A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Initial Posting: Aug 16, 2012

This guide offers information and resources to help community action agency boards develop effective practices to fulfill all their roles and responsibilities.



This publication was created by Meliora Partners, Inc., in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Grant Number 90ET0430. Any opinion, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

The examples of policies and procedures, worksheets, and management tools are offered as illustrations of the range of possible approaches.  Neither Meliora Partners nor the Office of Community Services endorses any of the examples. Readers should consult relevant legal, financial and/or human resources professionals on any policies and procedures they are considering adopting or updating.

Striving for Excellence: An Annotated Resource Guide for CAA Boards  

The governing board is responsible responsible for assuring that agencies continue to assess and respond to the causes and conditions of poverty in their community, achieve anticipated family and community outcomes, and remain administratively and fiscally sound (CSBG IM82). Meliora Partners, Inc. has created this online guide offering information and resources to help community action agencies institute effective governance practices.

The guide includes eight modules as described below - use each link to go to the Table of Contents for that module.

CLICK HERE to download PDF version of the guide

Use the online Table of Contents to see all the major topics featured in the Guide.

Module 1: Leadership - The Community Services Block Grant legislation requires that grantees administer their programs through a tripartite board.  In a private organization this body is the governing board; an elected body which receives the grant must create an “advisory committee” to oversee the program and make recommendations.  In either case, the law requires that the tripartite board “fully participates in the development, planning, implementation, and evaluation of the program to serve low-income communities.”

Module 2: Organizing to Lead - Community action agencies are led by governing or advisory board composed of volunteers.  The responsibilities and activities of the board should be clearly described and organized to respect the time and expertise members bring to their board service, but also to apply that expertise most effectively to leadership of the organization.

Module 3: Organizing for Accountability - 1998 CSBG legislation states that “each State…shall participate, and shall ensure that all eligible entities in the State participate, in a performance management system…”- Section 678E(a)(1)(A).  The board must, therefore, ensure that such a system is implemented in their organization—preferably the national framework of goals, objectives and performance indicators known collectively as ROMA.

Module 4: Putting ROMA into Action - Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) is a governance and management process as well as a planning and monitoring framework.  The ROMA cycle discussed in this unit has five stages, each with a different perspective from which the board needs to consider its work.

Module 5: Resource Development/Sustainability - 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.

Module 6: Policymaking - The board’s responsibility for operations consists of establishing policies and procedures that define how the organization will do its business in key activities.  These policies and procedures must incorporate the requirements of local, state, and federal laws, state and federal administrative codes, as well as the guidelines for specific programs and the terms established in contracts and memorandums of agreement.  One or more board committees should have responsibility for regular review and updating of policies and procedures.  The advice, assistance, or review of experts in the areas of operations addressed in each set of policies and procedures should be sought.  The board must periodically verify that policies and procedures are being completely and consistently applied.  The board committee responsible for each set of policies and procedures needs to receive information upon which it can make that judgment.

Module 7: Ensuring Informed Decision-Making - A board does its work by making decisions based on evaluation of information presented to it.  A board should have an expectation that it has received complete, accurate, timely, and understandable information. Members should “trust, but verify” that this is true. They should keep requesting information and clarification until they believe they can confidently make informed decisions.

Module 8: Oversight of the Executive - The board and the executive find the balance between their responsibilities in their shared commitment to the organizational mission.  Their relationship should be open and cooperative, supportive and inspiring.  Both should strive for new and better ways to change lives and communities for the better. To fulfill its fiduciary (trustee or stewardship) role, the board needs to create clear policies, procedures, and plans.  Those plans must describe the outcomes the organization will produce.  The outcomes need to be stated in clear and measurable terms, so the board can objectively evaluate how successful the executive was in managing the organization’s resources and fulfilling its plans.


The Office of Community Services (Administration for Children and Families (DHHS) funded two technical assistance projects for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to help CSBG-eligible entities build their capacity to understand, manage, and address fiscal and administrative issues and enhance their ability to implement innovative service approaches and models that have been successful in addressing specific community needs related to the reduction of poverty, the revitalization of low-income communities, and the empowerment of low-income families and individuals in rural and urban areas to become fully self-sufficient.


Virtual CAP