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Investing in Communities

Evaluating the impact of a capacity building fund for community-based organizations in Alameda County

In 2011, California passed the Public Safety Realignment Act, shifting the responsibility for confining and rehabilitating people convicted of lower-level felonies from the state to the counties. To improve outcomes, the bill also provided funding for local reentry programs and resources. 

Officials in Alameda County recognized that community-based organizations are ideally suited to provide the culturally-responsive services that are essential to prevent reincarceration. They also understood that these organizations would need to strengthen their infrastructure and expand their operational capacity to be successful in that regard, especially in light of the many requirements of working under contract with government.

The process was slow initially, but in 2015, the County launched the Community Capacity Fund, a grant program with the express purpose of building the capacity of community-based organizations. This kind of funding, which is all too rare, has the potential to be transformative, so the Research and Action Center jumped at the chance to evaluate the fund from the perspectives of the organizations receiving grants.

“The League of Women Voters of Oakland provides a compelling example of the power of a capacity-building grant. With the funding they received from Alameda County, they developed a Reentry Task Force that today provides voting rights and election information to 14 community-based organizations serving formerly incarcerated residents of Oakland. In 2020, the National Organization of League of Women Voters recognized the Task Force at its national convention with a best-in-class award for Strengthening Democracy.”

Read more: Capacity Building Pays Off

Ultimately, we found that this concentrated funding for capacity building paid incredible dividends. Organizations were able to launch new programs or expand existing work and grow stronger internally in many different ways. Learn more about our findings and their implication for the larger landscape of funding in Capacity Building Pays Off.

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