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.

  • Perspective

    Cross-post: An eye towards the future: Trust-based funding

    In this cross-post from the inaugural fellow at The Patterson Foundation, Hannah Saeger Karnei, she explores her experience learning about the Ford Foundation's BUILD program.

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

    GEOList Summary: Capacity Building Grants-Grants Committee or not?

    We are planning the launch of a new mission acceleration grants program- grants for capacity building/TA. For our previous capacity building grantmaking, the Nonprofit Leadership and Effectiveness staff have made the funding decisions. It has been suggested that we form a grants committee to make these decisions. I have some concerns regarding this approach for these types of grants. Is anyone using a grants committee for capacity building grants? I’m curious to know how it structured including the types of folks that serve on the committee. Thanks in advance for any information or insights that you can provide.

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

    GEOList Summary: Structuring Capacity-Building Functions

    Hi GEO community-- The Sobrato Family Foundation team is interested in learning about how foundations have structured their capacity-building grantmaking. Do you have a separate team (which partners with program teams) to manage grants to improve grantee capacity? Or does the program team manage the grants themselves, with a capacity-building team as a resource to support and advise these decisions? We’re interested in learning about the range of ways this support is structured within foundations, so would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Thanks in advance,

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

    GEOList Summary: 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

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    In the social sector, calls are growing for greater attention and resources for self- and collective care within organizations and movements. Limited resources for nonprofits and a difficult political climate increase risks of conflict, stress, burnout, and trauma, ultimately affecting organizational strength and capacity to foster social change. In this upcoming member call, we will explore the role of the philanthropic community in supporting the wellbeing and resilience of grantee partners.

    • February 2020
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    • April 2020

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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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Nichole Hoeflich


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