The RFLN supports learning and collective action among members focused on addressing pressing, systemic issues in rural regions that share similar challenges – affordable and attainable housing, economic distress, limited access to healthcare and childcare and community cohesion, to name a few.

 

Philanthropy Colorado is deeply committed to strengthening our rural and statewide presence and impact as we work to achieve our vision of “an equitable and sustainable future for Colorado.” We have actively engaged a core group of rural funders and brought together a cross-sector partner network to tackle rural equity issues that range from lack of broadband access to "just transitions" for communities affected by the transition away from coal-generated energy.

 

Objectives for the Rural Funders Learning Network are to:
1) Increase our knowledge and awareness about each other’s philanthropic strategies, innovative solutions and key issues and trends affecting rural areas;
2) Increase our efficiency and effectiveness through coordination, sharing information and resources, leveraging investments and creating strategic partnerships; and
3) Improve our ability to listen and respond effectively to locally identified unmet needs and challenges.

Building Bridges in Rural Colorado 

One way to understand and support rural philanthropy is to meet face-to-face with community leaders, nonprofits and residents. To provide this opportunity, Philanthropy Colorado regularly hosts muti-day site visits to rural communities. The Road Trip! map below provides a sense of our engagement across rural Colorado.

In summer 2022, Philanthropy Colorado facilitated a two-day visit to the San Luis Valley for twenty-five funders, including stops in Fort Garland, Alamosa and Center. Click Highlight: Rural Funders Learning Network in San Luis Valley to learn more and see photos from the visit.

Rural Equity Leadership 

As recognition of Philanthropy Colorado's leadership on rural philanthropy, our Director Amy Swiatek was tapped to serve on the national Rural Philanthropy Working Group convened by United Philanthropy Forum and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The initiative strives to catalyze more and more effective philanthropic investment in rural communities-focusing on communities of color and communities of persistent poverty in rural places
 
The Principles for Rural Philanthropic Engagement was developed by this Rural Philanthropy Working Group, a group of 15 Forum members (including Philanthropy Colorado) who have guided this initiative for the past 18 months. We believe that authentic and effective rural philanthropy challenges preconceptions about rural places and people; acknowledge the historic and continuing marginalization, exclusions and/or disenfranchisement of rural people of color; recognizes the value of place to residents; focuses on building from within; emphasizes locally defined impact over scale; and prioritizes equity, trust-building and co-creation with local partners. 

RFLN Program Highlights

Rural Community Response & Recovery Project (2020-2021) 
The Rural Community Response and Recovery Project (RCRP) was designed to support rural regions hit hard by COVID-19’s impact on local economies and basic human needs. ZOMA Foundation, Telluride Foundation and The Denver Foundation collaborated to provide unrestricted financial support, peer learning and technical assistance to organizations that could most effectively support highly impacted communities and residents. Philanthropy Colorado organized and facilitated the peer learning cohort of the six hub organizations identified to lead community work (see list below). A RCRP Advisory Committee of senior foundation leaders provided strategic advice on program development and served as advisors to the six community hub service providers. 

Read the full report on the Rural Community Response & Recovery Project.

 

Broadband Funders Interest Group  

Philanthropy Colorado established this on-going project in 2020 to help Colorado philanthropy support broadband access and adoption in rural areas of the state. This includes multiple learning meetings, exchanges between Colorado funders and opportunities to hear directly from rural community partners ready to mobilize with the assistance of philanthropic dollars to address unmet broadband needs. Two projects were fully funded: San Luis Valley Broadband Collaborative (two positions for two years) and Southern Colorado Broadband Initiative (Economic Development Administration matching funds). The Colorado Health Foundation developed a pilot in rural Colorado for an impact investing digital inclusion project. Several philanthropic entities directed funding to digital access during the pandemic in innovative way with local partners, including solar-powered WiFi stations in the San Luis Valley and devise and connectivity campaigns, such as Southwest PCs for Kids. We continue to bring additional Colorado funders and rural partners into the project. And we stay engaged with our state partners, such as the Colorado Broadband Office and Colorado Office of the Future of Work’s Digital Equity Committee.

Connect to the Rural Funders Learning Network

The RFLN is one of several Peer Learning Networks which Philanthropy Colorado regularly convenes. Interested in learning more or engaging with the RFLN? Contact Amy Swiatek, Director of Rural and Statewide Networks at info@philanthropycolorado.org