Capacity building is a major topic among not-for-profit
organizations and organizations that provide services to
not-for-profits. In fact, a recent survey by Paul Light, of the
Brookings Institute, found that those organizations with increased
organizational effectiveness showed an increase in funding.
But what is capacity building? Capacity building
in not-for-profits is similar to organization development,
organizational effectiveness, or organizational performance
management. Capacity-building efforts include strategic planning;
defining business goals and objectives; and identifying areas for
operational improvement in grant management, fund development,
marketing, training and development sessions, coaching, and
collaboration with other not-for-profits.
Capacity building begins with an assessment to determine strengths
and areas that need improvement. This enables an organization to
identify its priorities for strengthening or expanding management
Recently, a group of organization development consultants engaged
with the Center for Non-Profit Effectiveness (C-One), an agency
supported by the Health Foundation of South Florida to serve
not-for-profit healthcare agencies in South Florida. The purpose of
this initiative was to improve the management and operational
effectiveness of selected health-related organizations in
The Organizational Effectiveness Initiative (IOE) was a yearlong
capacity-building effort implemented by C-One and supported by the
Health Foundation of South Florida. Thirty-three health care
organizations participated in the initiative. The average age of
the IOE organizations is more than 20 years, with an average budget
in excess of $10 million dollars.
The project had four phases: planning and selection, assessment,
operational planning 1, and operational planning 2.
Planning and Selection
C-One worked with several consultants to design an assessment
instrument that would provide organizations with insight into their
The two main deliverables of the planning phase were to
- identify an assessment tool and process for IOE participants
- recruit and select up to 40 health-related organizations to participate in the IOE.
An OD consultant met with each organization's executive team to
debrief them on the data from the assessment tool developed in the
first phase. Each organization received a personalized report with
a summary of the data as well as the consultant's feedback report
Operations Planning 1
The third phase involved meeting with each organization to help it
develop operational goals and objectives. The planning was very
complex, depending on the operational needs of the organization.
The organizations' requests included support for conducting a
strategic plan prior to working on their operational improvement
plan. OD technical specialists met with the organizations to
identify actions for improvement.
Operations Planning 2
During this stage, OD consultants reviewed the operational plans.
Their recommendations on the quality of the plans were given to
C-One. This provided guidance to the Health Foundation of South
Florida as to which organizations were eligible for future grant
funding for operational improvement.
What Was the Impact?
With clearer directions and a sense of their needs to improve
performance, organizations have clearer goals for the future.
The majority of organizations realized the need to improve IT
systems, provide employees with computers and updated software,
improve marketing and fund-raising efforts, provide board
governance, identify succession planning for the executive team,
improve recruitment and retention for employee satisfaction, and
provide leadership development.
Ten organizations were selected to participate in the next
grant-funding phase from Health Foundation of South Florida. Once
the funding has been awarded, the OD consultants will provide
assistance to help implement the operational improvement plans.