Explaining RUCA

Explaining RUCA

We are pleased to announce that our Board of Trustees have approved an expansion of the definition of “rural” to be used in determining eligibility for Rural Church grants. 

Why have you expanded the definition? 


The Endowment has expanded its definition of “rural” to be used in determining eligibility for Rural Church grants. Learn more

When Mr. Duke wrote his Indenture of Trust forming the Endowment, he defined a “rural” community as one in which 1,500 or fewer people resided. Motorized vehicles were rare and the population of our state was less than 3 million. 

Today, the population of North Carolina is over 9.5 million and many communities’ populations have increased beyond 1,500 with significant numbers of people regularly commuting long distances to work in metropolitan areas. Though they have not lost their rural character, many of the Methodist churches that were once eligible for grant funding are now ineligible by Mr. Duke’s definition.  

Facing this reality, the Endowment spent the last several years researching other definitions of “rural” that would honor Mr. Duke’s intention to strengthen rural United Methodist churches in North Carolina and expand our ability to serve them.

How will rural now be defined? 

The definition will be two-tiered, incorporating as the first layer Mr. Duke’s definition of any “city, town, or hamlet, incorporated or unincorporated” whose population does not exceed 1,500 people. Any United Methodist church in such a community will be considered an eligible rural church.

The expanded (second tier) definition is based on Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) codes.  These codes are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Office of Rural Health to define “rural” as commuting patterns around urban areas. Using a numeric scheme from 1.0 to 10.6, RUCA codes designate the nature (rural or urban, and to what degree) of a specific community by census tract (rather than by county). United Methodist churches in areas coded “rural” by their RUCA number will be added to the eligibility list.

When will this happen?  

Beginning with the December 15, 2013, grant application cycle, churches that are in communities designated “rural,” with RUCA codes of 4.0 to 10.6–even if their populations are above 1,500–will be eligible to request funding. Churches in communities of 1,500 people or fewer will continue to be eligible. 

My church has a grant already. Does this change affect my current grant?

No. Grants already awarded will be honored as long as all reporting is up-to-date.

How does this affect Rural Church Grantmaking at The Duke Endowment?

We regard this expanded definition of “rural” as a deepening commitment to rural United Methodist churches and the communities they serve, and we view this change as an expansion of the good work that rural United Methodist churches are doing across North Carolina. We value best practices and are excited to broaden the impact of our grantmaking.

What are the current funding priorities of the Endowment?

The Rural Church program area is currently funding programs in three areas:

  • Lay and Clergy Leadership, primarily through large-scale initiatives implemented by the two annual conferences and Duke Divinity School
  • Rural Church Development, primarily involving building grants that serve community needs, and grants for capacity building that deepens the church’s engagement in its community
  • Congregational Outreach, by which we resource churches for service to their communities through ministries targeting:
    • food and hunger
    • tutoring and literacy
    • affordable housing

When are the application deadlines? When should I begin developing an application?

The pre-application deadlines are August 28 and March 11 of each year. The August deadline is for February consideration; the March deadline is for August/September consideration. For each cycle, the online application portal opens approximately six weeks before the application deadline.

Can I apply online?

All applications must be submitted online. Apply for a Rural Church grant.

Are there resources online to help me get familiar with the Endowment’s areas of work?

Yes. Please see the resources on our FAQ page.

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities

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