Rural community development is a process conducted by community members. It is a process where local people can not only create more jobs, income and infrastructure, but also help their community become fundamentally better able to manage change.
The “concrete” benefits of community development, such as employment and infrastructure, come through local people changing attitudes, mobilizing existing skills, improving networks, thinking differently about problems, and using community assets in new ways. Community development improves the situation of a community, not just economically, but also as a strong functioning community in itself.
Rural community development builds the five capitals of a community — physical, financial, human, social and environmental. It is through participation in their community that people rethink problems and expand contacts and networks; building social capital. They learn new skills and build human capital. They develop new economic options, building physical and financial capital. They also can improve their environment and make their communities healthier places to live.
Connie Mefford, community development specialist, works with various community organizations and individuals. Connie has worked for MU Extension for more than 16 years. She is headquartered in Benton County, but also covers Carroll, Cooper, Moniteau, Morgan, Pettis and Saline counties. She has years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, volunteerism and in the area of leadership development. She has a bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Central Missouri and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Missouri. She is also a graduate of the Missouri Community Development Academy and the Heartland Economic Development Course.
Individuals and organizations interested in community capacity building and looking for assistance can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 660-438-5012 to schedule an appointment and explore the possibilities for tailoring a program specifically for the needs of your group.
Community development program areas
Nonprofit formation and management
Visioning and action plans
Facilitation and town hall meetings
Regional food systems
Community issues management
Community emergency management
Economic Development through tourism
- Determining if tourism is right for your community (community assessment and inventory)
- Hospitality training
- Marketing for tourism
- Tourism resources
Building Stronger Organization through Board Development and Training
- Moodle Online Build Your Board Course is an easy and convenient online course developed by University of Missouri faculty who have more than 50 years of combined experience in the field of training nonprofit board members. Build Your Board consists of 5 modules and 16 lessons. The training is designed to offer the most comprehensive training at a reasonable price of $80. The training is also offered in several different formats to allow for more flexibility and accessibility. Participants can log on for training any time and can complete the course all at once or in 15 minute segments. Supplemental materials can also be downloaded and printed for future reference as well.
Community development resources
Demographics for Benton County
- Community Commons is an interactive mapping, networking, and learning utility for leaders from community to national levels, working to create healthy, equitable and sustainable communities. Community Commons is also a web-based Collaborative Management System designed for local and regional organizations to frame, manage and take action on complex issues. The program allows organizations to take current data and develop maps and reports helpful in grant applications. MU Extension Community Development Specialists are trained to use the Community Commons management system in order to assist communities and organizations in dealing with current complex issues.
- Each year Missouri experiences flooding, severe winter weather and devastating tornadoes, proving that disaster can strike at any time and in any place. Are you and your family prepared? MU Extension offers up-to-date information and resources for your family and your community on the Emergency Management Web page.
Community development frequently asked questions
How do I start a business in Missouri?
The Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers provide individualized consultation to new and existing business. Their website also offers multiple resources for individuals looking to start a new business.
For more information, visit Starting a business in Missouri: Top resources.
How do I start a nonprofit and get a 501(c)3 status?
MU Extension has a three-part guide that answers these questions and more.
For more information, visit organizational development for nonprofits.
What about a grant and where can I get one?
There is no free lunch, but there are misconceptions. This factsheet dispels the myths about getting grants.
For more information, visit The Truth About Grants.
Where can I look for grants?
Grants.gov — search for grants from federal agencies
GrantSpace — information and resources for grant seekers
North Central SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grants
- Farmer/rancher grants for on-farm research, demonstration and education projects. No deadline. Contact state SARE director for more information.
- Professional development grants that support state professional development programs and training for Agriculture professionals. No deadline. Contact state SARE coordinator for more information.
- Research and education grants for researchers and educators to explore and promote environmentally sound, profitable and socially responsible food and/or fiber systems. Pre-proposals typically due mid-June.
Youth and youth educator grants for on-farm research, demonstration or education projects by youth ages 8 to 18 or for educators to provide programming on sustainable agriculture.
USDA Rural Development offers program assistance by provided direct or guaranteed loans, grants, technical assistance, research and educational materials in the areas of Business and Cooperative Grant Assistance, Housing and Facilities Grant Assistance and Utility Grants.
RBEG (Rural Business Enterprise Grants) that fund projects that facilitate the development of small rural businesses, such as business incubators and adult education programs.
Warsaw Chamber of Commerce
City of Warsaw
Benton County Community Foundation
Benton County Development Corporation