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.


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

    Funding Smaller Capital Projects and Deferred Maintenance

    Hello GEO Community! We are looking for examples of foundations with deferred maintenance and other capital funds – not major capital grants, but things like software upgrades, IT and other important equipment replacements, facilities repairs and maintenance, etc. Some examples of projects that exemplify the type of funding we’re wondering about are: replacing all the carpeting at a community health center and buying new commercial washers/dryers for a transitional shelter. But we are interested in foundations that might set aside funds for annual grants such as these to existing grantees and wondered if there were other foundations out there doing this and if they did it via RFP or other procedure. Thank you for any advice!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • June 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Curated Capacity Building Resources

    Dear GEO Community, The Packard Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness Program (OE) is interested in learning about capacity building resources that provide assistance in matching organizations with 1) the trainings, tools, or consultants that are most relevant for them, or 2) with peers who have lived experience on capacity building topics. We are especially interested in resources that include: • crowdsourcing from nonprofits who have used the tools, consultants, or trainings prior • successful peer support functions where leaders are connected with other leaders with similar capacity building interests or experiences • a central navigator/guide/curator who provides support in navigating what resources could be most useful.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • May 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Program Design for Racial Equity Peer Cohorts

    ACT for Alexandria, a community foundation in Alexandria, VA, is developing a capacity building cohort focused on racial equity for nonprofit leaders in our community. We are curious about any of your experiences with similar initiatives.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2019
  • Perspective

    Cross-post: The Audacity of Building Capacity

    Healthcare Georgia Foundation supports and funds capacity building. Learn more about how this approach helps the foundation advance the health of all Georgians.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: North Texas Poverty Alleviation Taskforce, Capacity Building

    Who funds poverty-related issues like human services, community health, access to education, workforce, food security etc. around Dallas County? Related, are there organizations you fund who do good and effective work in these areas, create impact, and could benefit from technical assistance to build fundraising capacity?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2019

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

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  • 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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