Archive for the ‘Capacity-building’ Category

capacityThe Nonprofit Good Practice Guide, a free online resource, captures and organizes good practices for nonprofits and foundations.

There are thousands of effectiveness-building tips and resources on topics including:

  • Accountability and Evaluation;
  • Advocacy;
  • Communications and Marketing;
  • Foundations and Grantmaking;
  • Fundraising and Financial Sustainability;
  • Governance;
  • Management and Leadership;
  • Staff Development and Organizational Capacity;
  • Technology; and
  • Volunteer Management.

Source: National Council of Nonprofits

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capacityThe Human Interaction Research Institute (HIRI) helps nonprofits, funders and communities handle the challenges of innovation and change, using behavioral science strategies.  

Their Philanthropic Capacity Building Resources (PCBR) includes a searchable database of foundation capacity building programs. The PCBR database contains 401 descriptions of capacity building programs being carried out by U.S. foundations, as well as a list of intermediaries that provide capacity building.

To search the database for foundations with capacity building programs, click here.

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As the nonprofit sector grows, it faces perhaps its greatest challenge in its long history of service to America – an acute leadership shortage. According to a study by the Bridgespan Group, nonprofit organizations will need 640,000 new senior leaders over the next 10 years. That’s 2.4 times today’s number. And the study says that the demand for new leaders could be as high as 1.2 million.

Given the significant management challenges faced by nonprofits, “any kind of leader” will not due. According to Tom Tierney, chairman of the Bridgespan Group:

It’s harder to run a nonprofit than a private company, you have the extra layer of a board of directors – and you’re wearing a lot of different hats. Successful leadership will call for individuals who are value-driven, highly-skilled managers capable to lead, inspire and transform.

It’s apparent that the Ford Foundation understand this new reality. In the August 14th issue of The New York Times, Ford announced that it selected Luis A. Ubiñas, who has worked for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company for 18 years, as its next leader. Mr. Ubiñas’s appointment has stunned the nonprofit world, which has been speculating about who in the field would succeed Susan V. Berresford, Ford’s influential leader who retires in January. Ford is the nation’s second-largest foundation, with $11 billion in assets.

Increasingly high-profile nonprofit jobs are going to people who have done well in the business world or politics, a reflection of the pressure on charities and foundations to become more accountable.

What is your organization doing to increase the skills of your leaders? Do you have a board committee specifically dedicated to leadership development? What percent of your operating budget are you setting aside for training?

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dollarThe Office of Community Services (OCS) is now accepting applications for funding from the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) Communities Empowering Youth (CEY) program. To view the full program announcement, please click here.

The CEY program seeks to build the organizational capacity, sustainability, and effectiveness of experienced organizations working through community collaborations to reduce gang involvement, youth violence, and child abuse and neglect. OCS will award funds to build the organizational capacity of the lead organizations, their collaborating faith-based and/or community partners, and the resulting community collaborations to address issues facing America’s disadvantaged youth and promote positive youth development.

OCS anticipates making thirty awards of up to $250,000 each per year for a total of approximately $7.5 million. CEY projects last thirty-six months with three twelve-month budget periods.

More information on who may apply, how to apply, and details regarding CEY grant requirements is contained in the program announcement.

The application deadline is July 10, 2007.

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capacityBy: Lilya Wagner, Ed.D., CFRE, 5/2/07

Capacity building seemed to be the “buzzword” of the early 21st century. Books and book chapters were written about this concept, workshops were requested and conducted, articles were published, and foundations were openly urged to do more for nonprofit capacity building.

The truth is, capacity building as a concept is neither new nor complicated. Nonprofit organizations have always had to be concerned, to some degree or another, about their capacity to carry out their work and do it well and also to improve their capacity

Capacity building is an organization’s ability to carry out its mission, using best practices, having financial and personnel resources to do so, and meeting the needs of clients. Mike Hudson, in Managing at the Leading Edge, provided this succinct definition: “Building organization capacity is about systematically investing in developing an organization’s internal systems (for example, its people, processes, and infrastructure) and its external relationships (for example, with funders, partners, and volunteers) so that it can better realize its mission and achieve greater impact” (Hudson, 2005, p. 1).

Another authority on this topic, the Amherst Wilder Foundation, defines capacity building as “the process of strengthening an organization in order to improve its performance and impact” (Amherst Wilder Foundation, 2002, p. 7).

Capacity building has been around for as long as nonprofits have had an identity as a sector, balancing government and business in the scheme of United States civil society. But the renewed attention came for a reason.

Nonprofits have tended to concentrate on delivery of programs and services, a state of being that was no doubt reinforced by some donors, mainly foundations, who focused their attention on the efficiency (keeping costs low) of their grantees and tended to fund programs, especially new ones for which they sometimes provided seed money. But this trend or expectation leaned toward some negative side effects.

How can excellent programs be developed and delivered without appropriate organizational capacity to do so? As one of the authors of a seminal book on capacity building stated, “Nonprofits have been doing more with less for so long that many now border on doing everything with nothing” (Light, 2004, p. 14). He also stated that the result of emphasis on programs has caused the public to have expectations of delivery without the attendant funding related to costs of capacity building, and the unfortunate outcome is increasing criticism of nonprofits as organizations that lack managerial and financial substance.

The lack of capacity building and the emphasis of program and service delivery caught up with the nonprofit world at least in the thinking of many leaders and practitioners if not in reality. Beginning late in the last century, there came a shift, even if slight, from expanding effective programs to building effective organizations that develop, house and improve the programs. Consequently, there is increased attention on not only what nonprofits do, but also how they do it, because stronger nonprofit organizations lead to greater program impact.

Building an organization’s capacity means deliberate efforts are undertaken to enhance an organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Capacity building is a significant part of the overall management of a nonprofit, one which overlaps with and is congruent with all other management functions, from programs to human resources, from fundraising to public relations.

Mike Hudson (2005) considers the elements of internal capacity to include the mission; the board; the staff, volunteers and other personnel; management skills; physical infrastructure; technology; and evaluation (2005, p. 9). The external key elements are relationships; identification of relevant high-value services; orchestration of creative campaigns for social change; and creativity in funding and income generation (Hudson, 2005, p. 9-10).

In “Capacity Building: A Primer,” the lead article in a volume devoted to nonprofit capacity building, the authors acknowledge that it may take many forms, sometimes depending on the type and size of the organization, but several steps or stages are always present:

1. Validate the mission

2. Reconsider the vision

3. Reaffirm the values 

4. Develop resources
5. Set strategies

6. Ensure productivity

They also acknowledge that organizations wishing to engage in capacity building will find many possible ways to achieving a high-performance organization and a single solution is not mandatory nor feasible.

The success of capacity building is dependent on first understanding that change is needed, and identifying the desired outcome. Money, time and human resources must be invested, with appropriate guidance for the efforts. Building capacity may include a wide range of approaches, such as peer-to-peer learning, training, research, assistance from consultants, academic study, and experiential learning. It means taking a careful look at an organization’s ability to achieve its mission, to do its job more effectively.

As explained by a volume produced by Venture Philanthropy Partners, the Capacity Framework defines nonprofit capacity in a pyramid of seven essential elements: three higher-level elements aspirations, strategy, and organizational skills three foundational elements systems and infrastructure, human resources, and organizational structure and a cultural element which serves to connect all the others (Venture Philanthropy Partners, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, August 2001).

There is no mystery in capacity building, as is sometimes implied. Capacity building isn’t something that dawned recently. It has always involved an organization’s ability to balance programs against management; to be as effective as possible in fundraising, customer relations, financial management, and governance as in delivery of services to its clients; and to achieve positive change. What’s new is the renewed emphasis in the recent decade by funders and critics who understand that good programs need good organizations, and therefore good capacity somehow must be developed and maintained.

Capacity building is far more than a buzzword. Regardless of terminology, the capacity of an organization to carry out its mission and all activities based on its mission has been a critical element that delineates between organizations just getting by or perhaps even fading away, and those that are the backbone of the nonprofit sector.


Connolly, Paul and Carol Lukas. Strengthening Nonprofit Performance: A Funder’s Guide to Capacity Building. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation and with the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, 2002.

Hudson, Mike. Managing at the Leading Edge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2005.

Kinsey, David J., and J. Russell Raker III, “Capacity Building: A Primer,” in Capacity Building for Nonprofits, New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, No. 40, Summer 2003.

Light, Paul. Sustaining Nonprofit Performance: The Case for Capacity Building and the Evidence to Support it. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2004.

McKinsey & Company, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, Prepared for Venture Philanthropy Partners, 2001.

About the Author
Lilya Wagner is vice president for philanthropy at Counterpart International and was formerly with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
You may contact the author at: lwagner@counterpart.orgl

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dollar3Nonprofits—including community and faith-based organizations and Tribal organizations—are invited to compete for grants of up to $50,000 through Health and Human Services’ Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) Targeted Capacity Building Program. All the information necessary to apply for these grants can be found here.

CCF Targeted Capacity Building grants are awarded to grassroots faith-based and community organizations serving distressed communities. These grassroots organizations must use the funds in one of the four social service priority areas of need (e.g., at-risk youth, homelessness, healthy marriage, or rural communities) toward their organization’s capacity building in at least one of five critical areas of capacity building: (1) leadership development, (2) organizational development, (3) program development, (4) revenue development strategies, and (5) community engagement.

The Office of Community Services anticipates awarding a total of $10 million in grants to approximately 200 organizations. The application deadline is April 10.

Questions should be directed to:
Barbara Ziegler-Johnson. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Operation Center. Compassion Capital Fund Demonstration Program. 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 100, Arlington , VA 22209. Phone: 800-281-9519

Again, information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

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