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Capacity Building for Planning

Succession Planning

Some nonprofits have strong programs and activities but no leadership succession plan. For a nonprofit in that position, succession planning is key to protecting and prolonging its effectiveness, and thus is a critical step in its capacity building journey. For more on board and staff succession planning, visit the Council of Nonprofits’ resources on Leadership.

Grantmakers can play a critical role in helping nonprofits during a transition of leadership. Read: Philanthropy’s Role in Succession Planning: How Funders Can Assist Grantee Organizations in Preparing for Leadership Change, and review several case studies demonstrating how funders have assisted nonprofits with capacity building to prepare them for leadership succession and transition. What if? Be prepared. Use this sample Emergency Succession Plan as a template for designing an appropriate leadership transition plan for your organization to use in an emergency. Having one now is better than scrambling to pick up the pieces in an emergency.

Capital Projects

More room means more capacity, right? Actually, perhaps not. Before launching a building expansion or planning for a capital campaign project, make sure your nonprofit has the needed capacity to bring the project to fruition and sustain the expansion responsibly. Review this detailed planning guide, Facility Expansion & Renovation Planning for Capital Projects and Campaigns, that provides guidance on keeping capital projects on track.

Strategic Planning

No one has a crystal ball, but we do know that sustainability takes more than simply coming up with a strategic plan every few years. Helping your board constantly scan the horizon for future trends is an example of capacity building. Share this report with them: Convergence – How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector, by LaPiana Consulting (2009), for the James Irvine Foundation, that will convince you that all nonprofit leaders (and funders need to keep their eyes on future trends. Before launching into any future planning, review Lessons Learned: A Planning Toolsite offered by the National Endowment for the Arts, offers comprehensive guidance on planning from NEA’s experience administering planning grants for arts organizations.

Fund Development Planning

Many nonprofits struggle to prioritize activities because of limited resources. For such nonprofits, engaging a consultant for assistance designing a fund development plan, or exposing board members to training that raises their awareness about how critical it is for boards to become involved in fundraising, could make all the difference in catapulting that nonprofit into a position to make a powerful impact.

Business Plans

Every nonprofit needs a business plan to articulate how its revenue and expenses will result in sustainable operations. Thinking through ‘what if’ scenarios and adopting a business plan that addresses financial contingencies is an example of capacity building.

See the Council of Nonprofits' resources on business planning for nonprofits.

Review of Mission

Every few years it is appropriate for a nonprofit’s board to review the mission. "Are we still focused on what our mission describes?" "Have we strayed?" Perhaps the mission should be changed? Read Mission Possible: Improving Your Organization's Mission Statement for tips on how to tackle the task of reviewing your nonprofit’s mission.

Capacity building is most commonly pursued through training for staff and board leaders, but can also be achieved by partnering and networking in innovative ways such as through collaborations between funders, government, and nonprofits. Capacity building training, networking and referrals to consultants are regularly provided by State Associations of nonprofits. Joining your State Association of nonprofits offers your board and staff exposure to new ideas and proven solutions, best practices, and a cohort group at-the-ready to learn from.