Nonprofit community-based development organizations, or CBDOs, work to improve living conditions and opportunities for low-income communities and communities of color through housing and facilities development, community lending, and services and advocacy. There are an estimated 6,225 such organizations across the country.
To better understand the recent achievements of CBDOs and the contemporary challenges they face, we conducted the sixth national census survey of the field—the first survey of its kind in almost 20 years (the previous national census survey of CBDOs was fielded in 2005). The survey focused on the period from 2019 to 2021 and assessed CBDOs’ organizational characteristics, activities, funding, leadership, and barriers to growth.
The sixth national census survey of CBDOs highlighted the following findings about these organizations between 2019 and 2021.
- An estimated 6,225 CBDOs employed 271,000 staff to serve communities across the United States.
- Two in three CBDOs produced housing, constructing, rehabilitating, or repairing/weatherizing 185,000 units per year, on average.
- One-quarter of CBDOs developed commercial or community facilities, constructing almost 3,500 facilities.
- One in six CBDOs made loans and grants to support real estate development, home purchases, and business development, investing an estimated $1.6 to $5.4 billion each year.
- Nearly all CBDOs (96 percent) provided services, such as community organizing or resident services, or engaged in government advocacy in addition to their development activities. The average CBDO provided almost nine distinct services.
- Half of CBDOs were led by women and one in three had a director of color.
- The majority of CBDOs focused on serving residents of color and residents with low incomes.
- Almost half served exclusively urban areas, while 14 percent had rural-only service areas; the rest served both urban and rural communities.
- One-third of CBDOs focused on serving a single neighborhood or city, while an equal share operated across one or more states.
- CBDOs received program and project funding from an average of 3.4 distinct sources, and almost all organizations received single-year funding of $50,000 or more from one or more federal sources.
- Almost all CBDOs (90 percent) received flexible, unrestricted funding of at least $20,000 from at least one source in 2021. The average CBDO receiving such funding from 3.5 distinct sources.
The survey also included questions to evaluate what CBDOs do and need to advance racial equity. Key findings include the following:
- Nine in ten CBDOs took actions to promote equity within their organizations, including training staff and integrating racial equity strategies into their strategic plans.
- More than eight in ten CBDOs changed their relationships with the communities they served through actions such as shifting partnerships and advocacy efforts and analyzing disparities.
- A majority of CBDOs, regardless of the race or ethnicity of their directors, said directors of color face systemic barriers that limit their advancement within the industry and pointed to funding challenges as a key barriers.
- A meaningfully higher share of organizations led by directors of color reported barriers than did white directors.
- Directors of color pointed to bias in funding application review processes and entrenched relationships among white-led organizations as barriers to their organizations’ growth.
- Organizations led by directors of color had lower annual revenues and expenses and were more likely to have less than three months of cash on hand and annual expenses that exceed revenues than white-led organizations.
Policymakers and funders can consider the following recommendations to equitably sustain and grow CBDOs’ impact.
- Address common challenges in accessing funds and developable land by advocating for more CBDO funding, particularly in the South; exploring and addressing access issues to developable land; and expanding access to development financing.
- Boost supports for organizations led by people of color, and the communities of color they serve, by reducing disparities in access to funding for CBDOs led by directors of color, attracting and supporting leaders of color, and adequately resourcing neighborhood-serving CBDOs that are embedded in communities of color.
- Promote opportunities for growth through advocacy and service innovation, including by engaging more CBDOs in federal advocacy and building CBDOs’ capacity to offer services in areas of growing interest, such as placemaking, arts and cultural programs, and community safety programs.