Pittsburgh’s community-based non-profits are assets too! – Part I

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Community Benefits Organizations (CBO’s) have moved beyond the historical premise of nonprofits…A feel good, volunteer opportunity where good hearted people spend a few hours a week with small donations. They must be recognized for the BENEFITS and value they bring to the community. In communities where there are underperforming schools, limited family support, blight, depressed business districts, high crime and violence with dense populations, you need community anchors, assets if you will to fill in those gaps. Because of that, you find multiple CBO’s that are smaller in nature, yet close to the ground with people that are familiar and comfortable with the community they serve. However, this relevance is quickly becoming unimportant in the scheme of things.

When compared to larger, mainstream organizations, they appear dysfunctional, mismanaged and unnecessary in their current form. Because they were often created from a place of passion to serve a need, they haven’t always had in place business models and infrastructures to support the growing needs of the organizations and the communities. Couple that with home grown organizational founders and grassroots workers with little resources, you may find that best practices get convoluted with decisions necessary for immediate resolutions. There is no argument for best practices and sustainability. They are absolutely necessary. Just as important, getting mainstream supports to embrace the relevancy of CBO’s in their natural state. This “conversional thought process” makes it difficult for CBO’s to ever have the capacity, understanding and frankly power to overcome the disconnect with mainstream expectations without moving away from its core community competencies.

Recently in Pittsburgh, there have been several Black organizations that have closed, merged with larger mainstream organizations or mainstream organizations have crept into community based territory, making it difficult to keep the CBO’s moving forward with authenticity. All of that begs the question, who’s responsible for protecting our assets?

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