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Spaces & Places ECFC Member Huddle: Let’s Talk About Young Children and Families in Rural Communities 

This event was held on February 8, 2024 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EST

This ECFC member huddle provided space for members to swap ideas around young children and families in rural communities. Challenges and opportunities for working in and with rural communities were discussed, and assets and strategies funders are supporting in rural communities to learn and address the needs of young children, families and the early childhood workforce.

See related resource below. ECFC members can contact [email protected] for discussion notes and to connect with other members on the huddle.

Event Takeaways

We recognized that every community is different. There’s no “same” space or approach, and funders need to be in/go into the communities and learn the needs from the community.  Trust building is key, you have to be in the community, or keep coming to the community and building relationships, finding out how the community wants funders to show up in their space.  Supporting culture and language based work, and building on community strengths is key to addressing community needs.

Some common threads that attendees are working on included: child care supply and workforce, local/community coordinators in rural communities, and maintaining coalitions and moving them from meeting to action, to advocacy if that is the goal. Some specific examples of funder strategies in rural communities shared by those on our huddle included:

Local community staff/coordinators:

  • The Ford Family Foundation (Oregon) shared their Field Coordinator model - staff who live and work in their communities to build relationships and learn and communicate community needs.  Read more about lessons they are learning from this model: How Philanthropy Can "Go To Where the People Are".
  • New Hampshire has a similar model, Community Builders Hub, Community Stewards – local full time paid staff with the goal of building a critical mass of local people with tools, relationships and belief in the North Country region.

Putting Community at the Center:

  • Headwaters Foundation (Montana) GO! Grants provide general operating grants with a short turn around time and simple application process for rural western Montana non-profits that serve families experiencing poverty or Native American communities, and demonstrate that the bulk of their work is aligned with one or more of the foundations focus areas.
  • Buffet Early Childhood Fund (Nebraska) supports Communities for Kids (C4K), created in response to community requests for assistance with shortages of high-quality early care and education programs.  Working with local community councils, provides  local planning grants to communities to identify and problem solve to meet their EC needs.   
  • The Ford Family Foundation shared their approach to community building - putting communities at the center of their work, starting with where they are and then building on their assets. See TFF's Rural Community Building Tools.

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