Strengthening Economic Development in Rural Communities

To encourage economic growth in rural North Carolina and South Carolina, The Duke Endowment launched an effort in 2001 involving 22 communities and $11.7 million in grants. The Endowment is no longer accepting grant applications for this closed initiative.


Rural communities in the Carolinas are home to many hardworking people, strong local churches, thriving businesses and multi-generation family farms. But despite their rich roots and enduring traditions, many rural communities face considerable challenges. Plant closings, cultural divides and leadership shortages have left many communities struggling to generate positive economic growth and adequate workforce development. Without a ready workforce, it is difficult to attract business ventures that yield new jobs, and a cycle of decline sets in.


The Duke Endowment launched an effort to work with traditional grantees—hospitals and rural United Methodist churches—to produce tangible economic outcomes, such as new or better jobs as a result of training or job development, and lay the foundation for more far-reaching change.

To provide initiative management and staffing, The Duke Endowment partnered with MDC, a nonprofit in Raleigh, N.C., that helps organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from opportunity. Twenty-two counties or multi-county regions were selected to participate.

The first-year focus was on recruiting community team members. In the following years, sites worked on organizing their teams, developing local programs and finding assets to sustain economic renewal work beyond Endowment support.

Participating Sites

See participating sites in North Carolina and South Carolina.


Area of Work

  • Prevention

  • Congregational outreach

Program Area

  • Health Care
  • Rural Church

Grantmaking Status

This program ran from 2001 to 2009

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities