Rural Return Program

Supports creative programming to attract new residents

The Rural Return Grant program seeks to support creative programming that attracts new residents to move and/or work in rural communities. Grant funding supports the development and implementation of incentive programs. Across the state, there are small towns losing population or witnessing an aging population. This funding opportunity is aimed at addressing that challenge by empowering communities to develop a program to attract the new residents to locate within their community to live and/or work. Incentive programs can be targeting a specific profession, such as teachers or dentists; supporting a specific demographic, such as veterans; or celebrating local assets, such as providing recreation packages or business gifts. 

Iowa businesses; schools; city or county government; and private 501(c)3 nonprofit agencies and foundations are eligible to apply. A single entity must be selected to serve as the primary applicant for grant funding applications; however, the project should include collaboration between a consortium of partners. The selected primary applicant must meet the definition of eligible applicant. The applicant will be responsible for submitting eligible material during funding application process and will be the entity legally obligated to the terms of an agreement if awarded funding. Partners and collaborating entities are not subject to the eligibility requirements but may be subject to financial and programmatic review during the selection process.

  • Projects/programs must exist in and benefit a community in Iowa with a population of 20,000 or fewer and not contiguous (sharing a common border) to a city with a population of 40,000 or greater. If a county-wide application, must be within one of the 88 least-populous counties in Iowa.
  • Any eligible applicant may submit an application that includes one or more partners.
  • Any eligible applicant will be allowed to submit one application per funding period. An applicant who has applied as the principal entity for an application may also be named as a partner on additional applications submitted but may not be named as a primary entity.
  • Applicant must be a local government entity (mayor, city council or county commission) or applicant has included letter of support from the mayor or resolution from the city council.
  • Federally tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated and physically located in Iowa. Physical location of the organization is defined as maintaining a current home office and registered agent address in Iowa defined by Iowa Code 490.501, as well as maintaining a primary staff presence physically located and working in Iowa.
  • Public and private schools that serve grades pre-K through 12 that are physically located in Iowa.
  • Nonprofit institution of higher education physically located in Iowa.
  • Unit of local, county or federally recognized tribal government physically located in Iowa.
  • For-profit corporation or business located in Iowa. A business will be considered an Iowa business if the business is incorporated in or authorized to do business in the state of Iowa.

Application Window Opens October 1 on

Please review the Grant Guidelines found in the Resources area below for additional information on eligibility requirements, use of funding, reporting requirements and the review process. A copy of the scoring rubric has also been provided.

The deadline to apply for funding is 11:59 p.m., Dec. 1. Applicants must submit applications via, the online application portal. Applications will not be accepted in any other format. Late, incomplete or ineligible applications will not be accepted. Applicants must create a login to view the full application for the program.

For more information, contact:

Liesl Seabert