Ongoing Support for Rural Leaders

At Rural Support Partners, we understand many of the challenges that rural non-profit leaders face. We work to strengthen the capacity of rural leaders, ensure smooth executive transitions, and support the next generation of rural leaders through our Rural Fellowship Program.

Executive Transitions

Our recent study, Nonprofit Leaders in the Rural South, found that 63% of executive directors were planning to leave their organizations within the next five years. Only 15%, however, had a succession plan in place. We believe that facilitated support for executive transitions is crucial to allow for the best possible outcomes for incoming and outgoing leaders, as well as the whole organization.

Noah Wilson and Mary Snow

The Fellowship Program

Rural Support Partners is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for the next generation of rural leaders to hone skills, build relationships, and develop leadership qualities. Rural Fellows are emerging leaders who come to Rural Support Partners following their Bachelors or Masters degree.

We provide Rural Fellows with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, develop professional networks, and learn the values, history, and philosophy upholding rural community work. In return, Fellows increase our capacity to serve, while bringing unlimited energy, excitement, and curiosity to our work.

We provide fellowships for two reasons: 1) a significant number of rural nonprofit leaders are preparing to leave the field, and 2) rural next generation leaders struggle to find support, training, and entry into the field.

Rural Support Partners has worked with 15 Rural Fellows since 2009.

Information for Potential Fellows

Our fellowship program is an intensive, year-long initiative with the possibility of extending into a second year. Rural Fellows take on significant responsibilities, including co-management of regional networks of rural development practitioners and funders, co-facilitation of organizational development projects, and co-management of participatory research and evaluation efforts. Fellows are also expected to take a leadership role within the RSP team. Fellowships are paid positions.

For more information, please review the following documents:

We also offer limited opportunities for currently enrolled students to complete short-term internships and field placements with Rural Support Partners. Please contact us to discuss your interests and requirements.

2015-2016 Fellowship

RSP's fellowship program is currently on hold. We encourage potential fellows to apply for the Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program. In 2014, RSP partnered with the Highlander Research and Education Center to launch AppFellows, a year-long, full-time, paid program designed for 15 emerging community leaders who are committed to working in Central Appalachia for the economic transition of the region. Central Appalachia is defined as West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, Appalachian Ohio and Western North Carolina. 

This program offers the opportunity to spend a year working within host communities to help foster cross-sector (education, nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropy, and government) partnerships, provide needed capacity to regional efforts, and build personal and professional skills. Through institutional placements, independently designed projects, training, and mentoring, the program gives emerging leaders and host organizations skills and networks needed to advance economic and social change in the region. Click here for more information and to apply.


Our Fellows Say...

Andrew Crosson began his RSP Fellowship in June of 2012. Jazmine Walker and Brandy Laurencelle joined us in August of 2012. Below, you can view their video blog. Click here to watch the entire series. Click here to read our 2011-2012 Fellows' post on the Rural Futures Lab blog.



The Fellowship was extremely successful in helping me develop and hone the skills that will make me a valuable employee, a powerful advocate, and a good leader.... My development as a leader and as a person has been one of the most remarkable parts of the whole fellowship experience. I am a better leader, and a better person, in so many ways."

My professional network has grown exponentially because of this fellowship. During my fellowship, I worked alongside of directors and program officers within foundations (from the local, national, and international level.) I felt respected and trusted by these high-level professionals and am confident that these relationships will help guide and support my future career goals."

Our past Rural Fellows have reported significant improvement in community development skills & knowledge, deeper personal understanding of rural assets and issues of oppression and poverty, significant increase in leadership and management skills, and a greater sense of confidence and readiness to enter the workforce.