Funding Rural | Episode #2 | Urban Issues are Rural Issues with Wynn Rosser, PhD

Wynn Rosser, PhD is a place-based rural funder. His work at T.L.L. Temple Foundation focuses on 22 counties in rural east Texas and he brings with him Texas-sized empathy. Rosser shares concrete examples of the interconnectedness between funding in urban and rural communities.

“The word divide is used a lot, but the more we look at things, the more we realize core urban issues are often core rural issues.” – Wynn Rosser, PhD

Rosser also touches on the value of working at a strategy and policy level for larger impact and what can happen if philanthropy turns a blind eye to policy and legislation.

“The things that we know, again, from an evidence based standpoint, work for most students, work for most adults, work for most—you fill in the blank— have a policy environment that isn’t supportive of those strategies or work against those strategies. Then, yeah, we can’t grant-make our way out of most of the large challenges that exist in our country. And so…there’s a role for philanthropy, but we can’t work against the scale of state and federal government.” –Wynn Rosser, PhD


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More about Wynn Rosser

Funding Rural episode 2 with Wynn Rosser

Wynn Rosser, PhD joined the Lufkin, Texas based T.L.L. Temple Foundation as president and CEO on September 1, 2016. He previously served almost 10 years as the chief executive of Greater Texas Foundation. Prior to Greater Texas Foundation, Rosser worked 14 years at Texas A&M University in faculty, staff, and senior administrative roles. He is known for his commitment to cross-sector partnerships and to improving life outcomes–especially for low income and rural residents–and for his regional approach to grantmaking and philanthropic leadership.

“We spent a lot of time over the last few years talking about inherent bias. Well, we have inherent biases about rural people in rural places, too.” – Wynn Rosser, PhD

Discussion Questions

  • Does your organization fund outside of major communities?  How do you find those projects and programs?
  • Is there another funder in your state/region that you can partner with on rural investment projects? How could you build greater relationships with that funder?
  • Let’s talk about policy – how does your organization think about systems change? Are you working only at the project level? How do we move beyond that? What are the stumbling blocks for you, your organization, your board?


“Let me tell you, who doesn’t have a choice where they live: That three-year-old, the four-year-old, a five-year-old, a six-year-old.” – Wynn Rosser, PhD


Transcript: Funding Rural Episode #2 “Urban Issues are Rural Issues” with Wynn Rosser, PhD

Erin Borla
You’re listening to Funding Rural. I’m Erin Borla with the Roundhouse Foundation in Central Oregon. So if you want to talk about rural and what rural means, I think we can all learn something from the state of Texas, there are more people living in what would be classified as rural areas in Texas than the entire population of states like Louisiana, Mississippi, or even right here in Oregon. I knew I needed to connect with Wynn Rosser to talk about what philanthropy looks like there, and what funders everywhere can learn from Texas. When is with a TLL Temple Foundation, based in Lufkin, Texas, I met him at a random zoom event for rural folks. And I immediately liked that he was willing to ask the hard questions, and how he approaches his work not only within his own organization, but with rural funding partners across the state. He’s thinking about rural philanthropy, from the heart and from the ground, because those are his roots. And that’s where he’s devoted his career. I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it with him. Remember to stick around after the interview, I’ll share some of my key takeaways.

All right, well, thanks so much Wynn for being here. I’m really glad that you’re able to join us and chat about your work. I’d love just to hear a little bit about your background and what brought you to TLL Temple Foundation.

Wynn Rosser 1:24
Sure. Well, thanks, Erin, for including me, it’s a very kind of, you know, I’ve always enjoyed visiting with you. Well, I’m a rural kid, I grew up in rural East Texas, my mom and dad are from rural families. My family has been rural for generations. My wife is from the Texas panhandle, and likewise, her family has been rural for generations. So I’m standing now, about an hour and 20 minutes from where I was raised. The Temple Foundation focuses on 22 rural counties in Texas, one rural county in Arkansas, and I was raised in one of our 22 rural East Texas counties. So it’s, it’s really interesting to return home after having been gone essentially 30 years for, for undergrad, and then grad school plus working. Working, you know, outside the region that I visited, but, you know, hadn’t lived here. And so it’s there’s something about living here, being here, immersing yourself in the place, where, and you see things through adult eyes, as opposed to a, to a child’s eyes. So you know, as a native Texan, I love it. But I also realize that the issues that we focus upon here in rural East Texas, are similar to the issues that you work on in Oregon or that our friends in Georgia work on. So there’s this thing that holds us together, I think as rural people in rural places, where we’ve got a lot that we can do together, if we will figure out ways to to work together.

Erin Borla 2:49
Yeah, I think the well it’s called the rural urban divide, right? That’s what everybody likes to call it, the buzzwords. How are you managing that in the philanthropy that you’re doing? How are you trying to elevate the voices of those community members that you work with?

Wynn Rosser 3:04
Well, first, you know, the word divide is used a lot. But the, the more we look at things, we realize that core urban issues are often core rural issues. And so one of the things that, you know, we try to help people understand is that you don’t have to learn a whole new issue area to understand rural, what you have to understand is the context matters. And so, for example, food deserts, health care deserts or you know, health professional shortage areas. Broadband, the lack of broadband and core urban and rural areas is very similar. Now, the, the, the solutions are different and the issue expresses itself in different ways. But whether it be housing, transportation, the broader issues of poverty. When you look at the specific issues, there’s a lot of similarities. And so really its the core urban and rural and then what differs is usually the suburban areas. So what does that look like in a rural area like ours? So, and why do we sometimes feel like we’re overlooked? We have entire counties without primary care providers, we have entire counties without EMS, if you call 911, and ambulance has to come from a neighboring county, they most likely don’t have many ambulances, those ambulances and EMS crews may be busy attending to other patients. So it could take 45 minutes or longer for an ambulance to get to. You know, we have 14 of our 22 counties don’t have labor and delivery. And so as we even as we have had more rural hospital closures than any other state in the last 10 years now we have some hospitals that are remaining but they’re no longer delivering babies at least in the labor and delivery setting. And so you have moms that are driving 60, 75, 90 minutes to deliver a baby in a labor and delivery setting. So we have higher than the state and national averages on maternal morbidity. And so you know, and you just keep going on and on and on. And we do not like to wallow in the deficits, because there’s so much opportunity here, and there’s so much good work happening and our leaders are committed to their communities. But at the same time, you have to acknowledge the current reality. And so when you start thinking about, okay, so it’s, it’s a challenge, it’s a challenge, it’s a challenge. And we feel like we’re on our own, and no one’s coming to help us. And as one of the only private foundations that focuses on this rural region, again, that’s the size of South Carolina and larger than 10. Other states. We do feel like we’re overlooked and left out. And so what we’re trying to figure out here is okay, so how do we, how do we better understand the issues working with the communities that are most affected by whatever the challenge is? And then how do we help others understand those issues and see their work and our work so that we can get more done together? So again, acknowledging current reality, but not not staying stuck there. And always looking to the future and what can we do together. What are the factors that hold the status quo in place? And then how do we strategically work on those factors so that we can have opportunity and access, you know, to the, to the future that we, we want all children and families to have?

Erin Borla 6:16
Yeah. So much to unpack. I think my, my favorite thing that I always love talking with you, because you always want to talk about what the realities are, but finding the stories of hope. But I think what’s really interesting is the similarities with what we see whether it’s in philanthropy or in state governmental funding, or federal funding, or, or any other unique funding stream, where there are these unique similarities that come through, and we can see that alignment. You and I can see it, because it’s like, oh, we’re talking about the same issue. How do we, how do we tell that story of like, let’s use education for an example? Because that’s your background. How do you share some of those challenges that you’re seeing or the realities that you’re, you’re seeing in East Texas and, and help other funders see that in their work?

Wynn Rosser 7:07
For sure, well, so one of our realities is that in our rural counties, there’s not one of those 22 rural Texas counties that has more than 43% of third graders reading on grade level. And if you’re not reading on grade level, at that point, know, your future educational opportunities are extremely limited. You’re very unlikely to enroll in anything beyond high school, actually pretty unlikely to finish high school. And so we’ve, we’ve looked at all the education data for our region, and our state has a very robust powerful education data system. And so we’ve identified two things that we need to do to ensure that more young East Texans have opportunity in the future. First is third grade reading. And then the second is, how do we get more young people, young East Texans into a credentialed area where they can make a living wage. For us $15 or more an hour. So what’s a high demand, middle income or higher wage job. So on the early literacy piece, that breaks down to, into teacher preparation. So for us, that’s alternative certification. In Texas, it is possible to receive Teacher Certification after you have your undergraduate degree without going through a university based preparation program that traditional route. So we have traditional certification and alternative certification. Though in in our early literacy strategy, we’re working with both alternative certification providers, and the colleges of education to ensure that teacher candidates are learning evidence based methods to teach reading. And so we’re working with Dean’s for impact, to support provide technical assistance to three of our state universities that provide teachers for our region. And we’re working with TNTP, to work with two state education service centers that already had alternative certification programs to ramp those up to provide more teachers to our region trained in the science of teaching reading. So if you want to think about your work through the lens of teacher preparation, your work and our work can line up. Then another step training the teachers on the curriculum that the district adopts. You know, it’s common for teachers to Google for worksheets to do Teachers Pay Teachers to figure out what to teach next, on the next day. So instruction partners is in the buildings, working with superintendents and principals, as instructional leaders, and then helping the teachers learn how to use the curriculum they have. So you know if you’re interested in what’s going on in the curriculum with a teacher that’s there in service, then you can see your work and our work. And then finally, policy is incredibly important. Again, we have a well designed state policy that focuses on early grades and reading to align to evidence based standards. And so we want to continue supporting that policy and strengthening it so that it’s more and more robust policy set that requires all the things I’ve just been talking about. The right curriculum, the right teacher training, the right teacher preparation. So if you do policy work, you can see your work in ours.

Erin Borla 10:05

You’ve mentioned several times, when we bring technical assistance providers in or we’re bringing funders in or we’re bringing research in that it’s important that we’re respectful and not condescending. I want to just unpack that a little bit. Because I think that’s what we, what we want to talk about a lot. And why, why that comes up in this work more frequently than I think people expect.

Wynn Rosser 10:32

Yeah. So you know, there’s a couple things come to mind there. One day, I was talking to an urban funder, who says they prioritize rural, urban based funder. And as we’re going through some of the things, the current reality, well, what would a rural person expect while they should, you know, that’s kind of they get what they deserve by living there. And my response back to that funder was, well, sometimes you, you know, you live where you live, because of generations of land ownership, because we’re tired of the place because you have family here. So there’s a number of reasons why someone chooses to live where they live. But let me tell you, who doesn’t have a choice where they live? That three year old, the four year old, a five year old, a six year old, and if you say you care about children, and their welfare, you know, let’s open up your aperture a little bit, and develop some empathy for the population, you say you prioritize, and they look deeper into the choices of why people live where they live. So I think there’s just this kind of dismissive response sometimes about, well, you choose to live in a county that doesn’t have EMS, well, you may choose to live there or not. So I think that’s an awfully short sighted way to look at some of the issues. Second, now, I from a funders perspective, during the pandemic, I just stopped joining the National calls. They weren’t relevant to me and us and what we were trying to get done. There was this one call early on were some of the some some of the things being described like a shared funding pool that was going to support small businesses. And so I asked a question, I forget exactly what it was something along the lines of well, does anyone have any examples of how that’s being done in a rural area or in small towns where there are fewer funders? And is there anybody working in that context that that could join in the conversation with me? And the responses I got assumed a level of unsophistication and or lack of sophistication, a lack of understanding, the lack of capacity. And so from funder to funder, you get condescended to, and, you know, early on, as we were trying to expose funding organizations to our region, you know, we were embarrassed by some of the people, we invited the calls and the questions they asked and the assumptions they made about rural leaders and rural organizations. So, I think it’s about attitudes about beliefs. You know, we spent a lot of time over the last few years talking about inherent bias. Well, we have inherent biases about rural people in rural places, too.

Erin Borla 13:25

Yeah. I think that’s it. Those are things and actually, that’s how we met. Like, we, as we grew, our organization grew Roundhouse, we, I joined several of those national calls during the pandemic going, oh my gosh, okay, there’s gonna be this opportunity to hear from other folks doing this work and hear how other rural funders are connecting and other other fundings funders are supporting these communities. And this, I got the same answer over and over again, of you’re the only rural place based funder we work with, on issues like climate change, and climate access, education, health care, gun violence, things like that, that are big, sweeping issues. And that was a really surprising conversation. And it also came down to like, Okay, well, I don’t know, how do we do this work with the food pantry or these other social service organizations? And my response was always, well, don’t don’t you just pick up the phone and talk to them. And that was such a foreign concept. To fill in our work. Our footprint is large. I mean, we have counties the size of South Carolina here in this region. So it’s a we are making those phone calls and we’re making those trips out. And it does take work and it takes getting closer but it is such, it’s seems to be a unique way to do business in this industry, which is interesting.

Wynn Rosser 14:46
It may be a long drive, you just drop by and somebody’s probably going to be there and they’ll make time to visit with you and talk to you. You don’t have to schedule things necessarily months in advance. But yeah, I mean, I think that that’s kind of goes back to that rural ethos and just a rural way of being where, you know, we’re neighbors, and we check on our neighbors and we expect our neighbors to check on us. So it’s a I think that that is contextually different. It’s one of those contextual things that you have to understand about working in a rural place. And and Erin, I think that transcends, you know, the rural southeast to the rural Northwest. It’s just kind of a rural way of being.

Erin Borla 15:22
Yeah, you’re right. And I mean, part of it too, because we have two funding partners that we’ve worked with out of state, in hopes that they help inform some of the work that we’re doing and in state, and in order to better serve our community partners. But we show up in the same way with those partners where we show up to get dirty, right. How can we help? Can we pack food? Can we can we throw pallets, what can we do in this space? There, the partnership looks different. It doesn’t, we always joke and say everybody gets dirty, just because that’s the reality of like, I’m not above cleaning the toilet, I’m not above, going out and boxing food. That’s what helps us better understand community. And I think that’s been a really helpful gift in how we do the work. I think, and you’ve been such a shining light, especially for me to in this space to be able to say, oh, my gosh, how am I going crazy? Are there really? Is there really no one else? What and I know there are other great place based funders. And, you know, we get asked that question a lot of why do you fund in rural? I don’t around climate in particular. What do you mean, there’s no access? Well, I don’t understand why you’re doing that. And when we talk about the sheer landmass of the United States, with 97% of the landmass being classified as rural, and we’re not including those people that live in those spaces in those conversations. That’s why we’re doing the work. And because those folks are doing really incredible things in our stewarding the land. And if we treat them without respect, then we have a bigger challenge. But I think we also have to look at that’s where our food comes from. That’s where our energy comes from. And there’s an intersection of urban living, suburban living and rural living. And we rely on each other. And if we ignore those things, and one falters, if all of our rural folks moved to the cities, where are we going to get our power? Where are we going to get our food?

Wynn Rosser 17:32
So pre pandemic 2017 timeframe, a group of rural funders started coming together. And initially it was through philanthropy southwest our regional Association. And pretty soon, we realized that most of the people that were coming together were from Texas. And so that group transitioned into what is now called, and known and legally incorporated as Texas Rural Funders, which is a funders collaborative of organizations that prioritize rural Texas, we do have one member who’s based outside actually, more than one now a couple members that are based outside the state, most of us are Texas based, we learned some really important things as we were coming together. One being most of us are regional, most of us are placed based. Now the place might be large. But we have few statewide funders of size in Texas, that can write a check for anything, anywhere. And the, you know, as we started coming together, thinking about what we thought were gonna come together and co-fund a lot of things. And we ended up realizing that policy and advocacy was one of the most important things that we could do, as regional organizations wanting to make a difference on a statewide scale, is that so we’ve done a lot of work on advocacy for broadband, for example, we’re starting to talk about rural community anchor organization. So what are those? And how do we better understand community anchor organizations, and community assets, specifically from a rural standpoint. But you know, the, how we think about the, the way we work together and who we work with think is, is really different in, in a rural setting, because there there tend to be fewer funders in a specific place. So how do you find your peers? Who do you talk to? Who do you look for, for guidance examples, I’ve learned so much for you, for example, about tribal communities because of the work that you do with tribal and indigenous groups. So I think finding those those people that we can consider exemplars we’ve learned from and then can you move some of those, those learnings back into your home region is really one of the opportunities that we have. And so I think this the work that you and I are doing with the help of the National Center for Family Philanthropy on a rear rural peer funders network, we’re meeting more organizations that are you know, more like you and I and I think one of the distinction is, is we live here. And so we have in our 22 counties, we have 7 of the 10 water systems with the most boil water notices in the state of Texas. Of our 22 rural Texas counties 18 of those 22, 18 are in the top 50 counties for the most boil water notices. So we you know when we’re talking about rural water and rural water infrastructure and quality this isn’t theoretical to us it’s not esoteric, it’s the water that our families drink, cook with bathe in and of the of the employees here at the Foundation 10-12 of us, most of us live outside the city limits and get our water from a rural water supply corporation. So this isn’t a place that we visit that we fly into, its where we live. And so not only our families but out neighbors people that we care about and prioritize because of for other reasons were served by the same rural water supply corporations. So I think that’s another distinction for us is that we live here, we don’t visit. And although you know you serve a large geography, we serve a large geography. When we go to Texarkana or we go to Beaumont, well, we might be visiting for the day, but it’s our home region. And and we try to spend enough time there so that those leaders know us we know then we have that same same relationship where we call and if people don’t answer the phone that call us back pretty quick, and get an open conversation about what’s important to them, what’s important to us and how we can work together. But I think that’s one of those key distinctions is we live here. And we understand our place the lens of someone and so in our case, a real rural East Texan who, who can advocate for the issues that are important to our region, because we understand them from a lived experience.

Erin Borla 21:15
Yeah, and you can’t hide from the issue either because you see your neighbors, your friends, your family, well your family at home, but you’re at the grocery store at the post office at school drop off, you have to see those issues every day. And so you’re when when there’s challenges, and I you phrased it earlier, in a way of like knowing how to pivot or knowing how to change when you work on a system that that maybe needs to didn’t work the right way, the first time, being able to manipulate it and change it. Because you’re in that every day. And and that’s okay, it’s okay to admit that something didn’t work the first time. And knowing that we have to shift it and manipulate it to try it a different way. And I think when you’re in that place, you can see it in real time.

Wynn Rosser 22:03
Yeah, and you don’t you don’t do get like quarterly reports right. You’re there more frequently you drive by it, you’re in conversation with the leaders, because yeah, they’re your neighbors you see in the grocery store. So for us it’s do we do we have a really good understanding what we’re trying to get done? And as you begin implementation, for sure, some things are not going to work. But do you know why they didn’t work? And then what do you do about it, as opposed to continuing to do what you know, isn’t getting the result that you that you initially sought, yeah, how do you course correct? And how do you work with the leaders who are implementing that project using the funding from the foundation to, to work towards the result in their community? And how do you do that together? Not in a judgmental way. You know, I have had to tell people in the past that we expect things to go wrong, we expect things not to work, we’re funding you to do this, because it is a challenge. And if it was easy, you probably would have already fixed it, you wouldn’t need our funding to do it. And so let’s have an open and honest conversation, because we want to learn alongside you, as you try this, this really important work on a larger scale, something that maybe has been done somewhere else, but never here. Let’s learn together. Let’s figure out what’s work, what’s working. And then let’s figure out how we extend that work to the next phase. You know, how do we continue it forward? And then how do we share what you’re learning with others in the region, so that we can make progress in more than just one place. But yeah, we expect things to go wrong. But do we know why, and then what do you do about it, as opposed to just giving up. I think that’s only, that’s really, it’s more possible when you have a really good idea of what you’re trying to get done. So it goes back to the data work, the understanding the factors that are holding this status quo in place? What are the strategies that you use to impact those factors, and then, then monitoring over time and course correcting where necessary?

Erin Borla 23:58
Well, and it’s interesting, because what I’m hearing is the the quantitative data is really important in the beginning, but the qualitative data is what the most important piece is throughout the process. So when we look at traditional foundation reporting of just based on numbers and impact, I mean, what we hear about rural is scalability, right, well, how do you scale it, how do you scale it, we just look at the numbers. But the reality is when you look at, okay, here’s the issue, now let’s try these problems and talk through it and then let’s look at that qualitative data, see how we can pivot and shift and then, then re-examine the numbers further down the line.

Wynn Rosser 24:39
So there’s certainly their milestones along the way. Some of that is quantitative, some of it qualitative, I think the, the experience of what it’s like trying to do something new and different on a different scale. You have to be open to the conversation and the experiences so that yeah, that that qualitative piece of talking to people and realizing that the experience of one person may be different from the experience of another, and not trying to generalize too much from one district to the other. And but then also bringing those in the early literacy example. We’re bringing the districts together that are doing that work, so they can learn from each other. And for sure, the conversation, the qualitative piece comes through there. And then then, you know, what are those quantitative milestones that we’re working on from, you know, periodic basis to periodic basis that helps us understand if we’re on the right track or not from from an outcomes perspective, but it’s, it’s more than just a number on a spreadsheet once a year, for sure. And you know, the scale, you know, we hear, we can’t get to scale in a rural area, we hear that a lot. And I think that people just have a misunderstanding of what scale is. Scale is numerator over denominator. And I would argue, you can get to scale a lot faster in rural communities, because rural leaders are going to show up, they’ll have a conversation about what needs to be done, they’ll make a commitment to go back to their, their office or their home organization, to do something, they will then go back and do it, and they’ll call you back. They’ll take your calls. And you know what, I think there’s just again, that level of leadership and, and ownership of what happens in their home community allows us to get get things done in a way that that some of that large bureaucracy and in larger communities may may keep you from being able to do so, you know, having fewer decision makers sometimes helps you get to scale faster. And so I think there’s just a misunderstanding of what scale actually is. People confuse it for absolute numbers. And then, so then that goes back to that earlier thing we talked about, which is, you know, are there enough of you to matter, does it does it really matter if a certain number of people don’t have a service? And that gets back to that, you know, just kind of basic human respect for people wherever they are, and the services they deserve to have. And so confusing absolute numbers with scale is a mistake that gets made a lot.

Erin Borla 27:04
So can you touch a little bit on how you got involved in in in policy work and legislative work? And and where you see the entry point, maybe for others?

Wynn Rosser 27:14
Sure. Well, there are a variety of entry points. So we’re a part of a couple of, of policy collaboratives. One is called Philanthropy Advocates, which is Texas education grantmakers that are interested in policy, and then another Texas Rural Funders. And you know, the way I first became interested and convinced that we must be engaged in advocacy was back in 2013. We, at my previous employer, had a strategy focused on algebra two. Getting more Texans to take Algebra Two in high school at the time, and still we struggled to get students college ready in mathematics. And so there was this bill introduced, it was called House Bill 5, it did a number of things. Among them was reduced the rigor of the math sequence. It made Algebra Two and other rigorous math courses optional for most Texas high school students. And so we at the time, that foundation had taken the position that we shouldn’t be involved in advocacy. But we sat there and watched the legislature, essentially take the guts out of one of our strategies, that was evidence based. We knew mathematics was important, we knew more math, rigorous mathematics was important to help more Texas students become college ready in math. And that particular Foundation’s entire mission and vision was about getting more young Texans into and through a credential, especially first generation college students. And so because we hadn’t engaged in advocacy, and because we didn’t think that we could or should, a really important element of our work became much less effective. And that state law is still in effect, you know, 10 years later, and we’re still struggling to get students college ready in math. So that was the first signal to me that, you know, in light of evidence to the contrary, there was a policy decision made that is not as helpful to Texas students as as it could have been, if he really would have been focused on what do we know about Texas students, how they’re performing in higher education, what’s the barrier to entering higher education, something beyond high school, some post secondary field so that they can get a credential that will help them get one of those jobs. We know something like 65-70% of all jobs are going to require something beyond high school in Texas. And so if mathematics is a limiter, to students being able to do that, you know, why don’t we have a state policy that is more likely to reduce students having the math capacity they need to succeed? So that was where my advocacy interest started and my passion began. And then over the next 10 years, I’ve worked to learn as much as I can. I have the good fortune of being able to teach a graduate class in the Bush School at Texas A&M, that is called nonprofit advocacy in the policy process. And the goal there is to help the nonprofit students and others that are going through the Bush School, including some students that are that come from other majors, like Wildlife and Fishery Sciences or Public Health, where they have a policy interest, you know, how do they how do they approach that policy interest from an advocacy standpoint, and, you know, for nonprofit setting. So believe in it, I think it’s incredibly important. There are processes and strategies that we can use, simply stepping back and saying we don’t lobby, we can’t lobby, we shouldn’t support advocacy, I think we’re leaving impact on the table if we do that. And again, the the key for us is finding organizations that have an aligned interest, align priorities that can advocate, that can lobby, and then within the legal framework of the Internal Revenue Code, you know, us staying in full compliance, the organization staying in full compliance with funding them to do what’s legally permissible.

Erin Borla 30:59
Because ultimately, what you’re saying is the impact that our organizations are trying to make, whether it’s through grant funding, or program related investments, or any other of the tools in our toolkit are not as effective if the legal strategies or legislative strategies undercut those at some level.

Wynn Rosser 31:19
So yeah, the policy environment isn’t it works against us. And the things that we know, again, from an evidence based standpoint, work for most students, work for most adults, work for most, you fill in the blank. You have the policy environment that isn’t supportive of those strategies or work against those strategies, then yeah, we’re, we can’t grant make our way out of most of the large challenges that exist, in our in our country. And so, you know, there’s a role for philanthropy, but it it, we can’t work against the scale of state and federal government.

Erin Borla 31:55
my goodness, okay. Well, that I know what’s next on my list is, is taking your class, I might have to visit Texas for a longer period of time. So

Wynn Rosser 32:05
Texas wants you anyway, yeah.

Transcribed from audio:
Erin Borla 32:08

Well, I really appreciate you so much. I mean, I learned so much from you. And it’s so great to have another counterpart doing this work. And I just thank you for being here and for sharing all the things that you’re doing and working on. And I just really appreciate you, thank you.

Wynn Rosser 32:22

Well thank you Erin and thank you for your leadership, the podcast is gonna be great, can’t wait to hear all the episodes, and thank you NCFP for, you know, giving you this opportunity through their fellowship program. And, you know, thank you again, where can we find people that are like minded and want to do something together. And there’s, there’s, there’s room for everybody at the table.

Erin Borla 32:51
That there is, thank you so much.

Erin Borla 32:57
Man, Texas really has it together, if you want to talk about a state that has built coalition to really solve some challenging issues. That would be Texas, check out Texas, rural And you can see what other funders are coming to the table, how they’re tackling these large problems, and frankly, how they’re not shying away from policy, when talked a lot about taking on policy as a part of his Foundation’s work, and why that was so critical. I think it’s something that funders can be allergic to. But when policy is designed by people who aren’t connected, or can connect it to the places connected to the issues, as closely as we pride ourselves as funders for being, it can be really problematic. And ultimately, our dollars are not going to mean anything in comparison to the state and federal dollars. So if the state and federal programs are set up to cause issue with the things we’re trying to advocate for, it’s never going to actually work. So how do we get more involved in advocacy? Yes, there’s challenges and yes, there’s issues and certain rules and regulations that we need to follow. I frankly, want to take wins class. I think that’s how we all learn. I think it’s also important to talk about those place based funders place based funders like roundhouse, like T.L.L. Temple, we live here. We’re neighbors with folks that we’re serving, we’re dealing with bad water, with drought, with climate with wildfire. Those are things that we’re dealing with here in Oregon as well. What happens when we have to evacuate from our home due to wildfire? Not only is it impacting grant partners that we serve, it’s impacting us. Thanks for listening to funding rural, don’t forget to check out For show notes, transcripts of the show and much more reading




Published On: March 12th, 2024 / Categories: Funding Rural Podcast /