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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.

  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Shared, back-office services models for small nonprofits

    We are exploring the possibility of co-funding shared, back-office services for a group of mutual grantees (shared-services is essentially pooling and “outsourcing” administrative functions to alleviate the burden on small-staff and emerging nonprofits). We’d like to hear from other grantmakers who have successfully funded this type of work for their communities. Specifically, has anyone identified and funded a suite of services like HR or bookkeeping, to build the capacity of their emerging nonprofits? If so, what was your experience like? What did you consider in the evaluation process? Or, if you’ve developed your own shared-services model as part of your broader capacity building work, how did you go about this?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • October 2018
  • Related Materials Members Only

    GEO’s Resources on Capacity Building and Leadership Development

    In your first year of GEO membership, to help you stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field, we'll point you to GEO's publications, research and peer conversations. Below, find some of GEO’s tools and resources on learning and evaluation. We hope these are helpful as you explore how GEO can support your work.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2018
  • Perspective

    Cross-post: Finding—and Using—the Right Tool for the Job

    Organizational assessment tools can be used to gauge an organization’s strategic focus, leadership, governance, human resource capacity, financial and fundraising structure, and learning and evaluation ability. The Hewlett Foundation commissioned a scan to discover which tools are available, and how these tools can be most effectively used.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2018
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Grantee Evaluation/Data Infrastructure Funding

    Hello GEO Members, The McGregor Fund is interested in hearing from other funders that offer grants (either in addition to programmatic funding, or as stand-alone grants) for grantee evaluation capacity and/or data infrastructure. These grants might support evaluation consultants, or experts in data management or data system acquisition. They might support training to strengthen grantee data collection, evaluation, or performance measurement. In my scan of GEO archives and the web so far, I have found numerous foundations that fund research, or evaluation of the impact of their funding, and some who fund IT infrastructure, but less that are focused on building grantee capacity to better manage and use their data to inform programmatic and strategic decision-making. If you know of any funders that do this, or do something similar yourself, I would love to hear from you, and am curious about how these grant opportunities are assessed by staff, and any reflections on the value of these grants.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Event Materials Members Only

    2018 National Conference Discussion Guide: The GEO Community at 20

    Over the last 20 years, the GEO community has worked to transform a desire for results into real improvements by creating spaces where grantmakers learn together and use that learning to drive concrete changes in the way grantmaking work gets done. As a field, we've made progress. And, as we continue learning together, our understanding of effective philanthropy evolves.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • June 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.

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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.

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Emily Wexler

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