When the pandemic shuttered businesses last year, it was clear that Missouri’s Main Streets needed resources and information. To address the needs of the more than 180 Main Street communities statewide, MMSC prioritized regular communication through four touchpoints: an online resource outlet, their “Mornings on Main” webinar series, “We Care Calls” with community directors, and the “Downtown Chat” Facebook group.
“We felt a huge responsibility to our mission throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said State Director Gayla Roten said. “Having four points of communication with our communities allowed us to provide resources, support, and tools to our Missouri Main Streets. Four Ways to Connect helped our communities spend their time coming up with creative solutions to adapt to the current situation and plan for recovery, rather than searching for information from multiple sources.”
MMSC’s online resource outlet included links to available funding sources as well as information about how other organizations were responding to the changing situation. Meanwhile, the Downtown Chat Facebook group allowed directors to ask questions and get real-time input from peers who were facing the same challenges—which proved to be useful even with questions that weren’t directly related to the pandemic response.
Left: Directors from across Missouri gather at the 2018 Main Street Now Conference in Kansas City. Right: MMSC held weekly and then monthly webinars to help local communities throughout the pandemic. Credit: Missouri Main Street Connection
Through weekly video conference calls with the directors of MMSC’s local programs, the Main Street program offered more personalized support, including grant writing advice, updates from Main Street America, and news of fundraising opportunities. As the immediacy of the issues lessened, the calls eventually became monthly—but regular communication is still necessary.
The final aspect of MMSC’s programming was the Mornings on Main webinar series, which featured expert presentations providing context, insight, and ideas from around the country. Initially, MMSC hosted the webinars weekly, then transitioned to monthly in June. With an average attendance of 70 individuals, the webinars have not only had a large impact on more than 120 Missouri communities, but also on communities in 17 other states.
While the communication programming was especially beneficial during the beginning of the pandemic, it continues to be instrumental in updating Missouri Main Street communities on important resources and encouraging them to share ideas.
“Ongoing communication allows MMSC to adapt to potential issues in the future—and because of its simplicity and relatively low cost to implement, Four Ways to Connect also serves as an example for other communities and states throughout the Main Street network,” Frey said.