It may be stating the obvious, but nonprofits are comprised of people – people with skills, expertise, and experience. Capacity building activities that improve an organization’s ability to achieve its mission necessarily involve the staff of the organization. Consequently, staff and board training to improve skills, evaluate gaps, evaluate needed policies and procedures, plan for the future, improve collaborative practices, and utilize new technologies, are all examples of capacity building.
Investing in leadership is an example of effective capacity building:
Leadership training for a nonprofit’s staff and board leadership is a prime example of critical capacity building activities. Coaching, peer-to-peer learning, cohort-based trainings, communities of practice, and "learning circles” are different models used to build the capacity of an organization’s leadership.
The Sustainability Formula: How Nonprofit Organizations Can Thrive in the Emerging Economy (TCC Group), argues that effective leadership is the strongest predictor of nonprofit sustainability, followed by fundraising/financial management, and program staffing and management.
Strongly Led, Under- Managed: How Can Visionary Nonprofits Make the Critical Transition to Stronger Management, (Daniel Stid and Jeffrey L. Bradach, Bridgespan) explains the tension between strong leadership and strong management.
An Analysis of Capacity Building in the Mid-Ohio Valley McDonough Center, Marietta College (2009), an in-depth analysis of the capacity building opportunities and challenges for nonprofits in a specific region. The report reviews what the barriers to capacity building are and offers recommendations for action including funding assistance and specific trainings to help build the capacity of the nonprofits.
Capacity Building for Nonprofits: A Hartford Example TCC Group (2008), gives excellent examples of how conducting an assessment of several groups’ core capacities and investments in which their capacity was challenged resulted in transformational outcomes.
A report prepared for the Lumpkin Family Foundation, Nonprofit Capacity and Community Building in Central Illinois (2006), describes the experience of one private foundation’s capacity building programs.
Lessons learned: Funders Little Shop of Horrors – Misguided Attempts at Nonprofit Capacity Building Foundation News and Commentary (2005).
An Analysis of the Pittsburgh Region’s Capacity-Building Industry: Who is Doing What for Whom and to What End, a report by the Forbes Funds (2004), identifies barriers to effective capacity building, as well as factors leading to leveraging capacity building into organizational change.
Capacity for specific functions, such as evaluating a nonprofit's effectiveness, may require specific types of training or tools. Read about what it takes to successfully build the capacity of a nonprofit to measure and manage performance outcomes. (Bridgespan)
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