Extension News

Iowa State University Receives Grant to Expand Prosperity-Building Work in Rural Communities


AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University has been awarded $300,000 to provide continued coaching, assistance and resources to the Horizons steering committees, the groups that guide Horizons in 35 Iowa communities.

The award was part of grants totaling $1.9 million made to seven state universities by the Northwest Area Foundation to expand work of Horizons — an 18-month leadership development program for rural towns with populations of 5,000 or fewer and with poverty rates of at least 10 percent. The universities’ extension services will provide coaching, training and resources. Part of the Iowa grant — $76,000 — comes from the Northwest Area Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.

“These funds will support asset- and wealth-creation opportunities, tax preparation training and financial management training in the Iowa Horizons communities,” said Ruth Freeman, Iowa State University Extension Horizons director. “We will also fund statewide convenings on financial literacy issues, leadership and public policy to promote civic engagement and further develop skills of citizens from these communities.”

The Northwest Area Foundation grants will bolster poverty-reduction work within 260 communities in Iowa and six other states that have completed Horizons. The funds will support work such as financial literacy education for youth and adults, business training, leadership development, public policy engagement and building awareness and use of tax credits for low-income families. Grant dollars will also be used to further community action plans, leverage public and private funding and to identify resources communities can tap into to sustain their work.

“Horizons has been a powerful call to action for people passionate about making change in their rural communities. We want to build on the momentum that nearly 300 towns have generated in just a year-and-a-half. These funds will help move their ideas to the next level of impact,” said Kevin Walker, president and CEO of Northwest Area Foundation.

Grants also were made to the following intermediary organizations:

  • Regents of the University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho — $200,000 will fund asset- and wealth-building strategies in 34 communities. Activities include financial literacy education for youth and adults, small business training, tax clinics, grant-seeking workshops and networking at a statewide rural conference.
  • Regents of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis — $200,000 was awarded to increase understanding of financial management, leadership, public speaking and public policy skills in 25 communities and to increase understanding of poverty among University graduate students.
  • Washington State University, Spokane, Washington — $300,000 was awarded to build partnerships in 40 communities that will increase leadership and effectiveness, expand asset- and wealth- creation programs, and build expertise in public policy work. Funding will provide intensive trainings in asset- and wealth-building strategies, such as savings accounts and tax credits for low income people, microenterprise development, affordable housing and transportation.
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana — $300,000 was awarded to promote financial education, business training, leadership development and civic engagement in 35 communities.
  • North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota — $300,000 was awarded to support work in 42 communities such as youth and family financial literacy trainings, regional microenterprise trainings and strategies to promote community gardens and farmers markets.
  • South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota — $300,000 was awarded to fund advanced education and technical trainings in 36 communities within four key areas: entrepreneurship, development of local food systems, family financial management, business training and mentorships, and leadership training.

All 260 communities will convene for monthly webinars with their counterparts across the seven states to build connections, develop awareness of others’ work, learn about potential collaborative efforts and increase knowledge about successful asset- and wealth-building strategies. They will gather periodically within their own states for networking and information sharing.

The Northwest Area Foundation is dedicated to supporting efforts by the people, organizations and communities in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. These states were served by the Great Northern Railway, founded by James J. Hill. In 1934, Hill’s son Louis W. Hill established the Foundation. The Foundation is currently accepting grant proposals only on an invitation basis. For more information about the Foundation’s grantmaking approach and the work of grantees across its eight-state region, please visit www.nwaf.org.   


Contacts :

Ruth Freeman, Iowa State University Extension Horizons director, 515-386-3611, rofreema@iastate.edu

Susan Buckles, Northwest Area Foundation, 651-225-3865, sbuckles@nwaf.org

Willy Klein, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0662, wklein@iastate.edu