How does a Community Action Agency put the Community Services Block Grant to work?

Leaders of each Community Action Agency (CAA), also know as Community Action Partnerships (CAP), choose investments targeted to the specific needs of its local community and use the Community Services Block Grant funds in conjunction with their local goals. While there is no typical CAA, there is a common CAA approach to fighting the causes of poverty, and CSBG funding supports this unique work. The approach utilizes all available resources, human and financial; in the community to deliver high impact programs and projects that have transparent financial oversight. The approach can be summarized as pro-active, sustainable and leveraged, and is used to achieve Community Action’s two over-arching goals:

  1. To develop economic and social opportunities for the community and its residents through partnerships and investments; and
  2. To help the most economically disadvantaged local citizens access resources they need to pursue those opportunities.


CAAs prioritize pro-active, preventative strategies; they deliver immediate help followed by long-term engagement with people and communities. Low-wage working families and retirees are at a higher risk of losing their independence than others because they lack the assets to carry them through predictable misfortunes and back to an economically secure path. In a family emergency, CSBG dollars:

  1. Provide flexible crisis intervention funding that permits the appropriate quick response to illness, divorce, violent crime or job loss for those without savings, health insurance and other assets;
  2. Support neighborhood-based facilities where those in need of assistance in a crisis can find trusted, respectful help and counsel; and,
  3. Fund professional staff who mobilize targeted “packages” of interventions and contributions to keep families together, seniors in their homes and workers employed. 


CAAs make extended commitments to families, individuals and community partners based on the scope of an initiative. CSBG funds the continuum of investments and coordination activities that sustain this approach. Other funders generally support distinct activities within a limited amount of time. In contrast, with their annual stream of flexible funding, CAAs can be trusted to be in place over the months and years it can take individuals to learn new skills, manage their family commitments and develop financial assets.

CSBG funds the staff and volunteers required to implement developmental CAA programs for which no other government funding source or charitable donation can be used. CSBG dollars alone fund the recruitment, training and coordination necessary to support nearly 50 million volunteer hours annually. 


For every CSBG dollar received, CAAs raise or earn $2.20 in private funds. 

CAAs create local public-private partnerships that invest in new social and economic opportunities and help local residents utilize available services and resources most effectively. CSBG helps fund those activities that imagine, initiate and build investment and service delivery partnerships. Other resources needed to implement new linkages – communications, facilities, project development costs or equipment – are typically also funded by CSBG, as these do not fall into neat government or charitable categories.

CAAs test innovative approaches and investments. Because they are charged to respond to the unique needs of their local communities, CAAs have the freedom to employ innovative approaches and investments. The successes that come from these thinking-outside-the-box strategies can then be shared and tested within an extensive network of other CAAs. CSBG supports CAAs’ individualized approach to ameliorating poverty in a way that makes it uniquely suited to innovation.

CAAs manage multiple categorical programs in addition to their CSBG funding. Categorical programs are those classified by the group that is served, such as: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Crime Victims Assistance program; and Services to the Homeless.

CSBG funding supports the people and resources that coordinate, supplement and extend the impact of conventional government and charitable programs.


Banner Photo Credit: fdecomite