What Is Your Foundation’s History of Grantee Capacity Building?

Even if you think the answer is “none,” don’t skip this reflection. Some foundations have capacitybuilding grantmaking explicitly in process, but many invest in it for years without actively naming it. “If you look back at our grant history, before we ever established a formal management assistance program 20 years ago, we were making grants to organizations to support organizational planning, fundraising, sometimes financial management,” says Rick Moyers, vice president of programs and communications at the Meyer Foundation. “Capacity building doesn’t usually just spring from nowhere.”

Look back and take stock of ways your foundation has supported capacity building — through grantmaking and otherwise. Has it been explicitly discussed and funded? Are there ways you have addressed it more implicitly, as an aspect of your foundation’s grantmaking? Do you as a professional bring experience with capacity building that can impact the future direction of your foundation’s grantee capacity-building efforts? Consider your responses to questions like these to get a sense of what capacity building has historically meant for your foundation and its staff.

You might also consider the extent to which your grantees think of you as a capacity-building funder. Do they know capacity-building support opportunities exist? Is your foundation communicating clearly its interests in capacity-building support? As one nonprofit put it, “Funders can state on their website an interest in building capacity. But it often takes a lot of digging into the funder’s giving history to discover they actually awarded a capacity grant.”

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.