Community Leadership Project Print E-mail


To strengthen grassroots organizations that serve low-income people and communities of color.

Initiative Description

The Community Leadership Project is a joint effort funded by three California foundations to strengthen grassroots organizations that serve low-income people and communities of color. The Irvine Foundation is collaborating with The David and Lucile Packard and William and Flora Hewlett foundations on this effort.

Underwritten with $10 million from the three foundations, the Community Leadership Project (CLP) targets small and midsize organizations in three geographic areas: the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley. The funders selected these three regions based on interviews with a diverse group of leaders across the state, an analysis of demographic shifts and poverty rates, as well as the geographic priorities of each foundation.

This initiative is using three grantmaking strategies to build the capacity of these community organizations:

  • Core support/capacity-building grants
  • Technical assistance workshops and trainings
  • Leadership trainings

We are evaluating the effectiveness of these different capacity-building approaches to determine which ones are most powerful, effective and cost-efficient for community organizations. We also expect CLP grantmaking to improve our foundations’ understanding of the strengths and challenges of small community organizations. More information about the strategies, the grantees, and what we are learning is available at www.communityleadershipproject.org.


In July of 2010, the CLP funding partners selected Social Policy Research Associates (SPR) in partnership with the Leadership Learning Community to evaluate this initiative. We have two goals for the evaluation:

  • First, the evaluation strives to inform improvements in CLP’s implementation, thereby informing the three foundations and philanthropic colleagues of key ways to invest in effective capacity building of small and midsized organizations working in low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Second, we aim to assess and document the impact of CLP on leaders, organizations, intermediaries, and foundation partners.

Time frame:


Participating grantees:

  • Intermediary organizations providing regranting and technical assistance (27)
  • Community organizations (100)


The evaluation uses qualitative and quantitative methods to assess outcomes and document important insights from this initiative. Key methods include:

  • Document review and observations of convenings and meetings
  • Interviews with foundation program staff, consultants, intermediary organizations and individual leaders in the targeted regions
  • Site visits with up to 20 community grantees
  • Organizational assessments using the My Healthy Organization tool
  • Regional Learning Labs


An interim progress report found that CLP community grantees hold great potential to benefit from investments in capacity building. They have clearly articulated intentions around planning, program design, and organizational structure, but lack consistent and formal practices for maximizing organizational capacity. Read the 2011 Evaluation Progress Report.

Related Materials:

Evaluation of the Community Leadership Project: 2011 Progress Report (January, 2012)


Hanh Cao Yu, Ph.D.
Social Policy Research Associates

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