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Are organizational challenges undermining grantee capacity to have an impact on the marine conservation issues we care about? Is there something we could do together to build grantee capacity, so that they stay strong as a sector?
The Pescadero Program, started in 2014 and set to finish in 2018, has been a multi-funder collaboration since the beginning. Its theory of change: stronger marine conservation NGOs, with better institutional and technical capacities, lead to better programs and projects, and greater marine conservation impact and improved sustainable use of the Gulf of California’s natural resources.
Staff from 27 NGOs in the Northwestern states of Mexico regularly participate through cohort trainings, often combined with follow-up consulting or coaching. Participating NGOs range from community based groups that are local or regional in the Gulf of California, to larger national and international environmental NGOs. Capacity areas addressed include governance, management, and administration; leadership; strategic planning; board development; and communications and fundraising. Each year, middle and high level NGO managers of participating organizations can also apply for the Pescadero Program’s cohort-based, leadership development offering, which builds individual and collective leadership capacities, including emotional awareness, motivating others, decision making and delegation, inspirational presenting, and negotiation and mediation. Institutional knowledge sharing within organizations and potential collaboration with other organizations are added benefits from cohort-based learning on capacity building topics.
To further tailor capacity building to organizational needs, when NGOs joined the Pescadero Program, each was required to take the Institutional Effectiveness Index (IEI), an online organizational assessment tool supported by expert coaching, that helped them more deeply diagnose their capacities and identify areas for improvement. The IEI was also re-administered at the project mid-point, and has become part of a suite of evaluation approaches to assess the Pescadero Program’s impact.
Having access to assessment data has helped grantees understand how they’ve grown and where they still need to build capacity. Funders too have benefitted, understanding where their efforts have had most impact.
Some findings from the Pescadero Program to-date: mid-term IEI scores show participating organizations have become more effective in institutional processes such as administrative and financial management, and strategic planning. Participating executive directors and administration staff now have more knowledge of the administrative, legal and human resource issues that may affect them and have gained abilities to take steps to address them. Comparing baseline and mid-term IEI scores also shows that 68 percent of participating organizations have improved their fundraising strategies, with 71 percent having diversified their donors.