New Haven community service organizations will soon be hitting the books for grant bucks with the unveiling of the New Haven Non-Profit Academy, a project made possible by a grant from the federal government’s Compassion Capital Fund.

Capacity development grants totalling $350,000 will go to non-profit organizations whose selected members complete the program, which includes individual counseling and group training sessions on everything from strategic development to grant proposal writing. New Haven’s is the only such grant in Connecticut, as well as the only one in the country given to a federally-designated Empowerment Zone, said Anthea Marshall Richardson, the president and CEO of Empower New Haven, at a press conference yesterday.

Candace McKinley ’03, Empower New Haven’s strategic development director, said her organization earned the grant with its wide-ranging partnerships.

“When the government announced these grants, they wanted organizations that had a lot of partnerships already in place and that could reach out to small groups and faith-based groups,” McKinley said.

Nonprofit organizations must have two characteristics to qualify, McKinley said. First, they must serve one of the communities — Dixwell, Dwight, Fair Haven, Hill, Newhallville, or West Rock — within New Haven’s Empowerment Zone, a designation set up by Congress to offer grants and tax relief to areas in great need of economic development. Second, any group participating must address one of several specific problems, including homelessness, at-risk youth, and workforce housing.

Once participants complete the Non-Profit Academy program, they will write grant proposals for the improvement of their organizations’ capacities, McKinley said. Larger organizations can receive up to $30,000, renewable through the third year, while smaller, less-developed groups have the chance at up to $5,000. These grants will not be used for direct service proposals, but to expand and improve their organizations.

Richardson said these grants will send money to a much-neglected area of service.

“More and more funding is directed towards direct service and programs, but as far as capacity building is concerned, the funding is minimal,” Richardson said. “When an organization wants to expand, they may want to increase their technology, for example. — This grant is specifically directed at addressing this need.”

In addition to Empower New Haven, a number of other organizations have pledged to provide assistance and work together on behalf of the Non-Profit Academy’s goals. Hart D. Caparulo, president and CPO of United Way of Greater New Haven, said she was thrilled to have another partner in providing capacity building grants, and that United Way had much to offer the program.

“We’re sharing all of our experience,” Caparulo said. “In addition, if we’re looking to invest in an organization, but need to be doing something broader, or deeper, we can work together with Empower New Haven to provide it. Some organizations might need $40,000 the first year, for example.”

Anthony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, said the program’s educational aspect excited him.

“I’m delighted that the Empowerment Zone folks are willing to take on helping the nonprofit community,” Rescigno said. “This is a group of people who need all the help they can get.”