A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Module 5: Resource Development/Sustainability – What is the Board’s Role?

Striving for Excellence: An Annotated Resource Guide for CAA Boards

Module 5: Resource Development/Sustainability


Module 5 Overview

One of a board's foremost responsibilities is to secure resources adequate for the organization to fulfill its mission. Community action agencies are sometimes viewed suspiciously if they compete with smaller charities which must raise much of their budgets from donations and fundraisers.  The best fundraising strategy is to operate programs with visible positive results in partnership with other community organizations.


  1. Authority and Guidance
  2. Tools for Building Sustainability
  3. Examples of Sustainability Plans

Board members are responsible for ensuring the organization is adequately funded to carry out its mission. Securing funding involves assisting the executive director in identifying funding sources, and participating in the development and review of proposals to funders.  It also includes overseeing and participating in the development, implementation and evaluation of ongoing fundraising activities.  Although asking board members to make a personal financial contribution to the CAA may not be appropriate, members should understand that they will be expected to inform the agency about community resources to support programs.  They should also expect to advocate for the organization through personal presentations and appeals on behalf of the CAA.

Board members must make decisions that support the long-term sustainability of the organization.  This includes budgeting to build reserves and ensuring availability of unrestricted funding sources.  The board should evaluate the short and long-term financial impact of each program and take action to discontinue or transfer programs which do not contribute to sustainability.  The board also needs to seek resources to support those programs which most advance the mission, even if that means ceasing to operate programs less mission-oriented but more historically established or popular in the community.

From Mastering Community Action Financial Management and Administrative Governance – Unit 7.A.1.d - Obtaining financial resources

1. Authority and Guidance

A Guide to Building Strong Community Action Agencies Delivering Results in Their Communities – Community Action Partnership
Covers seven important elements for sustainability, including the crucial elements of Strategic Resource Development. The elements are relevant both for the organization as a whole as well as the specific programs and efforts of the CAA.

The Nonprofit Funding Crisis: An Imperative for Building Strong Boards (August 2009) – Alice Korngold, Korngold Consulting LLC

2. Tools for Building Sustainability

Nonprofit Sustainability: Understanding and Changing Your Business Strategy (webinar slides from Blue Avocado) based on Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability
An engaging, easy-to-use tool for visualizing an organization’s business model, the Matrix Map is the foundation of the sustainability framework introduced in Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability.  The Matrix Map showcases the current impact and financial performance of core activities and provides guidance on how leaders can make strategic decisions to strengthen their business model and increase sustainability.

Nonprofit Sustainability: Doing More with Less – Housing Assistance Council
Housing professionals share their experiences and perspectives on how to overcome economic downturns and create sustainable housing programs, which can also be applied to other anti-poverty programs.

3. Example of Sustainability Plans

Sustainability Action Plan – Consulting Services for Community Solutions
Sample plan showing action steps you can take during the first year. Recommends creating at least a 12-month plan and preferably a 3-year plan.

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