Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network

Building rural assets to build rural livelihoods

The Aspen Institute: Community Strategies Group

On this page:

Why a baseline survey?

Defining rural

Defining community economic development

Response pool statistics

See also:

Lead findings

Full report

Baseline Survey: Rationale and Methodology

Why an RDP baseline survey?

Since 1993, CSG has helped to develop and document strategies, peer learning opportunities and a shared understanding of the role community foundations might play in building stronger, more economically stable rural communities. Yet, field-wide information related to rural development philanthropy (RDP) has remained limited in both scope and availability.

To add to philanthropic and community development field knowledge, we designed a survey that would reach every community foundation (600+) in the U.S. and help us to document and share community foundations' current rural coverage and priorities. This information appears to be of interest and value to the field, as 82% of the RDP Baseline Survey respondents reported that they wished to learn the results of this survey.

How did we define rural?

CSG sought a definition that would be flexible and allow us to gather relatively consistent data. Using the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service's (ERS) "rural continuum" as a means to assess degrees of "rurality" on a county level, we asked respondents to consider the counties or parishes in their service area according to three broad categories: most metro, borderline metro/rural, and most rural. Based on population size, proximity to a metropolitan area, degree of urbanization and commuting patterns, ERS has placed every county (and parish) in the U.S. on this continuum, as follows:

Most metro:

Borderline metro/rural:

Most rural:

You can check your state's 1990 designations on the USDA site.

How did we define community economic development (CED)?

CSG considers "community economic development" to be the processes and strategies that nurture, balance and sustain three related activities—economic development, resource stewardship and civic capacity building. Within this definition:

Both individually and in tandem, each activity builds healthier communities and improves the quality of life and standard of living for current and future residents of all income levels.

Read more about community economic development.

Response pool vital statistics

Total number of responses:

Organizational age of response pool:

Assets of response pool:

Number of funds managed by response pool:

Staff size of response pool:

Total number of responses from current RDP Learning Network members:


Learn about preliminary findings and next steps.