Nonprofit capacity building is the process of developing an organization’s strength and sustainability. More than just important, it’s essential for your nonprofit’s health and longevity. Capacity building enables you to focus on your mission — not simply on survival. With capacity building, you’ll maintain focus and determine the best ways to deliver your vision and mission.

The Nonprofit Lifecycle

We support Susan Kenny Stevens’ theory that healthy non-profit organizations go through a lifecycle from startup to maturity. We will work with your organization to assess where it is in its life cycle and where improvements are needed.

We work with non-profit organizations to help them assess their stage of development in five critical areas and determine how to build capacity in each area to ensure they reach and sustain maturity. Below are some critical questions that support diagnosis.

  • Programs—How well are they organized? Are they fulfilling the organizations mission? Do they meet the needs of the people they want to serve?
  • Management—Does the executive director exhibit strong leadership qualities? Is the leadership team aligned? How well does the staff support the work of the organization and manage their responsibilities?
  • Governance—Does the board understand and fulfill its legal and fiduciary responsibilities? Is it representative of the community it serves? Are there bylaws that guide board structure?
  • Resources—Is there a diversified appropriate balance between earned and unearned income? Are there sufficient sources of income to ensure sustainability? Are the resources expended in a way that best supports the mission of the organization?
  • Systems—Are there appropriate bookkeeping systems in place to ensure the finances are well managed? Do the communication systems ensure that necessary information is disseminated to staff and to other key stakeholders? Are the personnel policies sufficient and effective?

Capacity Building Services

We work with nonprofit boards and executive leadership to build capacity in the following areas:

Mission, Vision, and, Strategy

  • Strategic Planning
  • Organizational Planning
  • System Engagement in Planning

Governance and Leadership

  • Leadership Coaching and Development
  • Board Training and Development
  • Succession Planning

Strategic Relationships

  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Joint Ventures

Resource Development

  • Fund Development
  • Business Planning for Revenue Generation
  • Donor Recognition

Service delivery

  • Program Design and Development
  • Outcomes Measurement
  • Program Evaluation

One Client’s Nonprofit Capacity Building Story

The Client: A small social service nonprofit organization providing a variety of safety net services to its community.

The Challenge: When the founder who served as the executive director for 20 years suddenly died, the Board was at a loss as to how to keep the organization running. The Board was made up of well-meaning local residents with little or no other experience serving on boards. Their basic role had been to “rubber-stamp” whatever the trusted founder put in front of them, and they had very limited knowledge of the overall operation. They did not really understand that many of their critical areas were still in the “start-up” lifecycle stage.

The Process: We were engaged to help the Board grapple with their current situation and determine next steps for ensuring the agency did not go under. Our work included educating them on the lifecycle of non-profits and supporting their assessment of their lifecycle stage in each of the five critical areas. We also provided training on Board roles and responsibilities. They embraced these new concepts and committed to stabilizing the organization. The board developed a short-term transition plan.

Results after Six Months

  • Programs–Developed community needs assessment and began eliminating non-essential programs
  • Management–Drafted job descriptions for leadership, staff, and volunteers and hired interim executive director
  • Governance–Updated bylaws and put committee structure in place
  • Resources–Created financial reporting procedures and drafted a development plan to help ensure greater financial sustainability
  • Systems–Began documenting improved personnel and communication procedures

To learn more about our approach to change, see these related topics: