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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

    Increase Your Impact: Invest in Nonprofit Staff

    In September, Fund the People announced the release of Fund the People Toolkit, a comprehensive guide for maximizing investing in the nonprofit workforce. The toolkit provides practical guidance, promising practices, and illustrative data on the value of talent-investing, and features six content areas: case making; how-to guides; field stories; building an inclusive workforce; discussion guides; and resources.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2017
  • Publication Members Only

    Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter?

    Through our research over the past 20 years, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has identified a set of grantmaker practices that help nonprofits achieve better results. Every three years, GEO conducts a study to help us understand how we are doing as a field, including trends over time as well as new areas of inquiry.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2017
  • Perspective

    We Are In This Together: A Letter to Philanthropy

    Hear directly from 9 nonprofit leaders what you can be doing to support your grantees in the most meaningful ways.

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

    GEOList Summary: Grants Applications - Targeted Questions for Specific Focus Areas

    We are currently looking to revamp our applications and reports with more targeted questions for our specific focus areas.

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

    GEOList Summary: Grantee Capacity Building

    We are interested in obtaining names of entities who could partner with us to identify gaps and opportunities to increase the capacity of our sector to work with their communities and serve their audiences.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2017

Upcoming Events

  • Conferences

    2018 National Conference

    Hosted in partnership with Philanthropy California, 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

    Bringing a Racial Equity Lens to Capacity Building

    Join us to discuss recent research that speaks to the systemic, institutional and individual biases at play in philanthropy. We will also hear from a nonprofit executive and a funder about efforts to bring a racial equity lens to capacity building along with the impact of those efforts.

    • January 2018

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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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