Why Community Action?

Community Action Agencies (CAA) are private non-profit or public organizations whose development was encouraged by the federal government in 1964 to combat poverty in their local communities. They involve all sectors of the community—elected officials, public sector representatives, and especially low-income residents—in developing programs that address the causes and conditions of poverty in their communities.

CAAs are uniquely suited to serve the needs of local communities for a number of reasons:

  • Leveraging and Flexibility of Resources – CAAs are primarily funded by flexible federal money called Community Service Block Grants (CSBG). Every dollar of federal money leverages nearly $4 in state, local, and private contributions. Because the use of the CSBGs is not dictated by the government, local leaders can direct the money to where they think it can be put to the best use.
  • Low Administrative Costs – Due to their limited bureaucracy and the support of volunteers, community action agencies have extremely low overhead (on average, between 7 and 12 percent). This means that resources can be invested directly in the community, not in red tape.
  • Volunteers Support – Community Action draws one of the largest bases of volunteers in the country. In 1998, volunteers supplied nearly 27 million work hours, which is roughly equivalent to more than 13,000 full-time employees.  Through volunteering, private citizens not only keep the wheels of CAAs turning, they contribute to their neighborhoods and to their fellow citizens.
  • Comprehensive and Responsive – CAAs coordinate their multiple programs to maximize efficiency and meet the broadest range of community needs. They are also tailored to act quickly when a family or neighborhood is in distress. The goal is to stabilize the situation and help the family achieve self-sufficiency in an effort to avoid costly long-term problems.
  • A Voice of Justice and Advocacy – CAAs can be counted on to intervene, speak up, organize and respond on behalf of those who have the least power and influence in our communities — the unemployed, the homeless, minorities, the physically and mentally disabled, the very young and the very old.