Four Approaches to Capacity Building

September 28, 2010 at 9:09 am Leave a comment

In the most recent edition of OGF Connection, our quarterly print newsletter, we looked at four different approaches funders are using to build capacity among their grantees: building individual institutional capacity (JPMorgan Chase); building policy and advocacy capacity (The George Gund Foundation); building capacity for collaboration (The Dayton Foundation); and building communications capacity (Saint Luke’s Foundation). We’re excerpting a portion of the Conversations with Colleagues article here.

What is your foundation’s definition of capacity building?
Capacity building is simply helping an organization grow its ability to meet its mission or core goals. This can be done in many ways, including investments in human resources (both in-house or consultant), technology, budget innovation, restructuring and public policy reform that aids an organization’s clients or operations. The George Gund Foundation has long focused in particular on building the capacity of organizations to engage in policy advocacy.
Dave Abbott, The George Gund Foundation

Identifying organizations that are making an important impact – but the impact is limited by resource constraints – and helping them to address those resource constraints and expand their impact. Often the best ways to increase an organization’s capacity is by providing human capital and technical expertise, through volunteerism and board leadership, or by connecting the organization to potential collaborators in an effort to create new opportunities. Other times it’s just a matter of advocating on behalf of an organization that is doing great work – helping them tell their story to a new or broader set of constituents.
Jeff Lyttle, JPMorgan Chase

The Saint Luke’s Foundation funds capacity building projects in the following areas: evaluation; staff/board capability; strategic planning; technology; and communications. Communications happens to also be one of the four key strategies the Foundation uses to accomplish its mission and achieve its vision. As a key organizational strategy, the Foundation has prioritized staff time and grant dollars on supporting projects that help build nonprofits’ capacity to tell their story. Why include communications on the list? Quite simply, because we’ve heard time and time again that our partners have great stories to tell, but they don’t always tell them in a way that makes them “stick” in people’s minds. That’s why we launched the “Make it Stick!” grant program earlier this year where nonprofits can apply for financial support of communications programs, projects and materials.
Kim St. John-Stevenson, Saint Luke’s Foundation

The Dayton Foundation’s tag line is “We Help You Help Others…” And so, naturally, our definition of capacity building is helping nonprofit organizations enhance their effectiveness as they help others in our community. We engage and challenge our nonprofit partners to think innovatively and collaboratively about what they need as they work towards their mission. In the greater construct, our community’s fabric of services is further strengthened when the capacity issue is raised over and above grant support. Specific activities include the Nonprofit Alliance Support Program (NASP) that offers technical assistance, via a consultant, to help nonprofit organizations explore partnerships, collaborations or mergers with other nonprofit organizations.
Mike Parks, The Dayton Foundation

Let us know if your organization has capacity building activities underway.

Entry filed under: Grantmaking.

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