Dedicated support to help rural Oregon towns thrive

Small Community Initiative

The Small Community Initiative funds economic and community development groups supporting rural Oregon.

SCI Cohort Participants:

Gold Beach Main Street is the most recent addition to the cohort. They enhance the livability and safety of their community while restoring and preserving the aesthetics of the town in collaboration with citizens, community organizations, businesses, property owners and government entities.

In 2023, Elkton Community Education Center became the fifth member of the SCI Cohort. Their Elkton Wellness Initiative will bring new health and wellness services to the rural areas of Elkton, Scottsburg and Kellogg while engaging the community in special events and economic development activities.

Main Street Cave Junction was the recipient of SCI funding in 2022. They are working to beautify the downtown area and are transforming a 200-year-old black oak tree into a piece of art representative of their region.

For 2021, the Applegate Valley was added to the SCI cohort. A Greater Applegate is building community by sustaining and enhancing local connections that promote the environmental, economic and social vitality of the Applegate Valley.

The town selected for funding in 2020 was Milton-Freewater.  The Milton-Freewater Downtown Alliance has created Freewater Square, a community gathering space that hosts business incubators and special events throughout the year.

In 2019, Spruce Up Warrenton was selected as our first SCI partner and has now graduated from this program. Throughout the course of their grant, they dramatically expanded the volunteer base in Warrenton, implemented new infrastructure and beautification projects, established and grew meaningful special events and supported their fellow community members in a variety of ways.

Applications are prioritized using the following criteria:

  • Town’s population is under 15,000 people
  • Focus of mission and primary activities is in that small town in Oregon
  • Not adjacent to an urban area
  • Not inside of a metropolitan area
  • Activities formally support or engage multiple agencies and businesses

Our application also allows submissions from towns or organizations that feel like they are a close fit for the program priorities, but who are perhaps on the cusp of the eligibility criteria above. We understand that there are varying definitions of rural and unique circumstances around Oregon and are open to listening to any rural organization who feels like the program goals are exemplified in their work.

Interested? The SCI application is open from 2/10 to 4/1, apply here.


Our Vision for the Initiative

When communities of every size do well, our state becomes even stronger. To bring greater prosperity and better quality of life to Oregon’s small towns, The Reser Family Foundation is proud of our Small Community Initiative (SCI) that supports rural Oregon communities outside of metropolitan areas.

In addition to our currently available grant programs, small communities outside of metropolitan areas may also be eligible to apply to the SCI. Activities in the SCI may be outside of our annual grant cycles’ specific funding priorities; a wider scope will be considered. Through the initiative, the foundation will support the community for up to four years by:

  • Providing grant funding annually for up to four years; considering Community Challenge Grants and Matching Funds to be a catalyst;
  • Partnering foundation staff with each community as champions & technical support; and
  • Providing support to the community for fundraising efforts, event coordination/management, crowd-sourcing idea generation, non-profit directory and partner search, social connections, expertise and ideas.

Once a community is approved for SCI, we will partner with the community’s efforts, providing up to four annual grants of up to $10,000 each.

Program Goals

The SCI values input and participation from many community stakeholders, including town residents, local business and government leaders, and regional economic partners. Our overall goals are to:

  • Promote a climate that encourages citizen involvement, open dialogue and innovation;
  • Prepare leaders to more effectively plan and implement local economic initiatives;
  • Support sustained revitalization as a critical component of success; and
  • Encourage small towns to think beyond size limits and actively build connections with regional economic initiatives and a wide range of economic partners.

Strategies for Success

We support the approach of each unique community. Organizations participating in SCI include analysis and planning in their work to ensure that each community is equipped to succeed beyond the 4-year grant partnership. Strategies throughout the grant include:

  • Meeting with community leaders and stakeholders;
  • Documenting the community’s hopes, dreams, challenges and opportunities
  • Encouraging partnerships of all kinds:
    • Key leaders, policy-makers, residents and other stakeholders
    • Potential strategic business, nonprofit and public partnerships
    • Fiscal management and partnerships with governments/municipalities
    • Ability to raise funding and to acquire in-kind support
    • Ideas for sustainable community events
  • Developing stronger fiscal management habits and grant writing skills.

Evaluation and Outcomes

Communities in our SCI program are responsible for providing an annual report in advance of their annual grant renewal. We encourage the community to track and evaluate benchmarks and outcomes, as well as to make refinements and adjustments along the way to improve effectiveness. We seek to connect grantees with other grant opportunities for future success!


Have a question about the SCI?

Contact Us