Bolstering Black-Led Organizations

Defined as registered nonprofits with Black staff and/or Board leadership, Black-led organizations (BLOs) serve as the backbone for communities of color throughout the Bay Area. After a tumultuous economic recession in 2008 and seasons of economic shifts including extreme increases in rent and changes in funders’ priorities, many of these organizations have found it challenging to rebound and sustain their position as critical providers. The ASCEND:BLO initiative seeks to:

  • Enhance the growth, sustainability, impact and sense of community among Black-led anchor institutions in the Bay Area in order to ensure the long-term vitality of those organizations and the communities of color they serve.
  • Apply a fresh, dynamic and replicable approach to collaborative capacity building that further develops the nonprofit sector with a lens towards race and equity.

Key Components of the Initiative


The ASCEND:BLO Accelerator is a six-month intensive designed to bolster the growth and sustainability of emerging, innovative community anchors that have a vision for growth, promising ideas and a willingness to work in new ways to catalyze personal, organizational and community change. This program focuses on providing support in key areas including strategy, feasibility and sustainability, as well as access to coaching and technical support. Participants will receive a three-year investment with ongoing technical support and training.

The members of the inaugural cohort of the ASCEND:BLO Accelerator are:

  • African American Art and Culture Complex: Serving San Francisco’s Western Addition and Filmore communities, the African American Art and Culture Complex “seeks to nurture and facilitate the empowerment of the African-American community through Afro-centric artistic and cultural expression, mediums, education, and programming.”
  • Black Organizing Project:  Working in Oakland, the Black Organizing Project is a “Black member-led community organization working for racial, social, and economic justice through grassroots organizing and community-building in Oakland, California.”
  • Community Housing Development Corporation: Serving North Richmond and the greater East Bay, the Community Housing Development Corporation “was founded in 1990 to eliminate blight, improve housing opportunities for current and future residents, and create better economic conditions.”
  • The Hidden Genius Project: Serving Oakland, the greater East Bay, and San Francisco, the Hidden Genius Project “trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.”
  • Roots Community Health Center: Working in Oakland and the greater East Bay, the Roots Community Health Center is “dedicated to improving the status of health of East Bay residents.” The center was founded in 2008 to “address the growing need for accessible, culturally appropriate, community-responsive, comprehensive health care in Oakland, California.”



The East Bay Community Foundation is excited to announce the launch of the ASCEND:BLO Stabilizer! The Stabilizer is a unique opportunity for five mature Black-Led Organizations (BLOs) across six Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara) to receive support and guidance as they prepare to go through a planned executive leadership transition within the next two years.

The three-year program for mature community anchors designed to minimize risk and guide organizations through transition by providing leadership development, board recruitment, advanced training and succession planning.

The members of the inaugural cohort of the ASCEND:BLO Stabilizer are:

  • ABEN: A Black Education NetworkServing communities across the country, ABEN: A Black Education Network works “to reverse the backward slide by facilitating academic and cultural excellence wherever our children and youth are using culturally-informed research, technology, visionary parent education, and networking in our communities here and in diaspora contexts.”
  • APEB (formally AIDS Project of the East Bay)Serving Alameda County, primarily Oakland, AIDS Project of the East Bay “was founded in 1983 as a program that prioritized some of the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.” Today, APEB continues “to prevent new HIV infections and supports individuals living with the virus through culturally sensitive, non-judgmental, and effective services provided to all persons and communities living with and at risk of HIV infection.”  
  • Cypress Mandela Training Center: Working in Oakland, the Cypress Mandela Training Center is a “community based organization dedicated to improving the lives of the people it serves by providing pre-apprenticeship construction and life skills training along with employment assistance.”
  • East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC):Working in East Oakland, the East Oakland Youth Development Center develops “the social and leadership capacities of youth so that they achieve excellence in education, career, and service to their communities. Delivered through comprehensive, evidence-based interventions that help young people transform their lives and ignite positive change.”
  • Safe Return Project: Serving Richmond and the greater East Contra Costa communities, Safe Return Project “is driven by individuals most impacted by the criminal justice system, racial disparities, and inequity. Developing the capacity for Contra Costa County residents who are formerly incarcerated to identify strategies that respond tocommunity needs, lead on the issues that impact their communities, and build their sense of agency.”
  • The Hannah Project Partnership for Academic AchievementServing Marin, The Hannah Project “boost the academic proficiency and college attendance of Marin City and other low income youth of color by working in partnership to promote a community culture that encourages achievement and equips families and students with knowledge, skills, and strategies to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.”


Peer networking and learning with access to relevant workshops and speakers available to BLOs in the core four-county service areas, as well as in Marin and Santa Clara Counties. Read the event recap from the ASCEND:BLO Network Event at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation on May 17th, 2019.


The evaluation report is a critical outcome of the learning and evaluation process. Its purpose is to provide insight into the progress of the ASCEND: BLO Initiative-designed to be a replicable model for race-based capacity building- its success, challenges, and recommendations for its future development.

Download the Year One Evaluation here.
Download the Year Two Evaluation here.

Support the Black Led Organizations Fund

Funders and individual donors are invited to participate in the Black Led Organizations fund, which supports the growth, sustainability, impact, and sense of community among Black-led anchor institutions in the Bay Area in order to ensure the long-term vitality of those organizations and the communities of color they serve.

Funders’ Collaborative

Leaders from philanthropic organizations across the Bay Area have come together to  invest in solutions that are designed to bolster Black-led organizations, as well as support their impact. We thank the Funders’ Collaborative for their partnership in making a stronger Bay Area.

The Official ASCEND:BLO Launch Reception

We recently hosted a reception at Impact Hub Oakland to launch ASCEND:BLO! Representatives from 130+ Bay Area Black-led organizations, as well as leaders from local businesses and municipal communities joined us to network and celebrate the power of Black-led organizations. Check out a few images from the night below. Click here to read more about the kickoff reception.

Breaking Barriers, Building Bonds – The Inaugural ASCEND:BLO Network Summit

The inaugural ASCEND:BLO Network Summit was held on Juneteenth at Google’s Cloud Campus in Sunnyvale, CA, around the theme of “Breaking Barriers – Building Bonds.” The Summit was a first-of-its-kind opportunity for over 150 representatives from Black-Led Organizations (BLOs) across six Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara) to network, learn from, and be inspired by dynamic speakers and facilitators. Representatives also had the opportunity to connect with funders committed to supporting the sustainability and sense of community of Bay Area BLOs. The turnout, active participation, and leadership of BLOs was simply moving.

The content of the presentations, along with that of the smaller group Breakout Sessions that took place throughout the day, incited thought-provoking conversations that continued long after sessions ended. We encourage members of BLOs that were not in attendance to download the full presentations from the plenaries and breakout sessionsRead More

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