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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: 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
  • 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

Upcoming Events

  • Remote Learning and Webinars

    2/20/19 Change Leaders in Philanthropy Informational Webinar

    Join us to learn more about the Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellowship, a 10-month peer cohort program for senior leaders who are responsible for developing and shepherding key change efforts in their organizations. We will provide an overview of the program’s structure and goals, as well as an opportunity for you to hear and learn directly from program facilitators and current cohort participants.

    • February 2019
  • Member Calls

    GEO Member Call: Capacity Building Collaboratives

    Join FSG and GEO as we discuss the release of our new toolkit Engaging Boards and Trustees in Strategic Learning. The toolkit provides resources for grantmaker CEOs, evaluation staff and senior leaders to use to engage their boards and trustees in conversations about the importance of strategic learning in their decision-making and deliberation processes. During this webinar, we will explore some of these resources and hear from Hallie Preskill (FSG), Kevin Walker (Northwest Area Foundation), and Hanh Cao Yu (The California Endowment) who have worked to deepen learning with their boards and trustees.

    • March 2019
  • Remote Learning and Webinars

    3/14/19 Change Leaders in Philanthropy Informational Webinar

    Join us to learn more about the Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellowship, a 10-month peer cohort program for senior leaders who are responsible for developing and shepherding key change efforts in their organizations. We will provide an overview of the program’s structure and goals, as well as an opportunity for you to hear and learn directly from program facilitators and current cohort participants.

    • March 2019

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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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