Election day is four months away, and Heartland Fund grantees will play a critical role in mobilizing people to strengthen our democracy, advocate for better conditions for working families, and participate in elections. Our years of investment have created a growing network of trained organizers, trusted messengers, and local leaders with the tools and resources to lead transformational conversations with rural people. 

These rural leaders engage their communities all year, every year. This steady, powerful force strengthens democracy and makes life better for working people in all parts of the country. It's what will get us through this critical election cycle with trusted champions who will unify rural people to boost civic engagement, register voters, and increase voter turnout while educating people about opportunities to engage on the issues they care about.

We know the importance of staffing up to run outreach efforts well ahead of election day. In the first half of the year we granted almost $10 million to approximately 100 groups working to improve their communities.

Engaging Rural Youth

This spring, Heartland Fund doubled down on youth efforts. Young people–especially young people of color in rural areas–are among the most undecided and least contacted voter demographics. 

Our Rural Youth Voter Fund grantees include Forward Montana, the largest youth civic engagement organization in the Big Sky State. Forward Montana builds civic engagement strategies with and for young Montanans. People under age 35 make up 28% of Montana’s electorate, and Forward Montana is using its targeted approach to spur 58% youth turnout in the 2024 election. 

Forward Montana galvanizes youth advocacy around popular issues like affordable housing, a top concern identified among rural voters in our recent electoral poll. Their strategy includes door knocking, phone calls, digital efforts, handwritten postcards, and mailing 75,000 voter guides. The group also planned 40 membership events as well as five candidate forums for down-ballot races. These efforts will prove vital in turnout for the local, state, and federal elections.

Rural Poll

Our recent polling revealed the essential impact rural voters will have in upcoming elections. In particular, young rural voters of color emerged as one of the most undecided and least contacted groups.

Building Power among Underrepresented Groups 

We supported voter engagement in underrepresented rural communities by granting to organizations like North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT). This rural power-builder in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across North Carolina catalyzes increased voter engagement of AAPI voters statewide. 

NCAAT takes a culturally competent approach that accounts for diverse language needs. North Carolina’s AAPI electorate grew by 86% over the decade between 2010 and 2020, yet research shows 70% of Asian Americans in the South have never been contacted by a candidate or political party. 

NCAAT boasts an engaged membership and strong infrastructure, ready to mobilize in collecting 3,000 voter registration cards, making 115,000 GOTV calls, knocking on 75,000 doors, sending 600,000 texts, and mailing 180,000 multilingual mail pieces in 2024.

Increasing Indigenous Investment

Effective organizing utilizes strengths specific to each community. That’s why we’re supporting Wingbeat 88 and their traditional kinship form of organizing, based on matriarchal leadership and ancestral clan groups of Diné (Navajo) voters in Arizona. This Indigenous-led group runs an ambitious voter registration program that scaled up its field team with our support. 

Wingbeat 88 is focused on deepening local relationships early in the year to ensure positive outcomes during election season. They exemplify the need to take a local, culturally aligned approach to achieve success, and we’re committed to ongoing support of this work and other Indigenous leaders across rural America. 

More Work to Do

These three examples showcase the variety of civic engagement opportunities in our grantee network. They bring diverse rural experiences to establish widespread prosperity and a thriving democracy. We’re inspired by our grantees making early impacts engaging voters across the country, but we know more work remains. Consider donating so we can sustain our support as groups ramp up their efforts to build a healthy democracy and protect core freedoms in rural America and beyond.