Increasing year-round youth civic engagement

Forty-eight million eligible young voters live outside the metro areas.

Sixty-three percent of rural youth, 30 million people, are infrequent or uncommitted voters. Of all voter demographics, people under 35 are the most undecided. They are among the least contacted by both nonpartisan and political efforts. Our experience shows the only way to activate these voters is to invest in trusted local community messengers and groups.

In partnership with Clean and Prosperous America and Movement Voter Project, Heartland Fund created the new Rural Youth Voter Fund to nurture the extraordinary promise of rural youth by investing in authentic long-term engagement of our young community members.

Seeing Rural

Twenty-four percent of rural residents are people of color, and many are immigrants. Nearly one-third of rural children under 18 are people of color. Young rural voters of color, who lean towards pro-democracy policies, are significantly underrepresented in elections.

Increasing Year-Round Youth Civic Engagement

Rural Youth Voter Fund expands civic engagement and power-building strategies year-round to mobilize young voters under 35 in small towns and rural areas. In our grantmaking and programming, we focus especially on young voters of color, taking a creative, layered approach.

  • Invest and align $10 million by 2025 in grantmaking and capacity building for young voter-focused power-building organizations to increase their capacity, train their leaders, expand civic engagement and digital communications efforts, and organize across multiple issues.
  • Build a strong network equipped to engage young voters, coming together to share lessons, challenges, and innovative solutions.
  • Support policies and groups that improve the lives of rural young people and ensure representation of their values.
Maine Youth Power
  • Amplify highly persuasive communications through arts and culture strategies, influencer and digital outreach, and peer engagement — focused on issues they care most about, like healthcare, economic well-being, reproductive rights, climate, and education.
  • Invest in leadership development, especially leadership pipelines for young people of rural color.
  • Support rural groups mobilizing young voter participation at scale through grassroots civic engagement efforts, targeted communications and digital outreach, and media.
  • Maximize rural voter data collection and new tools such as the Rural Map and Dashboard to improve our analysis and targeting.
Deeds Not Words

The Rural Youth Voter Fund draws from the expertise of Heartland’s network of over 100 grantee groups across more than 20 states. Heartland has a history of supporting successful youth-focused organizations.

Our Grantees

Youth Campaign to Protect the Right to Abortion Care

Loud Light used creative strategies like cowboy-themed campaigns and short educational clips on digital platforms to mobilize young people in Kansas to protect reproductive health care.

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Policy Victory in Rural Texas Leads to Statewide Shift

Mano Amiga activated young students on the San Marcos campus to successfully end Texas State University’s automatic expulsion policy for students with drug offenses, impacting over 87,000 students across 13 campuses.

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Youth Organizing in Georgia

Collective Renaissance Georgia hosted compelling events to bring many first-time young voters of color together to register and invite their friends and classmates to get more involved.

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Activating young voters in small towns and rural areas is one of the strongest investments we can make for our democracy. We invite you to join us!