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Topical Resource Lists

Capacity Building for Nonprofit Organizations:
A Resource List

Increasingly, foundations are providing grants to help nonprofit organizations carry out their missions more effectively. A wealth of literature has emerged as experts examine the impact of capacity building programs and well as grantmaker efforts in the field. This resource list contains citations to selected works from the Foundation Center's bibliographic database, Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, for grantmakers and nonprofits interested in learning more about capacity building. For complete bibliographies on related topics, search the Catalog of Nonprofit Literature using the phrase "capacity building" or browse by call number 608.

General Guidebooks

Blumenthal, Barbara. Investing in Capacity Building: A Guide to High-Impact Approaches. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2003. Call Number: 608 BLU.
Defining capacity building as "actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness," the author identifies these components of effectiveness: organizational and financial stability, program quality, and growth. Blumenthal developed the principles she elucidates by a review of research, evaluations of current programs, and interviews with foundations and consultants. The book provides guidance to both funders and nonprofits for developing strategies that work to enhance performance.

Brothers, John and Anne Sherman. Building Nonprofit Capacity: A Guide to Managing Change Through Organizational Lifecycles. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2011. Call Number: 608 BRO.
Intended for nonprofit executives and board members, this book helps leaders use lifecycles to effectively manage deliberate change processes, such as navigating a turnaround in a declining organization. Chapters examine the five lifecycle phases (start-up, growth, maturity, decline, turnaround) and include interviews with experts in the field as well as case studies. A concluding chapter summarizes key concepts and their application. Includes a board report card and sample cash flow statement.

Connolly, Paul M. Navigating the Organizational Lifecycle: A Capacity-Building Guide for Nonprofit Leaders. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2005. Call Number: 608 CON.
Connolly lays out the lifecycle stages as: start-up, adolescent, mature, stagnant, reversing stagnation, and defunct. For each stage he describes the associated characteristics--especially the role of the board--and illustrates with related case examples. Different aspects of capacity building are assessed, with recommendations for implementation. Connolly also suggests what outside sources of support are appropriate at various stages in the lifecycle.

Firstenberg, Paul B. Philanthropy's Challenge: Building Nonprofit Capacity Through Venture Grantmaking. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2003. Call Number: 408 FIR.
Firstenberg develops his ideas on venture grantmaking, explaining that the term in current usage defines a continuum of strategies, from intense grantmaker involvement to standard funding practices. One hallmark of venture funding, he notes, is investment in organizational capacity, not simply project support. He describes the process of venture grantmaking, providing numerous case examples, such as the Robin Hood Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and the program related investments of the Ford Foundation, among others. The second part of the book provides a blueprint for provision of technical assistance and other practical considerations for grantmakers. A final section analyses some of the implications of this newer model of giving.

Foundation Center. Grants for Capacity Building, Management & Technical Assistance. New York, NY: Foundation Center, annual.
This digital grant guide covers grants for capacity building, operational, and management assistance including: fundraising assistance, accounting, budgeting and financial planning, strategic and long-range planning, program planning and evaluation, legal advice, developing marketing plans, leadership development and staff training, hiring senior management staff or outside consultants, and general nonprofit management. Grants are indexed by recipient name, location, and subject.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Funding Effectiveness: Lessons in Building Nonprofit Capacity. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004. Call Number: 608 GEO.
Contents include: "Investing in Nonprofit Capacity" by Barbara D. Kibbe; "Flexible Frameworks for Organizational Effectiveness" by Kathleen P. Enright; "Setting Clear Goals with High Expectations" by Janine E. Lee; "Better Results Through Supportive Engagement" by Alexa Cortes Culwell, Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, and Sterling K. Speirn; "Cultivating a Culture of Measurement" by Melinda T. Tuan; and "Funding Effectiveness for the Long Haul" by Rick Cohen.

Stevens, Susan Kenny. Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity. Long Lake, MN: Stagewise Enterprises, Inc., 2001. Call Number: 608 STE.
A guidebook on capacity building that takes into account various stages of organizational development. Part 1 discusses the model and describes characteristics of each stage. Part 2 contains case studies that help nonprofit managers and board members identify key issues that may prevent nonprofits from reaching their potential. Part 3 explains how funders can design and evaluate capacity building programs using the lifecycle approach.

Surveys and Reports

Backer, Thomas E., Jane Ellen Bleeg, and Kathryn Groves. Exploring Foundation Financial Investments in Nonprofit Capacity Building. Encino, CA: Human Interaction Research Institute, 2006. Subject File: 418.
The researchers provide statistics related to the nature and characteristics of foundation financial investments based on recent surveys. In addition to these facts, they offer recommendations for future actions.

Connolly, Paul M. Deeper Capacity Building for Greater Impact: Designing a Long-Term Initiative to Strengthen a Set of Nonprofit Organizations. New York, NY: TCC Group, 2007. Subject File: 608. Also Online.
This briefing paper explains how grantmakers can plan, implement, and evaluate long-term capacity building programs. The document covers key decisions that grantmakers must make when developing capacity-building initiatives, including the duration of the initiative, the funder's role, the types of assistance to provide, and others.

Fortifying LA's Nonprofit Organizations: Capacity-Building Needs and Services in Los Angeles County. San Francisco, CA: TCC Group, 2010. Call Number: 608 TCC.
Highlights findings from a study of the capacity-building needs and resources of Los Angeles nonprofits that applied for or received funding from the Weingart Foundation between 2004 and 2009. The study assessed organizational strengths and challenges; capacity-building needs, as well as access to and experiences with capacity-building services; and the availability and types of capacity-building services available. Includes numerous exhibits.

Gleason, Sarah. Crossing Borders, Sharing Journeys: Effective Capacity Building With Immigrant and Refugee Groups. Saint Paul, MN: Fieldstone Alliance, 2006. Call Number: 608 GLE.
The final report on the Nexus Project, a two-year study convened to enhance the knowledge of North American capacity builders working with immigrant- and refugee-led organizations (IRLOs). The study found seven factors that contribute to effective capacity building with IRLOs, including relevant experience, cultural competence, and a client-centered approach. Contains a chapter of case studies from each of the capacity builders involved in the project.

Light, Paul C. Sustaining Nonprofit Performance: The Case for Capacity Building and the Evidence to Support It. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004. Call Number: 608 LIG.
The increased visibility of nonprofits, pressure to improve operations and efficiency, and greater demand for services has been a strain on the sector in recent years. This book's analysis is based on surveys of nonprofit leaders and ordinary Americans, as well as 25 case studies of nonprofits that are engaged in capacity building efforts, in part to respond to societal and funders' concerns. Light argues for "sustainable excellence."

Linnell, Deborah. Evaluation of Capacity Building: Lessons from the Field. Washington, DC: Alliance for Nonprofit Management, 2003. 82 p. Call Number: 608 LIN.
The author presents the results of her research, conducted to study of the status of evaluation of capacity building. Among other findings, she determined that evaluation of capacity building efforts has been primarily at the initiative of foundations grants. Several case studies are included.

Stutts, Nancy B. and Kevin W. Allison. Restringing Kites in Windstorms: Reflection on Capacity Building During Challenging Times. Petersburg, VA: Cameron Foundation, 2011. 25 p. Subject File: 608.
Results of a three-year documentation study of the development and implementation of the Cameron Foundation's capacity-building strategy. The organization is a young health legacy foundation in Petersburg, VA that provides regional support in the fields of human services, civic affairs, community and economic development, education, conservation and historic preservation, and cultural enrichment. Explains the fundamentals of organizational capacity and provides recommendations.

Case Studies

Draper, Lee. "Funder's Little Shop of Horrors: Misguided Attempts at Nonprofit Capacity Building." Foundation News & Commentary, vol. 46 (September-October 2005): p. 18-27.
Draper presents five case studies (nonprofit names are not divulged) that illustrate how funding of technical assistance can have unwanted consequences. Her analysis of the problems that occurred accompany each case study, along with her recommendations for better strategies.

Kearns, Kevin P. "Management-Capacity Building in the Pittsburgh Region." Nonprofit Management & Leadership, vol. 14 (Summer 2004): p. 437-452.
The article scrutinizes the work of the Forbes Funds (a supporting organization of the Pittsburgh Foundation) in developing a system of management support services for nonprofits in the Pittsburgh area.

Sobeck, Joanne, Elizabeth Agius, and Vanessa N. Mayers. "Supporting and Sustaining Grassroots Youth Organizations: The Case of New Detroit." Voluntas, vol. 18 (March 2007): p. 17-33.
The case study explores challenges New Detroit faced as the grantmaker sought to implement capacity-building initiatives at grassroots organizations without disrupting community relationships.

Strengthening Organizations to Mobilize Californians: Lessons Learned From A Major Initiative to Build the Capacity of Civic Engagement Nonprofits. San Francisco, CA: TCC Group, 2011. 17 p. Online.
Report provides insights and lessons learned from a statewide initiative that sought to help community-based nonprofits strengthen their organizations by focusing on leadership, decision-making, communication and fundraising. Includes a case study of the Center for Community Advocacy (Salinas, CA).


Boice, Jacklyn P. "Better Building Blocks." Advancing Philanthropy, vol. 50 (June 2005): p. 16-19.
Defines capacity building and argues for the importance of organizations to pay increased attention to this aspect of growth. The article profiles several funders that focus on grantmaking for capacity building efforts.

Blumenthal, Barbara. "Rethinking Capacity Building." Foundation News & Commentary, vol. 45 (May-June 2004): p. 42-6.
The role of consultants has proven to be critical in capacity building efforts, and the article suggests how to optimize their work with their nonprofit clients. The author uses the concept of "developmental consulting assistance" to describe an enhanced role for outside expertise.

Chandler, Susan. "Writing Proposals for Capacity Building." Grantsmanship Center Magazine, vol. 50 (Summer 2003): p. 21-2. Subject File Number: 770.
Provides examples of how grantmakers define "capacity building." Explains that such grants are not meant to save failing projects, but to make good programs even more effective. Provides advice on developing proposals for capacity building.

Cornforth, Chris and Jill Mordaunt. "Organisational Capacity Building: Understanding the Dilemmas for Foundations of Intervening in Small- and Medium-Size Charities." Voluntas, (September 2011): p. 428-49.
Focuses on the role of foundations in organizational capacity building in the third sector. Presents results of research into the Charities Aid Foundation’s (CAF) Grants Programme in the UK, which provides consultancy and financial support to help develop capacity of small- to medium-size charities. Finds that CAF’s approach could benefit by using a new model of “engaged” capacity building which offers support through a consultancy network that the foundation actively recruits, supports, and manages.

Draper, Lee. "When Capacity-Building Grants Flatline." Foundation News & Commentary, vol. 44 (May-June 2003): p. 28-34.
Advice for grantmakers when the grants they've given for capacity building efforts seem to fail. Includes several case examples, and how the funders reacted.

McCambridge, Ruth. "Capacity Building For What?" Nonprofit Quarterly, (Winter 2010): p. 6-11.
The author asserts the need for changes in the capacity-building field in order to reflect changing nonprofit structures. Includes insights based on a discussion with 60 capacity-building consultants.

Millesen, Judith L., Joanne G. Carman and Angela L. Bies. "Why Engage? Understanding the Incentive to Build Nonprofit Capacity." Nonprofit Management & Leadership, (Fall 2010): p. 5-20.
The authors assess the impact of organizational theory upon decisions to engage in efforts to improve organizational capacity.

Strong, Debra and Jung Kim. "Defining, Building, and Measuring Capacity: Findings From an Advocacy Evaluation." The Foundation Review, (Issue 1, 2012): p. 40-53.
This article reports on an evaluation of Consumer Voices for Coverage, a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that supports consumer health advocacy coalitions around the U.S. The evaluation measured the success of program-funded capacity building efforts in a variety of areas, including coalition building, generating grassroots support, and fundraising.

Wagner, Lilya D. "Why Capacity Building Matters and Why Nonprofits Ignore It." New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, vol. 40 (Summer 2003): p. 103-11.
In this essay directed to the nonprofit manager, Wagner outlines some of the barriers that discourage nonprofits from employing capacity building programs, and also details the transformative nature of the effort when it is enacted.

Web Sites

The GrantSpace Knowledge Base Article "Where can I find information on nonprofit capacity building?" includes numerous Internet resources on this topic. Below is a selection of staff picks and related sites.

Alliance for Nonprofit Management
A professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to improving the management and governance capacity of nonprofit organizations.

Center for Excellence in Nonprofits
The Center for Excellence in Nonprofits (CEN) in San Jose, California, provides the nonprofit community with leadership development and continuous improvement programs through its innovative Learning Community model. CEN's larger goal is to elevate a whole community of nonprofit organizations into the best-managed agencies in America.

CompassPoint Nonprofit Services
A nonprofit training, consulting, and research organization that provides nonprofits with the management tools, concepts, and strategies to increase their effectiveness and impact.

Fieldstone Alliance | Capacity Building
The Fieldstone Alliance provides an article defining capacity building and identifying those activities, such as leadership and fund development, that serve to strengthen nonprofits. The article also identifies types of providers of capacity support.

Free Management Library | Capacity Building
The Free Management Library introduces the concept of capacity building in nonprofits, including readings and perspectives on capacity building from numerous articles, as well as a review of various common functions in nonprofits.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations promotes and advocates for the use of philanthropic resources to advance nonprofit organizational effectiveness and accelerate the development, dissemination, and application of knowledge about best practices by and for philanthropy and nonprofits.

Innovation Network | Nonprofit Capacity Building
These resources for capacity building and organizational development span a wide range of subtopics, such as board development, fundraising and technology planning.
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