Over the years, in our roles as staff at Community Wealth Partners, we’ve spoken and worked with hundreds of Black, Indigenous, and other BIPOC nonprofit leaders. They’ve consistently told us that current capacity-building approaches often miss the mark—or worse, contribute to inequities in the sector.

But they’ve also shown us what it looks like—and what impact is possible—when they get the capacity-building support they need. Below, we share their insights, alongside direct quotes from focus groups and interviews we’ve facilitated on behalf of funders who want to support BIPOC-led organizations.

National data reinforce the urgent need to shift capacity-building practice. A 2022 Nonprofit Finance Fund survey shows that compared to BIPOC-led nonprofits, white-led nonprofits received more unrestricted funds (15 percent more), more federal funding (14 percent), and more corporate funding (13 percent more). Meanwhile, more BIPOC leaders bring lived experience representative of the communities they serve than white leaders (39 percent more). Although funders are increasingly trying to support these nonprofits and deepen their own focus on racial equity, a Center for Effective Philanthropy survey shows that one third of interviewed nonprofit leaders said funder actions on racial equity didn’t match their rhetoric.

It’s time to act. It’s time to adopt capacity-building approaches that leaders of color say will actually help. Below are three basic principles to guide these efforts.

Principle 1: There’s no one right way for nonprofits to be effective. Capacity building is about supporting nonprofits to choose and invest in how they want to change. 

Principle 2: Capacity is built through unrestricted funding paired with long-term, tailored supports.

Principle 3: Capacity building requires change not only at the individual and organizational level, but also in the ecosystem as a whole.

Read the full article about supporting leaders of color by Carla Taylor, Megan Coolidge, and Lauri Valerio at Nonprofit Quarterly.