excerpted from the Des Moines Register (free subscription required)
By Steve Gunderson, 8/14/2007
The contributions of rural America are often equated with abundant sources of food, a strong work ethic and close-knit communities. While we would like to keep these hearty images secured in our minds, the reality is that many rural communities face serious challenges, such as population loss, a declining local economic base and a lack of government resources.
Strategies to enhance rural America focus on local economic development, state engagement in education and infrastructure and federal support through farm bills, rural-development programs and other initiatives. But a new partner in building rural America is emerging, found in long-term, strategic, charitable investments of philanthropy.
This is a unique moment in time. Rural resources built up over the past generation are now being transferred to new locations. Community foundations across the United States have begun to develop programs to estimate and guide this transfer. For example, the Nebraska Community Foundation estimates that rural Nebraskans will leave $94 billion to their heirs through 2050. If Nebraska could direct just 5 percent of this generational transfer of wealth into philanthropy, it would see $4.7 billion of foundation assets ready to serve the state for years into the future.
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