EPIP DC Breakfast Club Recap - Partnering for Capacity Building

On June 16, 2016, EPIP DC members and friends gathered at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) to participate in the June Breakfast Club: “Partnering for Capacity Building.”  We were joined by Jamie Baxter, Program Director of the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, and Reginald Grant, Capacity Building and Training Specialist and Network Services/Executive Transitions Manager of Fair Chance, to learn about their respective experiences and lessons learned leading capacity building programs.

Strengthening the capacity and sustainability of an organization enables them to have a deeper, more meaningful impact in their respective communities.  In many situations organizations are more effective, are given a seat at the table, and can more meaningfully respond to issues as they arise.

The morning’s presentations and discussions were robust and informative.  Below are a few elements to consider if you are thinking of supporting a capacity building program.   

  • Readiness – Readiness is key. Capacity Building can be a very intensive process. An organization needs to be ready and open to the process, not strong-armed by a funder.
  • Trust – Trust between the facilitator and participating organization is critical, but will not be developed overnight.  It is essential that time is built into the schedule/timeline on the front end of the program for relationship and trust building.
  • Contextual – Taking a contextual approach means designing support tailored to meet the unique needs of nonprofits.
  • Listening & Sensitivity – An organization participating in a capacity building program is putting themselves and their organization in a vulnerable position so as to build a stronger, more resilient and impactful organization.  It is important that the facilitator and funder are sensitive to this dynamic in their approach and work with the participating organization.
  • Patience – Capacity Building involves modifications to many internal structures and thought processes that been in place for years – sometimes originating at its founding.  Change will not happen over night, so it is important to take a long-view approach.   
  • Risk Taking – In many regards, capacity building can be “risky” for the funder supporting the initiative and for the organization participating in the program. Despite the “risk” it can have significant reward when fully embraced with “right sized” expectations.

For further reading: http://www.geofunders.org/smarter-grantmaking/nonprofit-resilience/capacity-building 

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The Chesapeake Bay Funders Network’s Capacity Building Initiative is a 7 year, $5.8M initiative designed to strengthen the capacity of environmental grassroots organizations working in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  It was developed out of a recognized need for strong, sustainable organizations to implement the goals and objectives of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL signed by Executive Order by President Obama in 2009.

Established 15 years ago, Fair Chance strengthens the sustainability and performance of community-based nonprofits to better serve children and youth living in poverty.  Each year, Fair Chance selects approximately 10 new organizations to work closely with an assigned facilitator who tailors the work to the needs of the organization.  Fair Chance focuses on eight service areas: financial management and analysis, program evaluation and monitoring, strategic planning, board development, leadership development, communications and outreach, human resources, and fundraising.  On average, graduates of the program increase their revenue and number of youth served by 50%.