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

    Joint Statement Calling for Increased Giving In This Time of Crisis

    Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. The challenges that we are collectively facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are changing the face of our societies here at home and across the globe. We’re all doing things we never imagined doing, but we’re doing them in the interest of the greater good.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2020
  • Perspective

    A Note from GEO CEO, Marcus Walton, on COVID-19

    The global COVID-19 outbreak being felt here and across the world is forcing philanthropy to reconsider our practices to be more responsive to nonprofits and communities. GEO CEO, Marcus Walton, shares his perspective on the evolving situation.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2020
  • 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

Upcoming Events

  • Remote Learning and Webinars

    Response, Recovery, Resiliency: What Nonprofits Need From Grantmakers During the COVID-19 Crisis

    Join GEO and the Nonprofit Finance Fund for this webinar designed to help funders make sense of their role by understanding the different needs and opportunities in providing immediate response funding that enables organizations to survey and recovery funding that accelerates their path back. Participants will be challenged to consider how our actions now can lay the groundwork for a more resilient future in which nonprofits and funders forge relationships based on mutual trust and a shared commitment to center equity as we rebuild our nonprofit sector.

    • April 2020
  • Conferences

    CANCELLED: 2020 National Conference

    Hosted in partnership with Philanthropy Massachusetts, the 2020 National Conference provides participants with information, connections and experiences to continue improving and pursuing smarter grantmaking practices that positively impact nonprofit effectiveness.

    • April 2020
  • Remote Learning and Webinars

    Save the date: Fall 2020 Remote Learning Series

    • September 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.

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
Nichole Hoeflich


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