Historically, when looking for ways to maintain a program or an organization, philanthropy tends to focus exclusively on funding programmatic work. As we all know, this is essential to a well-functioning organization. However, if what the philanthropy community is really after -- and we should be -- is creating sustainable movements, we must broaden our scope. Moving an organization beyond surviving to thriving takes an extra step and an investment in capacity building.

Capacity building takes the focus of an organization’s success beyond how they can be successful today and carries it into the future. Investments in capacity building give organizations the space to learn, grow and fulfill their mission over time. When we make investments in capacity building, we are opening ourselves up to the big picture. We are seeing beyond the immediate needs of an organization or field and investing in an organization’s health and longevity.

Capacity building comes in many forms, including support around fundraising and development, organizational sustainability, financial management, leadership transition and development, strategic communications, legal services and much more. 
Here are just a few ways to create a strong organizational capacity:

  • Invest in leadership. Investing in strong leaders is investing in strong organizations. Moreover, when funders make investments in leadership a priority, it opens the conversation about who these leaders are.
  • Commit to the long game. It is important to remember that capacity building isn’t a one-and-done investment. Capacity building, just like any other kind of funding, must be revisited over time.
  • Don’t overlook the 'small' stuff. Investing in the administrative skills required to run organizations, such as financial management, project management and human resources support, may seem like an afterthought, but it’s those kinds of skills that allow organizations to rise to the next level.

Investing in organizational capacity translates into building entire fields and creates lasting movements. To create the movements we all want to see, we must view capacity building as a continuous and necessary tool in the long-term strategy.

Read the full article about capacity building by Michele Lord at Forbes.