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Giving Compass' Take:
• In this blog post, Beth Kanter discusses capacity building — improving organizational effectiveness through financing, consultants/technical assistance, and other methods — and whether we can get better data on how much it matters.
• The upshot is that capacity building in general does have an impact, but we need to improve the evidence-gathering to get into more specifics. What kinds of efforts should we focus on?
As a trainer and facilitator, the work I do with organizations and networks, often on behalf of a foundation for its grantees, is capacity building. But, like anything else, to improve results, you need to measure it. My colleague, Teresa Crawford, Executive Director at Social Sector Accelerator, a member of the Counterpart International Network, has been doing research on this topic:
Is it possible to effectively measure the impact such 'capacity building' services have? Do these services truly lead to a 'Capacity Dividend' — accelerating nonprofits’ ability to pursue their purpose? If so, what approaches lead to the greatest impact and under what conditions?
To answer the questions, they conducted a landscape analysis of existing research on the impacts of capacity building on organizational strength and social impact. They reviewed research from nearly 60 academic, think-tank, and thought leader sources published after 1990 and interviewed leading practitioners from both grant-makers and capacity building service providers. They also facilitated discussion with others funders that invest in capacity building.
What they discovered is that the existing research, both anecdotally and qualitatively, largely supports the notion that organizations that receive capacity building support can achieve greater social impact. Unfortunately, on the whole, the review unearthed a lack of robust empirical research linking capacity building support with improvements in measures of organizational effectiveness, and even less research linking capacity building with greater social impact. The field needs stronger evidence that investments in capacity building — instead of or in addition to — other forms of support pays off.
Read the full article about capacity building for nonprofits by Beth Kanter at Beth Kanter's Blog.