PMA Consulting, LLC

Capacity Building for Nonprofit Boards

What good is a nonprofit if it has no effective way to progress toward its missions? The single best step to ensuring success is through building organizational capacity. The following important questions should be considered when looking at capacity.

What are the characteristics of a good capacity building tool?

In order for a nonprofit to effectively evaluate its current capacity building efforts, the tool should ask five essential questions:

  1. What is our mission?
  2. Who is our customer?
  3. What does the customer value?
  4. What are our results?
  5. What is our plan?

The Drucker Self-Assessment Tool is one such process that addresses these questions succinctly. Drucker said, “To succeed in a turbulent and exacting environment, organization must focus on mission, demonstrate accountability and achieve results.”

What impact does capacity building have on the organization’s operations?

Capacity building impacts the organization’s culture as a whole from 4 different angles:

  1. Adaptive – ability to respond to change
  2. Leadership – ability to direct, inspire, lead
  3. Management – ability to manage resources effectively
  4. Technical – ability to implement key programming

What are some successful capacity building case studies?

Nonprofit Capacity Assessment: Indiana’s Arts and Culture Organizations (IAC), asked Indiana arts and cultural groups to identify their three most significant capacity building or technical assistance needs, and the best ways to address them. Key findings include:

  • 75 percent of Indiana arts and culture organizations report that most types of funding would be very helpful in addressing capacity building challenges, especially multi-year and general overhead funding.
  • 40 percent say interactions with peers are very helpful and 33 percent say the same about outside consultants or joint activities with other organizations.
  • Project or operations funding from IAC would be at least somewhat helpful (80 and 79 percent respectively).
  • The more an organization’s degree of focus is on arts and culture activities, the more severe are its challenges – to include enhancing visibility, attracting new members or clients, training/developing the board, and strategic planning.

An Analysis of Capacity Building in the Mid-Ohio Valley McDonough Center, Marietta College (2009):  An in-depth analysis of the capacity building opportunities and challenges for nonprofits in a specific region. Important because the report identified key capacity building barriers of:

  • Funding
  • Time
  • Geography
  • Prioritization by staff/ED/board
  • Resources