Capacity building can carry many different meanings, but at its heart, it represents an investment aimed at strengthening effectiveness. This special collection gathers the experience and insights of foundations and nonprofits who have made just this kind of investment. The collection builds on topics explored in the new GrantCraft guide "Supporting Grantee Capacity", including approaches to field-building, working with technical assistance providers and consultants, and assessing the impact of capacity building initiatives.

Search this collection

Clear all

141 results found

reorder grid_view

Cricket Island Foundation: A Case Study of a Small Foundation’s Impact Assessment

June 1, 2018

In 2015, the Cricket Island Foundation conducted a multimethod assessment of its grantmaking portfolio to examine its impact and inform future decision-making and strategy. The foundation, which supports youth-led social change using a cohort-based model, focuses on emerging and medium-sized organizations and provides capacity-building supports to help organizations achieve greater organizational sustainability. The assessment focused on two of the foundation's three cohorts and found positive trends in five key areas of desired impact: organizational capacity, youth leadership, nonprofit executive leadership, grantee collaboration and learning, and funder policy and practice. The assessment also identified areas for improvement to strengthen future impact, and prompted a review and update of the foundation's ongoing protocols for tracking its progress. This article will explore what was learned from a model of providing long-term capacity-building investments to grassroots organizations, and discuss the ways in which even small foundations can implement meaningful assessment protocols while minimizing data-collection burdens on grantee partners.

Partner-Centered Evaluation Capacity Building: Findings From a Corporate Social Impact Initiative

June 1, 2018

Funders can play a proactive role in helping to fill the gap between funders' expectations and nonprofits' ability to evaluate grant results. Using a partner-centered design, Johnson & Johnson piloted an evaluation capacity-building initiative that supported eight grantees in strengthening their ability to measure and use findings concerning health-related outcomes, by focusing on key evaluation challenges identified by the grantees. Grantees' approaches to capacity building naturally grouped around the areas of evaluation- framework development, data-systems strengthening, and staff training. Through individualized projects, grantees increased their ability to both do and use evaluation. This article describes the design, implementation, and results of a participatory, nonprofit-partner-centered evaluation capacity- building initiative, and shares learnings from the perspectives of both the corporate funder and the nonprofit participants.

Resiliency Guide, Version 3.0

March 26, 2018

The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation has a strong commitment to building and scaling organizations capable of continuing to achieve results after the Foundation's sunset in 2020. The Resiliency Guide is an aid for Foundation staff and grantees as they assess an organization's ability to adapt and achieve long-term success in a dynamic context.The Guide begins with a one-page checklist of factors that contribute to organizational resiliency. This checklist caninform conversations and illuminate areas of strength as well as areas that may benefit from additional attention.As a tool for grantmakers, it can help deepen thinking about where, when, and how to invest in capacity building.Plus, conversations with grantees about the dimensions of resiliency can help their organizations prepare foreventual independence from grant funding.

More than Grants: How Funders Can Support Grantee Effectiveness

December 14, 2017

Trusts and foundations are increasingly looking to become agents of social change themselves as well as funders of it—asking themselves whether providing more than direct services might make more of a difference. Two common ways that funders do this are through providing support to help organisations develop their capacity, and by using a funder's influence to advocate for change. Here we focus on the former, looking at organisational development support provided by funders from around the world—exploring the types of support given, the evidence for whether it works, and how funders can approach impact measurement.

More than Grants: How Funders Can Use Their Influence for Good

December 14, 2017

Trusts and foundations are increasingly looking to become agents of social change themselves as well as funders of it—asking themselves whether providing more than direct services might make more of a difference. Two common ways that funders do this are through providing support to help organisations develop their capacity, and by using a funder's influence to advocate for change. Here we focus on the latter, looking at influencing practices of funders from around the world—exploring the methods that these take, the evidence for whether it works and how funders can approach impact measurement.

The Missing Link for Maximizing Impact: Foundations Assessing Their Capacity

June 30, 2017

A rapidly changing, global sociopolitical environment requires foundations to be nimble in maximizing opportunities to advance their agendas. At the same time, grantmakers are establishing ever more ambitious goals that often require grantees to function at peak capacity. Why, then, have more foundations not assessed their own institutional capacity? This article discusses an assessment of 54 foundations that participated in taking a new tool, developed for funders by TCC Group, to explore five core capacity areas shown to be central to organizational effectiveness. The Foundation Core Capacity Assessment Tool's findings should not be seen as a report card, but rather a data-driven prompt for reflection and collective learning. While a diverse set of funders participated in this assessment, a larger pool will be needed to make broader statements about sectorwide trends. Nonetheless, the preliminary findings shared in this article do offer an unprecedented first look at how foundations are holistically assessing their institutional capacity as part of their efforts to maximize impact at a critical point in history.

A Community Foundation’s Experience Implementing and Evaluating General Operating Support

June 30, 2017

In 2013, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving began to offer unrestricted general operating support grants in response to grantees' expressed need. The foundation hired Technical Development Corp., a Boston consulting firm, to evaluate the process and implementation. This article shares early indicators of the impact of the new grantmaking approach on both grantees and the foundation. Grantee outcomes include enhanced infrastructure and financial health, continued progress on strategic plan goals, and more creative thinking about programs. Beyond the adoption of a new funding option, the decision led the foundation to modify its overall grantmaking process. The greatest challenge – which appears to be a factor across the sector – has been determining how best to capture the impact of the investment for grantees. Partnering from the outset provided data that helped both the foundation and TDC to assess the benefits of general operating support.

Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool

May 2, 2017

This self-assessment tool for non-profit organizations was developed by the Marguerite Casey Foundation to help organizations understand their current capacity and map out goals for improvement based on four key areas crucial to success, based on The Conservation Company's Capacity Assessment Grid: Leadership, Adaptive, Management, and Operational capacity. The tool provides instructions for filling out the form as well as calculations that provide a score to benchmark progress toward improvement. Results from the assessment can also help grantmakers deepen their understanding of the current capacity of their grantees as well as track their growth in capacity over time.

Field-Building; Research & Evaluation Capacity

The Metrics Café: A Guide to Bring Funders and Grantees to the Table

April 1, 2017

The Metrics Café from MIT's D-Lab offers a user-friendly, light-hearted take on understanding how metrics can be selected by funders and grantees. The guide likens metrics selection to meal formats, offering case examples and tips on when and how to use the four approaches: Prix Fixe: All grantees report on the same set of standard metrics. À La Carte: Grantees choose from a menu of standard metrics. Made to Order: Funder and grantee work together to come up with a set of metrics. Bring Your Own Lunch: Grantees come with their own metrics.

As You Sow, So Shall You Reap? Evaluating Whether Targeted Capacity Building Improves Nonprofit Financial Growth

November 11, 2016

Foundations' capacity‐building grant programs strive to bolster performance and outcomes for their nonprofit grantees. Yet with few outcome evaluations of such programs, we have limited understanding of whether these capacity‐building efforts achieve their intended result. This study evaluates fifteen years of data for one foundation's capacity‐building grant program to understand whether targeted capacity building for financial management and development contributes to nonprofit financial growth. The authors examine the management–performance link in this context and inform sector leaders who dedicate resources to capacity‐building programs about the outcomes of these efforts.

Stronger Nonprofits, Stronger Communities

June 27, 2016

The nonprofit sector is a vital partner in building healthy, vibrant, stable communities where businesses and people can be successful. Across the nation, local nonprofit organizations are working every day to strengthen communities, provide critical services, and advance the causes of equality and opportunity for all.

The Unified Outcomes Project: Evaluation Capacity Building, Communities of Practice, and Evaluation Coaching

March 1, 2016

Increased accountability from foundations has created a culture in which nonprofits, with limited resources and a range of reporting protocols from multiple funders, struggle to meet data-reporting expectations. Responding to this, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in partnership with the Chicago Tribune launched the Unified Outcomes Project, an 18-month evaluation capacity-building project. The project focused on increasing grantees' capacity to report outcome measures and utilize this evidence for program improvement, while streamlining the number of tools being used to collect data among cohort members. It utilized a model that emphasized communities of practice, evaluation coaching, and collaboration between the foundation and 29 grantees to affect evaluation outcomes across grantee contexts. This article highlights the project's background, activities, and outcomes, and its findings suggest that the majority of participating grantees benefited from their participation – in particular those that received evaluation coaching. This article also discusses obstacles encountered by the grantees and lessons learned.