What small town people see as their biggest challenges
And what topics rural people most want help with
“I wait every year for the results of this rural survey to help us align our work at Crowdfund Better with what rural businesses need. Thanks to Becky McCray and Deb Brown of SaveYour.Town for your dedication to putting this annual report together that reflects the challenges felt by real people who live and work in rural communities.” Kathleen Minogue, Crowdfund Better, Idaho
Update: 2023 resultsSurvey of Rural Challenges 2023 by debworks
Full 2023 resultsSee the full 2023 results, infographic and PDF report here.
Since 2015, over 1700 people answered the Survey of Rural Challenges. It uncovered big disconnects between what rural people want and what media, service providers and policy makers provide.
- Services and assistance commonly offered to rural people don’t match up with what rural people say they want help with.
- Common themes in media coverage and policy conversations around rural communities don’t match rural views.
- What urban and suburban people think of rural challenges is tinged by stereotypes that don’t agree with what rural people are thinking.
Previous survey results reports
Who this survey is for
If you live in a small town, you may want to see how your challenges compare to other towns.
If you cover rural stories for any type of media, you want to break through shallow stereotyped coverage. It may help to hear the relative importance of different challenges to rural people.
If you provide services or assistance to small towns in your work, you will want to find out more about rural people’s own view of their challenges.
The Survey of Rural Challenges is open every other year. Responses were collected online from subscribers and visitors to SaveYour.Town and SmallBizSurvival.com, from media coverage and cooperating groups that publicized the survey.
Respondents identified themselves as rural by completing the survey, and a portion identified themselves as business owners by responding to the business question. Participants included people from the USA, Canada, Australia and other international locations.
Based on SaveYour.Town customer data, most respondents likely serve as community leaders and officials, work in community and economic development, own their own businesses, work in a community-oriented business or volunteer informally in their community.
The survey is applied research based on a consistent survey protocol that supports data-driven conclusions. Similar to phenomenology, the people within the situation describe their own experiences, and there is a consensus of experiences amongst the participants or informants.
Press and Media Information
Presented to National Rural Housing Conference, iPoster session, October 24 – 27 in Washington DC
Presented to West Virginia Brownfields & Main Street Conference, poster session, September 12-14 in Wheeling, WV
Presented to Rural Renewal Symposium, Oklahoma State University, poster session, November 2-3 in rural Oklahoma
Presented to Teeny Tiny Town Summit, Northwest Oklahoma Alliance, Q&A session, October 10, Woodward, OK
Presented by Gus Wagner to Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives communicators
- Survey of Rural Challenges, Bank of I.D.E.A.S., Community & Economic Development Matters, Australia
- Rural challenges show repeated concerns and a glimmer of optimism by residents, a new survey indicates, IRJCI – Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky
- Rural Communities Are Upbeat About the Future Despite Persisting Issues, Daily Yonder
- Survey of Rural Challenges Results Show Optimism and Big Disconnects (and What Economic Developers Can Do About It), IEDC – International Economic Development Council members only feature
- Rural tourism challenges and opportunities – survey results, Tourism Currents
- Opportunity and optimism, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
- A Small Town Never Forgets!! on Appalachia Meets World podcast
- Advice to those working in small towns, Building Possibility
- Inside Our Industry – Survey of Rural Challenges 2023 Results, Agracel, Inc.
- Grow your own outfitters, take advantage of your natural resources, Becky McCray email newsletter
- Get started as an outdoor outfitter without breaking the bank, SmallBizSurvival.com
- Survey of Rural Challenges 2023 results, Small Biz Survival
- Survey of Rural Challenges 2023 results, SaveYour.Town
- Council for Community and Economic Research, newsletter January 12, 2023
- Daily Yonder email newsletter, June 14, 2023
- Texas Downtown Association, May member newsletter
- Labor Market Information Institute, newsletter January 26, 2023
- How to get customers in the door of small town and rural retail stores, Small Biz Survival
- Today’s Interview: Becky McCray, of Save Your Town on leadership in flood stricken eastern Kentucky, with Tom Martin, WEKU
- Midwest Farm Report, “Save Your Small Town,” Wisconsin
- WOSU, All Sides with Ann Fisher, Changing landscape of rural America and small towns
- A Cleave within the Piney Woods: Nacogdoches, Stephen F. Austin State University and How Racial Integration Divided the Town and Gown, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas, thesis by Caitlin R. Hornback, 2022
- Comprehensive Land Use Plan Update, Survey of Rural Challenges, Jones County Iowa, 2022
- What challenges do you face in your community and business? Tell us here, reprinted from Small Biz Survival, Dr. Rayyan Eshaghpour, Asia
- Strategic Management Planning Program and Five-Year Financial Management Plan, Survey of Rural Challenges, Greene County, Pennsylvania, 2022
- Village of Hinckley, Illinois, Planning Commission Meeting minutes
- K-State Research and Extension email newsletter, December 2022
- Radically Rural email newsletters, Survey of Rural Challenges, December 2022
- Brushy Fork Leadership Institute email newsletter, December 2022
- University of Missouri Extension Engaged Neighbor Newsletter, December 2022
- What counts as rural? Becky McCray email newsletter
- What challenges do you face in your community and business? Tell us here, Small Biz Survival
- What challenges do you face in your community and business? Building Possibility
- What challenges does your community or business face? Tell us here, SaveYour.Town
Presented to Oklahoma State University Rural Renewal Symposium
Presented to National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association five Regional Meetings nationwide
- Book: Public Policy in Contentious Times by Peter K. Kresl, 2021, published by Edward Elgar Publishing
- Spain: La Información, Los ‘millennials’ urbanitas gentrifican el mundo rural de Estados Unidos
- North Central Kansas Pandemic Recovery and Resiliency Plan, North Central Regional Planning Commission, 2021
- LaJunta (Colorado) Tribune-Democrat – SaveYour.Town Survey of Rural Challenges pinpoints small town needs
- Cooperative Living Magazine, New Ways to Boost Rural Areas, October 2021
- High Plains Journal, Speaker shares tips on tackling rural housing challenges: SaveYour.Town co-founder taps into sever years of surveys with small communities
- The Pueblo West View (Colorado), Website co-founders create survey about small town needs
- Midwest Farm Report, “Rural Towns Recover From Pandemic,” Wisconsin
- Fowler Tribune (Colorado), Survey narrows down small town needs
- Rural Messenger, First Friday speaker shares tips on tackling rural housing challenges
- Idaho Business Review, National rural challenges survey on par with Idaho’s
- Kansas Ag Connection, First Friday speaker shares tips on tackling rural housing challenges
- The Paper, Dwight, Illinois, The Corner by Tom Tock, July 2021
- Radically Rural email newsletter, July 2021
- Alberto Pan blog, Los ‘millennials’ urbanitas gentrifican el mundo rural de Estados Unidos
- Tourism Currents newsletter, June 2021, July 2021 email newsletter
- Small town greatness, AARP Live, RFD-TV
- Miltonvale (Kansas) Record, June 2021
- Atchison County (Missouri) Development Corporation newsletter, June 2021 sent via Atchison County Mail newspaper saturation issue to all county residents
- This is Where You Belong, author Melody Warnick, email newsletter, Issue 41, June 2021
- Insight on Business the News Hour with Michael Libbie podcast, radio 1540 KXEL
- Rural Route podcast with Trent Loos, May 2021, video and audio
- Small Towns, Big Opportunities: Rural-Business Expert Becky McCray, MarketingProfs podcast
- Big Sky Economic Development, email newsletter, December 2020
- Wisconsin State Representative Tony Kurtz email newsletter, December 2020
- Inside Our Industry, Agracel, Inc., email newsletter, Issue 21, November 2020
- Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments, Weekly Reader, January 2020
- Western Nevada Development District, The Results Are In!
- LISC Rural eNews, February 2020
- Small and Rural Community Marketing Program: Experience Community, by Greg Girard, 2020
- Small Biz Survival, How has 2020 changed the challenges rural small towns face? Tell us here
- RuralRISE email update, October 2020
- Survey of Rural Challenges, Obion County, Tennessee
- Building Possibility, Survey of Rural Challenges 2020/21
- SaveYour.Town, How has 2020 changed the challenges rural small towns face? Tell us here
- SmallBusiness.com, Challenges Facing Rural and Small Town Businesses and Residents| 2020
- National Association of Development Organizations, email update January 2020
- BIGG Success podcast with Georgre Krueger and Mary-Lynn Foster, Survey of Rural Challenges 2019
- Radically Rural email update, Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, December 2019
- Alva Review-Courier, December 22, 2019, What do rural people say are their biggest challenges?
- The Agurban, an Agracel Publication – #766 – Survey of Rural Challenges – 2019 Results
- Interesting Survey of Rural Challenges: The results don’t match common stereotypes of the biggest challenges to growth rural communities face, Ann Handley
- Episode 34: Co-Creation in a Small Town – Rebecca Undem, December 2019
- New Zealand Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship, Charging ahead: NZIRE is on the move – and so is rural entrepreneurship
- Economic News – Easton Economic Development Corporation, December 2019
- Daily Yonder, ‘Speak Up, Rural America,’ Say Small-Town Business Consultants
- Rural Assembly, email update July 2019 Survey of Rural Challenges open through July 30
- The Rural Blog, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues Survey of Rural Challenges, open through July 30, helps widely scattered rural communities share ideas
- Rural Delivery newsletter, New York State Rural Housing Coalition, Inc, August 2019, Survey of Rural Challenges
- The Rise of the Rural Millennial, Archinect, Feb 2019
- The Rise of the Rural Millennial, BBHousing.org reprinted from Archinet
- The Hoptown Chronicle (Kentucky) – Survey of Rural Challenges, open through July 30, lets people in small towns share ideas
- The Agurban, an Agracel Publication – Survey of Rural Challenges
- International Association of Community Development, “Survey of Rural Challenges 2017: What small town people in the US and Canada see as their biggest challenges and what topics they most want help with,” Practice Insights issue 10, March 2018
- Main Street America, State of Main 2018, The Future of Retail
- Population Smallsville, Invision Magazine, June 2018
- Rural challenges, McClusky Gazette, North Dakota
- Survey draws interest, McClusky Gazette, North Dakota
- How Small and Rural Towns Can Attract, Retail Millennials, SmallBusiness.com
- South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Saving Small Town South South Dakota
- Survey of Rural Challenges 2017, McLean County Journal (North Dakota)
- Renewed Interest: A Fresh Look at the Rural Church, Collaborative Development International, December 2017
- McClusky Gazette, North Dakota, Survey of Rural Challenges 2017
- EntreWorks – Challenges for Rural Retail
- Agurban – What rural people say they need
- Tourism Currents – Small town tourism challenges? Survey says…
- Small Biz Survival – What rural people say they need: the Survey of Rural Challenges
- Republic County Kansas Economic Development – What rural people say they need.
- NeedALittleAdvice – SaveYour.Town update
Origin of the Survey of Rural Challenges
Speaking: Becky McCray, creator of the Survey of Rural Challenges.
The very first time I ran the Survey of Rural Challenges, I was only asking people what topics they wanted me to write about on my site Small Biz Survival. That’s why the questions say things like “which of these would you be most excited to learn more about.” I never expected to share the results as a public report. Once I read what people told me about their towns, the challenges they were facing, and what they most wanted help with, I realized that other people needed to see this, especially people and organizations who serve small towns. For some reason, a lot of the services and assistance that I saw offered to small towns simply didn’t match what the people themselves were saying they most wanted help with.
SaveYour.Town believes small towns can be saved by their own people using their existing assets. Deb Brown and Becky McCray joined forces in May 2015 to help small towns and rural communities thrive. They deliver speeches and presentations internationally, lead site visits and community brainstorming sessions, and create online videos and short courses of practical steps that can be put into action right away.
About Small Biz Survival
SmallBizSurvival.com publishes practical articles for rural small businesses. It was founded in January 2006 by Becky McCray from Oklahoma. Over the 14 years it has achieved top ranking among small business blogs on sites like Technorati, Invesp BlogRank and BizHumm, and it continues to appear on lists of top small business blogs. For her work as publisher, McCray has been named one of the Power Players in Technology Business Media and a Small Business Influencer Journalist four times.
About Becky McCray
Becky McCray is a lifelong small-town entrepreneur. As co-founder of Save Your.Town, she shares insights from her real-world experience as a business owner and cattle rancher. Throughout her career, rural has been the focus. She managed a retail store, served as city administrator and nonprofit executive, bought and sold antiques and taught classes in business and technology. Her practical perspective is featured at her highly-ranked website, Small Biz Survival, and in her award-winning book, Small Town Rules. She’s been featured and quoted in books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, podcasts and university publications. She makes her home base in Hopeton, Oklahoma, a community of 30 people.
About Deb Brown
Deb Brown is a small town enthusiast and expert for small towns. Her practical approach for getting communities into action right away has been shared at national conferences, local visits, service organizations and everything in between. Her wealth of experience includes foreign casualty insurance underwriting, bartending, retail management, selling knives around the US, leading a chamber and working with small towns. Deb has lived in tiny towns, small towns, small cities and a major metro city. She’s come home to a small town and travels to many other rural communities to help. She collaborates with Becky McCray at SaveYour.Town and has her own business www.BuildingPossibility.com.
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