A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Last Revised: Nov 15, 2013 - Initial Posting: Jun 26, 2007

The Annie E. Casey Foundation created Rural Family Economic Success to help rural families increase their income, stabilize their financial lives, and acquire assets and build wealth.  While RuFES is no longer active, you can access AECF material related to working with families in rural areas along with the items below.


The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) has designed the Rural Family Economic Success (RuFES) framework that offers strategies to help families in rural America increase their income (EARN IT), stabilize their financial lives (KEEP IT), and acquire assets and build wealth (GROW IT).  The Casey Foundation’s mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet today’s needs of vulnerable Rural KIDS COUNT Pocket Guidechildren and families.

Kids Count ProjectExtensive data to track the status of children in the U.S. is available through the Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Project that serves as a national and state-by-state effort providing policymakers and citizens with benchmarks of child well-being.  A Rural KIDS COUNT Pocket Guide provides a summary of measures of child well-being in rural areas based on data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

The basic premise of RuFES is that “children do well when their families do well” and “families do better when they live in supportive communities.”  RuFES is part of the Casey Foundation’s Center for Family Economic Success (CFES) approach that helps low-income working families build strong financial futures in strong neighborhoods by integrating three key components – Workforce Development, Family Economic Support, and Community Investment.

An Overview of RuFES outlines specific key approaches for each goal as they are addressed simultaneously in a way that is sustained over time:

  • Overview of RuFESEARN IT strategies to increase family income address three areas – readiness to earn, opportunities to earn, and supports that help close the gap between earnings and expenses.
  • KEEP IT strategies aim to help families get ahead through access to affordable goods and services and fair and affordable financial services.
  • GROW IT strategies help families parlay their hard work and prudent financial management into long-term economic success when their communities are economically thriving places, with access to opportunity for all.

A series of Family Focused Goals has been developed for use by communities according to their own particular circumstances and needs.  RuFES teams comprised of key community partners are encouraged to look at "low hanging fruit" (goals that can be easily and quickly accomplished) plus "tough nuts to crack" (more long-range and intensive).

Strengthening Rural Families: A Community ProcessBuilding a Community Coalition to Advance Rural Family Economic SuccessStrengthening Rural Families: A Community Process can be used as a blueprint of how organizations can work better, both individually and together, to organize and deploy resources and expertise to advance the economic success of low-income families.  What can be done to level the playing field for low-income families is addressed in the High Cost of Being Poor as well as articles in the Foundation’s newsletter AdvoCasey – Winter 2005.  A case study – Building a Community Coalition to Advance Rural Family Economic Success – illustrates how rural communities can develop the knowledge on how other communities are working to change people’s lives.

Join the RuFES Action Network

JOIN NOW! - The RuFES Action Network, managed by Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, offers innovative ideas, stimulating stories, useful data and solid rural-focused opportunities, to help community leaders, practitioners and policymakers find better answers to the following question: How can we help hard-working rural families who are struggling to get ahead Earn more, Keep more of what they earn, and Grow it into assets over time?

Over 1,300 Network members, from forty-eight U.S. states and D.C. and Puerto Rico, regularly receive:

•  Bi-weekly email Action Alerts on current and upcoming resources, opportunities and events
•  The chance to participate in quarterly webinars on timely topics and other RuFES-related events.

These resources, events and opportunities are embedded within the RuFES Framework, a set of family-focused goals that seek to improve rural families’ economic success.

Check out the Earn ItKeep ItGrow It pages on RuFES.org to learn more about the family-focused goals that relate to each outcome.

Review a variety of resources related to RuFES outcomes.  New and updated resources are added to this page regularly, so please check back!

Region 3 CAA Action-Learning Conference

Review all the topics and access material featured at this conference involving teams from 24 CAAs.

Avoiding the Money Trap

Avoiding the Money Trap Video Series

Helping families build and keep assets is a fundamental element of RuFES.  Avoiding the Money Trap is a 25-minute documentary, on DVD, that tells the stories of real-life rural families who have struggled with money traps such as payday loans, low-interest car loans, poor credit, low savings and more.  The full-length documentary is in English and Spanish, with a shorter version also included, in English.  The documentary provides practical ideas for avoiding or overcoming these traps and moving toward financial stability.  Each DVD includes a printed discussion guide for various audiences and background papers and other resources that can be downloaded from the DVD.  The video is designed for use with consumers for EITC and financial education outreach or in waiting areas at tax preparation sites.

RuFES Success Stories

Here are some examples of RuFES success stories:

By the Numbers: Using Data to Drive Action on Behalf of Children and Families              Connectinc.              Mortar and Muscle: Building Community and Assets Through Self-Help Housing              Southern Bancorp and Southern Good Faith Fund: Tailoring Financial Services to Help Families Get Ahead

Establishing a strategic framework to promote rural family economic success is the essence of ROMA National Goal #1: Low-Income People Become More Self-Sufficient.

A RuFES - ROMA Matrix reflects the interrelationship between the national ROMA goals and various RuFES goals under Earn It - Keep It - Grow It.  The Matrix does not address all of the ROMA National Performance Indicators that may also be relevant to strategies that are initiated as part RuFES.


Susan Loyd, Vice President/The Hatcher Group