Community organizations can represent both community-based organizations, operating as civil society non-profits, and also as a function of organizing within communities defined by geographical location, shared work space, and/or shared experience or concerns. Within community-based organizations, there are many variations in terms of size and organizational structure. Some are formally incorporated, with a written constitution and a board of directors (also known as a committee), while others are much smaller and are more informal. Community organizations often incorporate the processes of community organization, the action that usually comes from individuals who relatively have minimal power to address the issues that affect them personally and within their own environment, as well as community development. The recent evolution of community organizations, especially in developing countries, has strengthened the view that these "bottom-up" organizations are more effective addressing local needs than larger charitable organizations. Community organization is known to lead to greater understanding of community context, and is characterized by community planning, community action and mobilization, the promotion of community change and, ultimately, influence within larger systems.
US Settlement Houses: A Historical Example of Community Organization
In the United States, social settlements, most often referred to as “settlement houses” are historically significant examples of community organizations, participating in both organizing and development at the neighborhood level. Settlement houses were commonly located in the industrial cities of the East and Midwest during the beginning of the 20th century. They were largely established in working-class neighborhoods by the college educated children of middle class citizens concerned by the substantial social problems that were the results of the increasing industrialization and urbanization of the social settlement movement.  History shows that innovative methods of community organizing have risen in response to vast social problems. The social problems at the time of settlement houses included child labor, working class poverty, and housing. Settlement workers thought that by providing education services (English classes) and social services (employment assistance, legal aid, recreational programs, children services) to the poor the income gap between them and the middle class would regress. The majority of funding for services came from charitable resources. The landscape of community organization today, in the US as well as globally, is greatly informed by models and structures of social service administration and funding.
Typical community organizations fall into the following categories: community-service and action, health, educational, personal growth and improvement, social welfare and self-help for the disadvantaged. Community-based organization which operates within the given locality insures the community with sustainable provision of community-service and action, health, educational, personal growth and improvement, social welfare and self-help for the disadvantaged, its sustainability becomes healthier and possible because the community is direct involved in the action or operation wherever and whenever monetary and non-monetary support or contribution is needed.(Creptone I. Madunda, personal communication,24 February 2013). In Canada and elsewhere, amateur sports clubs, school groups, church groups, youth groups and community support groups are all typical examples of community organizations.
In developing countries (like those in Sub-Saharan Africa) community organizations often focus on community strengthening, including HIV/AIDS awareness, human rights (like the Karen Human Rights Group), health clinics, orphan children support, water and sanitation provision, and economic issues. Some are also concentrating on several issues, like the Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha in West Bengal, India, reported in the magazine D+C Development and Cooperation.
Impact of Globalization
Globalization is fundamentally changing the landscape of work, organizations, and community. Many of the challenges created by globalization involve divestment from local communities and neighborhoods, and a changing landscape of work. Paired with the transition to post-industrialization, both challenges and opportunities for grassroots community organizations are growing. Scholars such as Grace Lee Boggs and Gar Alperovitz are noted for their visionary understandings of community organization in this changing context. At the core of these understandings is the acknowledgement that "communities" exist in the context of local, national, and global influences. These and other scholars emphasize the need to create new social, economic, and political systems through community organization, as a way to rebuild local wealth in this changing landscape. Related concepts include visionary organizing, community wealth projects, employee-owned firms, anchor institutions, and place-based education.
Fundraising for community organizations can be very different from that of charities and larger nonprofits, which benefit from endowments, institutional and government grants, individuals, and other diverse funding sources.
Smaller community organizations typically rely on donations (monetary and in-kind) from local community members and sponsorship from local government and businesses. In Canada, for example, slightly over 40% of the community organizations surveyed had revenue under C$30,000. These organizations tend to be relationship-based and people-focused. Across all sizes, Canadian community organizations rely on government funding (49%), earned income (35%), and gifts and donations (13%).
Community fundraisers can take a people-focused approach to fundraising. Relationship building is a key part of the people-focused approach. Relationship-building communicates the benefits that the organization offers to the local community. Open days and other such events are very valuable relationship-building events.
- "Our Model for Community Change and Improvement". Community Tool Box. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
- "NGOs and the New Democracy". Harvard International Review. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "A Way of Thinking about the History of Community Organizing". Trinity College. Retrieved February 2015.
- "Changing Neighborhoods". The University of Illinois in Chicago. Retrieved February 2015.
- "Community-Based Organization Descriptions". Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "Cornerstones of Community: Summary of findings from the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations". Statistics Canada. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "UN AIDS and nongovernmental organizations" (PDF). Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. June 1999.
- "What Then Must We Do". CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING. February 2015.
- "The Next American Revolution". University of California Press. February 2015.
- J. Phillip Thompson (2005). Seeking Effective Power: Why Mayors Need Community Organizations. Perspectives on Politics, 3, pp 301–308.
- Adger, C.T. (2001). School- community- based organization partnerships for language minority students' school success. Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk, 6 (1-2), 7-25.