Rural Philanthropic Leader You Should Know:
Orton Family Foundation


Every month, we will be featuring some of the leading rural funders—both big and small—that work with communities over long timeframes and with highly respectful and engaged strategies. Our March feature is the Orton Family Foundation—a national funder based in rural Vermont that works closely with rural communities and local rural funders all over the country- with great results!

The Orton Family Foundation’s mission is to give residents the inspiration and tools to make their communities stronger and more economically vibrant. The way the foundation delivers on this mission is through Community Heart & Soul®. Founded in 1995 in Vermont, the foundation invested more than $10 million developing and field-testing Community Heart & Soul focusing on towns and small cities with populations less than 50,000.

As the foundation works to bring Community Heart & Soul to towns across the country, Orton has built partnerships with like-minded philanthropic organizations including community foundations in Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, and Ohio, a health legacy foundation in South Carolina, and an electric co-op in Georgia. Community Heart & Soul equips towns to develop plans and take action that is based on what residents share as priorities. The effect is lasting as towns are imbued with the skills and tools to continue doing business guided by what matters most to everyone. The results are transformative: trust is built; volunteers and new leaders emerge; pride is restored; downtowns are reenergized.

Currently 66 towns in 14 states have used Community Heart & Soul to strengthen the fabric of their communities. For more information, please visit