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Capacity-building grants strengthen nonprofits’ ability to fulfill its mission over time and positively impact lives and communities. Capacity-building can take many forms, such as leadership development or re-examining your organizational plans.

As a leading provider of grant management solutions, we understand that not all grants and processes are alike. And to maximize your outcomes, you need to make your organization healthy and your processes effective and efficient. In this article, we discuss why Capacity-building grants are important, how to write a Capacity-building grant, what are some Capacity-building activities to explore, how to find the award, and how to succeed and be self-sustaining as a nonprofit.

  • What is Capacity-building? And Why is it Important?
  • How to Write a Capacity-building Grant
  • Capacity-building Activities Your Nonprofit Needs
  • How to Find Capacity-building Grants (Tool)
  • How to Succeed and be Self-sustaining as a Nonprofit
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What is Capacity-building? And Why is it Important?

Capacity-building is primarily about improving effectiveness, generally at the organizational level. It is a way to make good organizations better. Capacity-building should be a priority for every nonprofit looking to grow. However, some Grant Makers may not view capacity-building as a necessity for a grant.

Here’s what Jenny Hodgson, Executive Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), had to say on the topic:

“Some Grant Makers hesitate to fund Capacity-building because they see it as paying for basic institutional infrastructure needs, and that’s not what they want to invest in. It’s like how people understand the need for traffic lights and roads, but they don’t want to pay for that. They want to pay for their luxury car.” (source:

Jenny Hodgson, Global Fund for Community Foundations

Capacity-building can create an enormous impact on a nonprofits organization. To be considered for funding, you need to know how to express yourself to Grant Makers. And how to follow-through once your grant is funded.

The purpose of the proposal should be two-fold:

  • Your organization and its systems matter because of the work.
  • The outcome you achieve for your communities.

How to Write a Capacity-building Grant

The goal of a Capacity-building grant is to strengthen your organization. There are a few steps to help you gain the Grant Makers’ trust and confidence to get funded.

Author Susan Chandler and trainer for The Grantsmanship Center says, “Funders want to improve organizations – not rescue them. Make sure you’re starting from a position of strength.”

“Capacity-building grants are a recognition that organizations need to build management systems as well as programs. By helping you to improve your organization’s systems and operations, they are strengthening your ability to serve your clients, which is, after all, what most funders are primarily interested in.”

Writing Proposals for Capacity Building

Writing a winning nonprofit grant proposal takes time and effort. Here are a few suggestions to include in your plan for securing your grant.

1. Establish your organization’s credibility

Prove your track record. You can point out the past accomplishments of your organization including the benefits to the community. Showcasing your previous performance data allows you to present concrete evidence that your organization is capable of spending grant funding appropriately.

2. Identify the specific problem(s) you need to solve in your organization

You should have a detailed plan of action to address your capacity issue. The Grant Maker requires a clear understanding of your capacity problem to determine if increasing your sustainability by strengthening your systems is worthwhile and important to them.

3. Emphasize the positive aspects of your organization

You want to show your organization is strong, with a need to grow further. Present your needs as an opportunity to do more good as opposed to showing organizational weakness.

4. Include objections and methods

State the internal outcomes that will be a direct result of the grant funding. Leadership development, staff training and development, and long-range planning are examples of a direct result.

5. Evaluate your organization after the fact

Show how the improvements to your systems resulted in a more robust organization after the Capacity-building grant was awarded. This will continue to show how just giving money to achieve an objective isn’t your end goal, but to become sustainable and ensure the future of your organization.

Capacity-building Activities Your Nonprofit Needs

Capacity-building activities encompass anything that enables an organization (or team) to do its job better. From the assessment through re-assessment, your organization can introduce Capacity- building activities.

Let’s consider the range Capacity-building can cover:

  1. Types of Capacity – human (knowledge/skill), organizational (communication and collaboration), structural (procedures), material (equipment)
  2. Levels of Capacity – information, skills, structures, and processes
  3. Stages of Capacity-building – exploration, emerging implementation, full implementation, sustainability
  4. Outcomes of Capacity-building – developmental (improvement of a skill), transitional (moving to a new desired state), and transformational (significant differences)


Capacity-building activities can include leadership development and collaboration planning. At an individual level, examples of Capacity-building activities can consist of training and mentorships. Organizational Capacity-building focuses on a broader scale.

Organizational Capacity-building

“For organizations, Capacity-building activities may focus on shoring up sustainability, improving governance, supporting collaboration, or strengthening infrastructure. All have a common goal: enhancing the skills, resources, and abilities that allow an organization and its workers to grow and thrive.

Capacity-building activities at the organizational level could again include:

Leadership Development – Leadership development should strive for proper communication and education of their team. The administration of a nonprofit needs to recognize its growth needs and develop its management skills to maintain a sustainable business.

Collaboration Planning – Finding the right partner at the right time to increase growth.

Investing in New IT Capacity – New technology, if used correctly, will cut down on specific tasks for your staff. The key is to create an implementation team that can work together on any new technology rollout with internal communications and software adoption.

AmpliFund offers grant management platforms that connect disparate systems and processes, creating dynamic ecosystems that drive performance and compliance. AmpliFund enables nonprofit and public sector institutions to systemize complex tasks, secure additional revenue, and increase efficiency to serve their communities better.

Extra resources:

8 Examples of Capacity-building Activities

3 Capacity-building Activities Your Nonprofit Needs

Conceptualizing Capacity-building

How to Find Capacity-building Grants

There are tools to help you locate grants for programs and projects in all areas. 

Can you find grants without a tool?


But a tool makes the entire process easier.

Foundation Directory Online is a research tool to help nonprofits find the Grant Makers most likely to fund their projects. You can see if foundations offer capacity building or not.

FDO helps you find the best-matched funders.

Fundsnet’s purpose is to help spread the word about grants. It provides Grant writing and Fundraising resource information to those in need of funding for their programs and initiatives. Opportunities are browse-able by category – or you can search the entire site using the box in the upper right corner. is a free service that provides a searchable database of all federal funding opportunities.

GrantWatch lets you know what government and foundation grants are currently available through their user-friendly grants search and grant summaries.

Another suggestion:

Build a relationship with a few of your funders, engage them in a dialogue about Capacity-building. Think about what you want to work on, the type of Capacity, and then ask if they’d like to partner with you.

How to Succeed and be Self-sustaining as a Nonprofit

Grant Makers, for the most part, don’t just want to give money to achieve an objective, they have more significant ideas and plans. They want their Grant Seekers to succeed and be self-sustaining without a high dependency on grants. 

According to Jen Bokoff, director of knowledge services at GrantCraft,

“Foundations aren’t just throwing money at an organization,” Bokoff says. They’re building something along with the Grant Seeker. The allure of collaboration is certainly one of the driving forces behind the Capacity-building trend. “It starts with a conversation,” Bokoff says. “The foundation asks what the nonprofit needs to move the dial.”

source: What are Capacity-building grants and Why are they Game Changers

Nonprofit sustainability needs a few elements to achieve long-term outcome goals:

  • Know your long-term goal (what you want to accomplish)
  • Develop a smart strategy to achieve the goals
  • Effectively attract and use money as a tool to make it happen

[source] What is Nonprofit Sustainability?


Capacity-building can help make an organization more efficient, productive, and focused. Capacity-building grants help organizations further succeed in their mission or have the ability to take on more work. For Grant Makers, it’s an investment in an organization’s success and sustainability. For Grant Seekers, it’s a means to their goal.

As technology and innovation continue to be at the forefront, it’s essential to learn more about technologies and solutions in grant management.

Strengthening effectiveness together, AmpliFund offers grant management software that alleviates heavy workloads, streamlines processes, and drives revenue for nonprofits.

Photo by Riccardo Bresciani from Pexels 

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