The State of Community-Based Development Organizations

We commissioned the Urban Institute to conduct the first national census survey of community-based development organizations since 2005. The census produced field-level data on the production, programs, leadership, needs, and services of community-based development organizations from 2019–2021. All of the data is public and open source. We invite researchers, policymakers, funders, and those working in the community development field to use the data and share your findings.

The Results

The Urban Institute produced a report based on the census results — The State of Community-Based Development Organizations — as well as a fact sheet and technical report. We hired researchers to continue digging into the results and have produced numerous reports that can be found on our Grounding Values webpage.

We had these key takeaways from the Urban Institute report:

  • The research affirms much of what we had hoped to discover about the field’s real estate production and related activities.

  • Social services and advocacy are more prevalent than we had anticipated.

  • The field’s human capital has historically been a strength, but challenges will become more acute and inequitable in the coming years.

  • Community-based development organizations’ mix of activities are unique, relative to other nonprofits and private-sector firms.

  • The field’s finances have been brought into the light for the first time, revealing a larger and more positive story than expected.

  • The federal government offers very few programs that uniquely support these organizations, despite their notable activities, production, and connection to marginalized communities.

  • Resources accumulate among the largest organizations, an inequitable dynamic that is particularly concerning for a field that represents people and places shaped by chronic underinvestment.

  • Inadequate support for community-based development organizations leaves tremendous unrealized potential for increased public good and for advances in racial equity at the local level.

The Urban Institute used this definition for the national census:

Community-based development organizations are private, nonprofit, community-based organizations that 1) develop housing, commercial, industrial or community facilities, or 2) support business development. Their work generally involves projects and programs aimed at improving the lives of lower-income people or the communities they live in. Organizations that provide social services and also do development are included in this survey.