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How to Win a Capacity Building Award

Capacity building grants help organizations further succeed in their mission or have the ability to take on more work. For grant makers, these awards are an investment in an organization’s success and sustainability. For Grant Seekers, they can mean the difference between a successful project and one that could have been successful with enough resources. Capacity building can take many forms, such as leadership development or re-examining your organizational plans, but ultimately, these grants help strengthen an organization’s ability to fulfill its missions over time.

To maximize your outcomes and ensure the effectiveness of your grant programs, your processes need to be effective and efficient. In this article, we discuss why capacity building grants are important, how to find a capacity building grant, and how to write a successful capacity building grant application.

What is capacity building? And why is it important?

Capacity building is primarily about improving efficiencies so you can do more with fewer resources. Capacity building often involves a series of strategies and practices, such as assessment, strategic planning, information sharing, training, technical assistance, coaching, resource development, and evaluation. When all of these strategies and practices are accounted for together, their implementation supports organizations in reaching their current and future goals. 

Capacity building is the invisible structure that supports a successful program.

A lot of grantees worry that grantors may not view capacity building as a necessity for a grant. In Grantcraft’s Supporting Grantee Capacity guide, part of their Practical Wisdom for Funders Series, Jenny Hodgson, Executive Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) says:

“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.” 

As with all things, this sentiment is not always the full truth. There are, of course, many grant makers who understand the importance of funding capacity building projects. When you are looking for these funds, however, it’s best to write your grant applications as if your funder does not already understand the importance of awarding funds for capacity building.

How to Find Capacity Building Grants 

There are tools to help you locate grants for programs and projects in all areas.  Sure, it is possible to find grants without a tool, but having the right tool makes the entire process easier. 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.

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

FundsNet Services’ 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.

Another suggestion is to continue building your relationship with a few of your funders and engage them in a dialogue about capacity building. Think about what you want to work on, the type of capacity you want to invest in and why, and then ask if they’d like to partner with you in this initiative as well.

How to write a capacity building grant

The goal of a capacity building grant is to strengthen your organization. There are a few steps that can help you gain a funder’s trust and confidence to win awards. 

Right from the outset, make sure you understand your organization’s strengths as well as the areas you need to shore up. Leading with your best foot forward can only help improve your chances of getting funding. 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.”

Writing a winning 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. Further, the funder needs to gain a clear understanding of why they are the organization to help you. 

3. Emphasize the positive aspects of your organization

You want to show your organization is already strong but has a need to support even more growth in the near future. Present your needs as an opportunity to create lasting and sustainable change for your community as opposed to trying to demonstrate organizational weakness. It may intuitively seem like you should lead with need when applying for this type of funding, but the funder needs to know that you know exactly what to do with these funds when they give them to you.

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 that your long-term goal is to become sustainable and ensure the future of your organization.

Implementing new technology to help you search for, apply for, and manage your awards can help your organization build capacity before you even get the grant. When you partner with AmpliFund, you are gaining an actual partner in grants management who will be there to help when you need it long after implementation is complete. If you think that grant management software may be helpful for your organization, we are happy to answer any questions you may have, and look forward to helping you find a solution that can make the most of your funding. 


Photo by tumsasedgars from Canva 
Topics:  Capacity Building