Giving and Leading: Arizona Rural Development Council

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Eddie Browning, Executive Director of the Arizona Rural Development Council (AZRDC)explains how his statewide non-profit organization is building partnerships with the public and private sectors for the benefit of rural Arizona.

Ted Simons: The Arizona Rural Development Council is a nonprofit organization trying to improve the quality of life in the state's rural community. Here to tell us more is the council's executive director Eddie Browning. Thank you for joining us.

Eddie Browning: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: So tell us, what are you all about?

Eddie Browning: We are a federally recognized nonprofit. Our goal is to link rural communities to resources to improve their quality of life, and improve their economic climate. We've kind of settled on a few programs we try to do that with. One of them is our forum that we have coming up in August. What's interesting about that is that world communities need resources, aka money. We've set up an event where we bring in Grand grant-makers that have the desire to fund in rural communities, and bring them to an event. We set them up in a roundtable speed-dating operation. Then we invite nonprofit organizations from around the state to come. It's a two-day event. The first day we work on capacity building and teaching them better ways to be a more successful nonprofit. But the real highlight is this grant-maker roundtable. A grant-maker may host a single individual table.

Ted Simons: That could be government, corporations, the whole nine yards?

Eddie Browning: Uh-huh. We will have 20 tables and APS will be there, the Arizona Commerce Authority will be there, the Arizona Community Foundation, Tuscon Electric Power, Delta Dental, just some of those that will be there. The nonprofits get to come in. They have two minutes to make a presentation to that grant-maker. We're not asking the grant-maker to make a decision at that moment. We're basically saying this meets our priorities, our needs. When our grant cycle comes around, make sure that you get in an application. The whole idea is that a lot of grant-making organizations, most of them are located in Phoenix or the Tucson area. They would like a bigger rural presence, but it's difficult to get out and travel. You travel, you put in seven hours on the road for a two-hour meeting. This way I'm expecting somewhere between 150 and 175 nonprofits to come in and have one-on-one meetings with the grant-makers.

Ted Simons: What are nonprofits looking for help with? Give us scope of the landscape.

Eddie Browning: Well, I would say it's money, resources, and manpower. What usually happens in rural is that your economies of scale kick in. There's not as many people, not as many people with dollars given to these nonprofits. They are always chasing dollars. Especially if you look at the municipalities. When I say manpower, usually it's a city manager, he could be the city manager, the economic development person, and the airport authority all at the same time. That's one of the huge challenges that they have.

Ted Simons: As far as grant-making ability and just granting services and money and whatever you need in these rural communities, has it affected these foundations, and government corporations, they just look above and don't see what's down there? What's going on there?

Eddie Browning: I think you get into your circle and cubicle, and there's so much need in so many different areas. I'm not blaming them, but it's just easier -- they have easier contact with the nonprofits say in a closer vicinity here. It's harder to get out and find out what the needs are. The needs here are exactly the same as the needs in rural, it's just different percentages.

Ted Simons: And one of the needs in rural Arizona is doctors, people in the health care industry. You had an event called the AZ Mash project.

Eddie Browning: It's multiple avenues for successful health care. This is the second year of my pilot project for this. We're trying to find high school students, link them up with a local hospital, and give them a two-week session of behind-the-scenes, what's going on in a hospital. And that there's more to the rural health care field than just doctors and nurses. The theory behind it is if you find somebody that grew up in rural, they want to go off and get their education, this is an opportunity to invite them home, and that there's a job for you when they come back home, rather than trying to find somebody that maybe grew up in Scottsdale and went to school here, then convince them they should go to a small rural community where the shopping is a little bit different. So it's sort of really a grass roots workforce development project.

Ted Simons: I notice these kids visited dentist offices, rehab facilities, hospitals, hospices, pharmacists, nursing homes. They did CPR, they performed EKGs, watched animal surgeries. You really say, listen, this is out there for you, just don't forget about home when you decide to go down that trail.

Eddie Browning: You know how it is, when you grow up in a rural community, every high school senior probably when they graduate, what's the first thing they say they want to do? I want to get out of Dodge, I'm ready to go anywhere except here. As you get a little bit older and you're looking for a job and then you get married and decide to have kids, these rural communities are a great place to raise families. It's not uncommon for them to begin to come back home. We're trying to park that interest as an earlier age, so they can go, get your education and sow your wild oats but you're always welcome back home.

Ted Simons: Where is the meet and greet and when?

Eddie Browning: August 9 and 10 here in Phoenix at the Black Canyon Conference Center.

Ted Simons: Eddie, great work, thanks for joining us here.

Eddie Browning: I appreciate it, thank you.

Eddie Browning:Executive Director, Arizona Rural Development Council (AZRDC);

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