Knowing Your Own Capacity

Sometimes foundations jump into grantee capacity-building without taking stock of their own internal capacity to undertake this work. Whether you are already making capacity-building investments or you are just getting started, periodically assessing your foundation’s own capacity to invest in grantee capacity building can help fortify your overall approach.

This section shares important questions that can help you consider your foundation’s capacity for supporting capacity building. It aggregates advice from interviewers designed to help you consider where your foundation is well positioned to build grantee capacity, and where its limited capacity might get in the way of what you’re trying to accomplish. Reflecting personally as well as foundation-wide is key, since individual funders can’t always control what happens organizationally. Instituting this type of reflective practice does not mean that funders should wait to invest in grantee capacity building until they “know all the answers” or have it all figured out. In fact, thinking one can know all the answers “brings the potential for more harm than good,” said several interviewees. More than one person reminded us, “Foundation staff, even those that have come from the nonprofit sector, don’t walk in grantees‘ shoes.” Beware of the temptation to standardize capacity-building practice too much. Think more about how as a funder you can become a more effective analyst. Being equipped to understand the unique variables each capacity-building grant brings — different contexts, organizational circumstances, leadership enthusiasm (or not), and so on — makes you more capable of balancing foundation and grantee interests. This means having a good handle on your own personal capacity, and being able to communicate that, internally and externally, which can make for more respectful interactions and partnerships with grantees.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Supporting Grantee Capacity.