News & Media

Why Rural Philantrophy Must Mean More Than Money

Wed. Jul 17, 2013

Incourage is highlighted in an article in NONPROFIT QUARTERLY, by Max Rose. Excerpts:

“Place-based, rural foundations can uniquely anchor long-term change by understanding and focusing the community’s long-term goals and exerting all five forms of capital towards those goals … Social, Moral, Intellectual, Reputational, and Financial Capital …

“Taken together, the creative deployment of multiple forms of capital can push rural philanthropy’s role away from that of community bank and toward institutions of vision, leadership development, and forward momentum. At its best, rural, place-based philanthropy has the potential to remind all of us how to build communities with equity and inclusiveness.

“In a recent report, Knight Foundation and FSG highlight Incourage Community Foundation, Wisconsin Rapids, WI. With the decline of paper mills, and the reduced circulation of a newsletter put out by Consolidated Papers, the major employer, Incourage began to think about ways of using a more engaged citizenry to meet the region’s economic needs.

“It held focus groups and found fragmented information flows and growing Internet access that was still limited for low-income people. Incourage used the results of the focus groups, as well as volunteers who emerged from them, to construct a strategy to increase the community’s digital literacy and to launch a digital aggregator of events, job training, and community services.

” ‘What we learned along the way is that information has its own ecosystem and reflects the culture of a community,’ Incourage CEO Kelly Ryan says in the report. “In order to upend a culture that is paternal, dependent, and with a strong sense of entitlement, you have to include information in your change strategy.

“Incourage used intellectual capital to build social capital, helping to circulate existing, community wisdom and leading to closer community ties.”


Max Rose is a program associate at MDC, a nonprofit in Durham, N.C., that helps people and their communities overcome the barriers to educational and economic opportunity. Through its PASSING GEAR PHILANTHROPY program, MDC helps foundations creatively deploy capital in all its forms to advance wellbeing and long-term vitality in the regions they serve. 


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  • About Incourage

    Established in rural Wisconsin in 1994 to serve the changing needs of the south Wood County area, Incourage has become a nationally-recognized leader in place-based philanthropy and community development. Guided by values of equity, opportunity, and shared stewardship, Incourage envisions a community that works well for all people. One physical manifestation of this vision is the redevelopment of the Tribune building, which demonstrates Incourage’s user-centered approach to growing a strong and inclusive local economy.