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What We Care About

Capacity Building

Grantmakers who put the work in to provide effective capacity-building support help ensure that nonprofits have what they need to deliver on their missions over the long term.

27%

of funders increased the total dollars for capacity building from 2011 – 2014

Strong programs exist in strong organizations, and the strongest nonprofits are adaptable and resilient. They have effective leaders, good financial management, the ability to collaborate with others, and the space to plan, executive and assess new strategies. Capacity building is what allows nonprofits to build these skills and expertise — and more — so that they have what it takes to tackle deep-rooted problems.

GEO defines capacity building as the funding and technical assistance to help nonprofits increase specific capacities to deliver stronger programs, take risks, build connections, innovate and iterate. There may not be one right way to go about this, but half-measures or overly prescriptive approaches can do more harm than good. Effective capacity building requires a high degree of trust between nonprofits and grantmakers. Before considering what types of support to provide, we need to have a deep understanding of what nonprofits would find most helpful and a clear picture of what other funders already offer. Grantmakers who put the work in to provide effective capacity-building support help ensure that nonprofits have what they need to deliver on their missions over the long term.

“We recognize that the only way we can achieve our mission and vision is if we have strong grantee partners.”

Paul Beaudet, executive director, Wilburforce Foundation

Helpful Tools and Resources

Stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field of philanthropy through GEO’s publications and research.

  • Perspective

    Capacity building, now more than ever

    At this moment, many nonprofits are facing greater fiscal uncertainty than ever before. Government funding is precarious, with budgets and priorities changing daily. However, nonprofits that have focused on capacity are faring better than most. With reserves, general operating funds, and partners with whom to collaborate, these organizations are better able to weather instability, continue providing essential services to their communities, and plan for the future.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2017
  • Perspective

    What we know for sure

    Often unprecedented circumstances seem to necessitate bigger or radically different strategies. But what I know for sure is that these keys to effective grantmaking — grantmaking that produces strong nonprofit results — endure in part because they are our strongest way forward.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017
  • Member Story

    Smarter Grantmaking in Action: Vancouver Foundation

    How Vancouver Foundation made progress by getting out of the way and supporting nonprofits to do the work.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: If and How You Assist Grantees in Identifying Qualified Board Members

    If you have helped grantees to identify and/or recruit board members, please share what you have done and what you have learned. What worked? What didn’t work as you hoped?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Insurance Billing Capacity

    We are considering developing a capacity building initiative to support a cohort of our health and social service grantees who have expressed an interest in developing (or expanding upon existing) billing systems for both public and private insurance. Do any of you have any experience with supporting individual grantees or groups of grantees in developing billing capacity, and if so, would you be willing to share your lessons learned as we explore how best to structure this opportunity?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017

Upcoming Events

  • Conferences

    2018 National Conference

    The 2018 National Conference will provide participants with the information, connections and experiences to continue improving and pursuing smarter grantmaking practices that positively impact nonprofit effectiveness.

    • April 2018
  • GEO in the Field

    A New Vision for Comprehensive Capacity Building

    This dynamic and comprehensive workshop will tackle the essential questions that drive the design of effective capacity building support.

    • September 2017
  • GEO in the Field

    A New Vision for Comprehensive Capacity Building

    This dynamic and comprehensive workshop will tackle the essential questions that drive the design of effective capacity building support.

    • September 2017

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

  • The CCAT is a leading tool for measuring a nonprofit’s organizational effectiveness in relation to four core capacities – leadership, adaptability, management, and technical – as well as organizational culture.

Related Topics

Strengthening Relationships

When we build trust and tap the knowledge and perspective of nonprofits and the communities we serve, we create better solutions.

Learn More

Flexible, Reliable Funding

When we provide funding that gives nonprofits space to innovate and the security to know our support is here for the long haul, they worry less about their own survival and focus more on responding to shifts in their environment and lifting up their communities.

Learn More
Amy Shields

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