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:
- Central counties in metro areas with populations greater than 1 million
- Fringe counties in metro areas with populations greater than 1 million
- Counties in metro areas with populations of 250,000 to 1 million
- Counties in metro areas with populations under 250,000
- Counties with populations greater than 20,000 that are adjacent to metro area
- Counties with populations greater than 20,000 that are not adjacent to metro area
- Counties with populations of 2,500-19,999 that are adjacent to metro area
- Counties with populations of 2,500-19,999 that are not adjacent to metro area
- Counties with populations of less than 2,500 that are adjacent to metro area
- Counties with populations of less than 2,500 that are not adjacent to metro area
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:
- Economic development goes beyond the goal of creating "jobs, jobs, jobs" and instead includes improving the quality of existing jobs and developing region-appropriate business and entrepreneurship.
- Resource stewardship refers to activities and a mindset that discourages sacrifice of a community's tangible and intangible assets for short-term gain. Responsible stewardship of natural resources and the community's culture and way of life is crucial if development is to occur in a manner that is sustainable.
- Civic capacity is the ability of a community's citizens to work together over a sustained period to shape a collective future. Capacity-building efforts range from leadership development, to community organizing, to focused strategic agenda setting, to tracking and learning from success as well as failure, to both formal and informal activities that build connections within the community and between the community and outside resources.
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.
Response pool vital statistics
Total number of responses:
- 240 (35% of 685 foundations to whom we mailed the survey)
- 46 states and 913 U.S. counties represented
- Average Year 2000 poverty rate of these 913 counties: 14.3%
(Year 2000 national average: 11.3%)
Organizational age of response pool:
- Average: 24 years old
- Range: 1–88 years
Assets of response pool:
- Average: $49,660,154
- Range: $11,548 to $1,600,206,255
Number of funds managed by response pool:
- Average: 146 funds
- Range: 1-1,254
Staff size of response pool:
- Average: 7
- Range: 0-59
Total number of responses from current RDP Learning Network members:
- 51 of 71 or 71%