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LISC National
About Us

In 2017, Rural LISC was awarded an Innovation Bonus grant, pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation and managed by IDEO.org, to challenge traditional norms and help Rural LISC launch itself into a more innovative future, known as “futurizing.”  The grant is supporting Rural LISC in developing a strategy to increase its private fundraising, resulting in less dependence on government funding and substantially increasing its impact.

In sourcing our core revenue stream primarily from private and corporate giving rather than government funding, Rural LISC will broaden the focus of private and corporate funders to include new, resource-strapped areas of the country and amplify the presence of rural America in executive board rooms, business and investment decision making, and national giving as a whole.  Investing in rural America also provides corporate America the opportunity to tap into the employment potential of the vast pool of 16-24 year olds born in the technology age and poised to work. The goal is to develop philanthropic partners looking to enlist the aid of corporate America in order to create strong, comprehensive collaborations in formerly resource-starved regions – and discover the extraordinary field of investment opportunity in rural America.​

Rural LISC’s Innovation Bonus team consists of Suzanne Anarde, LISC Vice President and Rural LISC Director; Nadia Villagrán, Rural LISC Program Director for Fund Development and Communications; and Justin Archer Burch, Rural LISC Mid-South Delta Program Officer. The team met with John Collery from IDEO.org and Laura Roberts from The Rockefeller Foundation in late June for a Visioning Session in Los Angeles to begin defining Rural LISC’s strategy for inspiring national and regional funders to increase their investments in rural America through a dedicated multi-year rural set aside and helping them to better understand why they must always include rural in their thinking, planning and giving.

Visioning Session, Los Angeles, June 2017, left to right:  Nadia Villagrán, John Collery, Suzanne Anarde, Laura Roberts, and Justin Burch.
Visioning Session, Los Angeles, June 2017, left to right: Nadia Villagrán, John Collery, Suzanne Anarde, Laura Roberts, and Justin Burch.

Over the past several months, the Rural LISC Innovation Bonus team has been receiving feedback and iterating its proposed strategy, with support from the Innovation Bonus Cohort and the IDEO.org team. Since their last in-person meeting with Kerry Brennan and Rafael Smith from IDEO.org in Jackson, Miss., the team has been testing language and concepts for a communications campaign and media platform utilizing data, videos and more, championing the need for more private dollars in rural America.  Rural LISC hopes to launch the campaign in early 2018.

With support from the Innovation Bonus, Rural LISC will explore emerging funding models that can help sustain organizations in rural communities with less dependence on federal dollars. This funding strategy will better serve rural and tribal communities that tend to be a heavier lift programmatically. Rural LISC will shift the conversation with potential philanthropic and corporate sector investors by rebranding rural America as a culture, not a geography, and highlighting the need for long-term sustained investment to gain long-term sustained returns. By transforming the funding landscape in rural America from an annual “one-time-hit” grant cycle to long-term investment and sustainability, Rural LISC will deepen the efficiency of programs ranging from youth employment programs, like the Greenville Opportunity Youth (GO Youth) Initiative, to economic development and mobile Financial Opportunity Centers.

LISC has long invested in education, financial stability, business development and safety initiatives, but making the case for investment in this work – particularly in rural communities – has always been a challenge.​ Rural regions especially tend to lack the established philanthropic and corporate-giving infrastructure of larger urban communities, and often rely on federal funding which, while important and necessary, is limited and subject to political uncertainty.

“The Innovation Bonus is an extraordinary opportunity for Rural LISC, It challenges us to think outside the box and implement a strategy that will move Rural LISC and our partners into the future.”
— Suzanne Anarde, LISC Vice President and Rural LISC Director

In an era of increasing government budget cuts affecting rural communities, thanks to support from The Rockefeller Foundation and assistance from IDEO.org, Rural LISC's “futurizing" will create true sustainability for years to come by expanding key funding opportunities and long-term investment. Through dedicated partnerships, Rural LISC works to ensure that rural America is a viable investment possibility for major funders around the country that seek to build on-ramps to opportunity for low and moderate income individuals and families in rural America. But what will ultimately create the environment for these successes is substantial, sustainable and diversified investment in rural communities – both financial investment and an infusion of technical assistance. 

Rural LISC seeks to pave the way and serve as a model for more than 80 rural community-based organizations to better navigate these changes towards a more financially independent rural America.​ By increasing the flexibility and diversity of rural America’s revenue streams, Rural LISC will use the Innovation Bonus to support rural partners in being better able to provide for residents of all ages to break the cycle of persistent poverty that has so long afflicted rural America.

Visit The Rockefeller Foundation website for more information.

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Visit the IDEO.org website for more information.

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