Capacity Building: What is Capacity Building?

As part of our 2019-2023 strategic plan, we have codified Capacity Building as one of our four focus areas over the next five years.  As Program Officer of the Foundation’s Community Responsive Grants, I’m also tasked with overseeing our Capacity Building Investments – and I’m often asked, “what does capacity building mean?”

If you Googled “what is nonprofit capacity building” you’d find a number of different answers – “an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit” (National Council of Nonprofits); “the process of developing an organization's strength and sustainability” (MissionBox); “improving effectiveness, often at the organizational level” (GrantCraft); “building the competency, the capability, the bandwidth of organizations and their staffs” (The Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University).  Even though these answers are all different, they highlight some of the same aspects – effectiveness and sustainability.

Capacity building grants usually cover one-time expenses aimed at strengthening an organization’s operations, management, or governance to further enhance its effectiveness or sustainability.

Capacity building grants don’t have to be large dollar amounts.  We’ve supported opportunities for strategic planning, program evaluation, and board development, each with a grant for under $10,000.

At the Foundation we recognize that our work relies on partnerships with strong local organizations.  We believe investing in an organization to improve its internal operations is two-fold: it enhances that organization’s ability to offer high-quality programs and services to the people we all care about, and it helps the Foundation to advance our mission of the improving health of people in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

If you’d like to talk about any capacity building needs your organization may have, please don’t be afraid to reach out to me.

Jeff Smith
Program Officer

Examples of capacity building grants include:

  • evaluation of program effectiveness
  • board or staff development
  • succession or strategic planning
  • fundraising, communications, and technology
  • executive transitions
  • other well-defined projects that invest in an organization’s ability to effectively and sustainably fulfill its mission

Capacity building “is not just about the capacity of a nonprofit today — it’s about the nonprofit’s ability to deliver its mission effectively now and in the future. Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit.”

The National Council of Nonprofits