If you’re trying to improve your company or agency’s relationship with local limited English proficient (LEP) populations, you may have been advised to partner up with a community-based organization — but what does that actually mean?

Allow us to explain.

As defined by the folks at Carleton University’s Community First initiative, community-based organizations, also referred to as CBOs, are “non-profit, non-governmental, or charitable organizations that represent community needs and work to help them. CBOs may be associated with a particular area of concern or segment of the community.”

CBOs — examples include mutual aid groups, local LGBTQ centers, and legal funds, just to name a few — play a key role in addressing the unique needs of local communities. These organizations are usually staffed by members of the community or people who are intimately familiar with it, making them essential to creating sustainable change that centers the needs of the local community.

If you’re looking to expand your outreach and build trust with local immigrant populations or people with limited English proficiency (LEP), partnering with CBOs is a good first step.

Historically, immigrant communities and people with LEP may have developed low trust toward certain groups — for example, government agencies or healthcare providers — due to marginalization or mistreatment. Partnering with CBOs that advocate for the needs of immigrants can help your organization gain the trust of the populations you serve.

By partnering with CBOs, you can learn more about the immigrant communities that your organization serves and get a better sense of how to best meet their needs. Building trust might not be easy at first, but over time, CBOs can help you develop a fruitful relationship with historically underserved communities.

In this blog post, we’ll go over the how and why of partnering with CBOs, placing particular emphasis on their role in serving immigrant communities and people with LEP.

Partnering with community-based organizations

CBOs can be an extremely helpful resource when you need to gain a better understanding of your local community’s needs. If your organization works closely with immigrants and folks with LEP, partnering with a CBO can be the first step toward providing adequate, accessible services to the community.

While working closely with a language service provider (LSP) is a good step toward providing language access, CBOs can better help you determine the unique needs of your locale. CBOs can help you with the things an LSP might not be able to — for example, finding and connecting with local communities, building trust and engaging with them, identifying micro-communities with unique needs, and more. LSPs, on the other hand, can help with language capabilities and processes, follow your unique privacy requirements, leverage data and technology tools to ensure high quality, accuracy, and speed of language service delivery.

While LSPs are fairly approachable, many agencies and organizations are a bit unsure of how to go about partnering with CBOs to enhance their language access practices. Here, we’ve identified four key steps to developing a meaningful and mutually beneficial partnership with CBOs:

Assess the community’s needs and how you can fulfill them

  • Identify community needs: Conduct a thorough assessment to understand the specific needs and challenges of the community you aim to serve. By understanding the needs of the community, you can better evaluate your organization’s historical success in meeting those needs.
  • Available resources: Try to get a better sense of the resources that are available to you — here, it may be useful to ask yourself what your organization needs in order to successfully serve the people in your community and how you can acquire any additional resources that might be necessary.
  • Data and community input: You can utilize publicly available data like US Census results to better inform your approach. Additionally, seeking feedback from community members before approaching CBOs can also help you gain a better understanding of your organization’s success in serving the local community.

Research your locale’s unique landscape

  • Language and cultural needs: Identify the language preferences and cultures of your community. Every town has its own distinct cultural and linguistic landscape, so it’s important to be knowledgeable about yours.
  • Potential partners: Look for CBOs in your area that specialize in providing services to immigrant and/or LEP populations.
  • Stakeholders and gatekeepers: Understand the key stakeholders and gatekeepers within the community who can influence decision-making and facilitate the partnership.
  • Surveys and interviews: Develop an interview or survey plan to gather authentic voices and understand the community’s expectations from your organization.

Reach out to CBOs and the community at large

  • Engage stakeholders: Initiate meetings with CBO representatives and community stakeholders to build relationships and learn from their experiences. These folks can provide you with valuable insight into the community’s perception of your organization, while also giving you a better understanding of the community’s needs.
  • Involve the CBO in strategic planning: Collaborate with CBOs in the design of outreach strategies — it’s important to make sure that they are co-creators of solutions that address their community’s needs. By centering the CBO’s expertise in your planning, you can execute a culturally and linguistically competent outreach campaign.
  • Feedback mechanism: Establish a continuous feedback mechanism to gauge the effectiveness of your initiatives and adapt them as needed. This can be a basic poll that community members receive after you’ve delivered your services or something more formal, such as a town hall meeting with community members.
  • Establish workgroups and committees: If relevant, create workgroups or committees to foster ongoing collaboration and ensure community input is central to decision-making.

Formalize your relationship with the community

  • Mutually beneficial partnerships: Make sure that both parties benefit from the collaboration and shared efforts. CBOs often do this work for free (but sometimes warrant pay), since improved accessibility and language justice have a net positive effect on the community they serve. Remember — the ultimate goal in partnering with CBOs is to ensure that your services are accessible to all members of your community.
  • Expand outreach and initiatives: Together with CBOs, extend outreach efforts and initiatives to reach more individuals within the community. CBOs can give you a good understanding of weak spots in your outreach and accessibility, allowing you to determine the best ways to allocate your resources.
  • Enhance quality of services: Collaborate on improvements to outreach, communication, translations, and language services to better serve immigrant and LEP populations.


Partnering with community-based organizations is not just a transactional arrangement; it’s about building genuine relationships and co-creating solutions to address the specific needs of communities.

  • Assess the community’s needs and how you can fulfill them: It’s important to know where you can improve — by understanding your community’s needs and the extent to which you’re already meeting them, you’ll be well-suited to approach CBOs for advice and partnership.
  • Research your locale’s unique landscape: Once you’ve conducted thorough research on your community’s cultural and linguistic landscape, you can identify the CBOs that might be best-suited to partner with you.
  • Reach out to CBOs and the community at large: After identifying a CBO you’d like to partner with and assessing your community’s needs, it’s time to approach the stakeholders and leaders of the community. These folks can consult you and help you plan your outreach strategy as you attempt to build trust with the community.
  • Formalize your relationship with the community: Make sure that your partnership has a mutually beneficial impact on the community — after all, your primary goal in partnering with CBOs should be to ensure that the community has improved access to your services. By forming a long-lasting and meaningful relationship with a CBO, you can ensure that you meet this goal.

By working together with CBOs, you can foster a sense of trust, inclusion, and belonging that leads to long-lasting, positive change for all parties involved. If you’re looking to learn more about how to combine the strengths of CBOs and translation services, Avantpage is happy to help — contact us today at [email protected] or (530) 750-2040 to speak with one of our experts.