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

    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
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Examples of place-based funders collaborating to build capacity?

    We are a small family foundation funding in Dane County, Wisconsin, interested in collaborating more formally with other Dane County funders to elevate the effectiveness of our nonprofit sector. I am looking for examples of other collaborative efforts, namely place-based funders working together to: identify capacity needs, bring and/or develop learning opportunities for nonprofits, and evaluate capacity gains.

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

    GEOList Summary: Scholarships for Trainings and Conferences

    As part of our capacity building program, we would like to provide scholarships for our grantees to attend trainings and conferences (both local and out-of-town) focused on racial equity. From GEO members who do provide scholarships, I'd love to hear more of the details of your program.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • January 2019

Upcoming Events

  • Remote Learning and Webinars Members Only

    Grantmaker Guidebook Group: Program Officer Competency Model

    The Johnson Center for Philanthropy is developing a competency model for program officers, which details the competencies that program officers need to be effective in their work. In November 2018, the GEO Grantmaker Guidebook group hosted a call to review and give feedback on a draft of the model, which helped shape the content and approach to developing current version of the model. Continue to help shape the model by learning about work completed since the last call, reviewing a more complete version of the model, indicating competencies that may have been missed, or adding important considerations that enrich the recommendations. Join us for brief presentation by Michael Pratt and Teri Behrens on this work, followed by a rich group discussion to inform the next iteration of the model.

    • April 2019
  • Workshops

    Supporting Organizational Strengthening Workshop

    Whether you call it organizational strengthening or capacity building, supporting efforts to build and accelerate nimble, dynamic organizations that deliver measurable impact is one of the most important things grantmakers can do. Directly after GEO’s 2019 Learning Conference in Seattle, join your grantmaker peers for a highly interactive workshop to share and receive knowledge, tools and resources to strengthen your own organizational strengthening practice while connecting with peers working on similar issues. Throughout the workshop, we’ll go deep on a range of topics, questions and challenges that matter most to you and your work, like learning and evaluation, co-designing programs with nonprofits and communities, models for collaboration, working with consultants, integrating diversity, equity and inclusion, and more!

    • May 2019
  • Conferences

    2020 National Conference

    • 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.

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
Emily Wexler


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