Filling the “Rural” void in philanthropy

Published 9:37 am Monday, July 20, 2015

By Brian Sasser, Director of Communications, Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF)
A new federal study shows rural areas get a small share of foundation grants across the country.  The Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) hopes to change that in Texas.

19% of the population.
6% of the grants.

Those numbers sum up a new federal study looking at how large foundations make grants to rural communities across the U.S.

“Whichever way you slice it, rural communities aren’t getting a proportionate share of foundation grants compared to the relative size of the rural population,” writes Tim Marema in an article in The Daily Yonder, a website focused on rural news.

Marema cites numbers released in a report by the USDA Economic Research Service. The study looked at more than 1,400 large foundations and discovered big city communities received about twice the grant amount per capita than rural areas.

Why is this happening? The study didn’t reach any single conclusion. But as our research shows, when it comes to health, it’s definitely not for a lack of need.  From infant mortality rates to adult obesity to families living in poverty, many small counties fall below the state average in more of these key health indicators than some large counties. Rural areas battle problems like transportation issues and lack of access to health services. The need is there, and we believe the help to transform the health of those communities should be there, too.

Last month, the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) awarded a grant for a school telemedicine program in Colorado County. We funded operational support for the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership home visitation project working in 12 rural counties across Southeast Texas.  And, we awarded a grant to The Rose, helping improve breast health at clinics in 33 counties.

But there’s so much more work to do.

Six months into EHF’s first year of grant-making, the majority of our new grant partners are located in Harris and Travis counties – the two largest and most urban in our 57-county area of East, Southeast and Central Texas. Of course, the majority of the 10 million people living in the 57 counties reside in Harris or Travis, so we expect to make big investments there. But our grants are made to organizations that apply for funding, and the vast majority of organizations applying for our grants are also in those metropolitan areas.

That’s why we continue to encourage rural non-profit organizations, clinics, and others serving rural populations to apply for an EHF grant.  Our strategic funding priorities include increasing access to health services, enhancing early childhood development, and supporting mental health.  We know there are organizations working to do those same things in smaller counties, but they need a financial boost. It’s seed money that could help produce long-lasting improvement to community health. We just need to know where to plant that seed — in areas both big and small.

We invite you to visit and learn more about EHF’s vision of transforming community health. Then give us a call to discuss your idea. We stand ready to help improve community health in all areas.  We can’t change the “rural void” of foundation grants alone, but to truly impact community health in our part of Texas, it’s a void that has to be filled.


Brian Sasser is Director of Communications for the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF). EHF is based in Houston and was established through the 2013 transfer of the St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to Catholic Health Initiatives. The Foundation has assets of more than $1.2 billion and is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that operates as a supporting organization of the Diocese. The Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of the 10 million people in the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas by investing in grant-making, research, impact measurement and outreach to Diocesan churches. Learn more at