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The Ultimate Guide to Capacity-Building Grants

Capacity-building grants help organizations achieve their mission by giving them the resources 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 fails.

Capacity building can take many forms, including leadership development and re-examining your organization’s strategic plans, but ultimately, these grants help strengthen an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission over time. 

We’re here to tell you more about why capacity-building grants are important, how to find them, and how to increase your chances of winning them. 

What is capacity building, and why is it important?

In short, capacity building allows you to do more with less.  

Capacity building often involves a series of strategies and practices, including: 

  • Assessment
  • Strategic planning
  • Information sharing
  • Training
  • Technical assistance
  • Coaching
  • Resource development
  • Evaluation  

When these strategies and practices are grouped together and implemented, they help organizations reach their current and future goals.  

Capacity-building activities can increase sustainability, improve governance, support collaboration, and strengthen internal infrastructure for organizations. The outcome of these activities is that they allow an organization to grow and thrive.  

There are different types of capacities your organization can assess and target for improvement. You’ll want to identify the type of capacity you would like to address and why, along with making sure to look for the right funders.  

A lot of grant seekers worry that funders may not view capacity building as a necessity that requires an award. According to Jenny Hodgson, Executive Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), some grant makers view capacity building as basic infrastructure and not worth the investment. “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.”   

Thankfully, not every funder has this view of capacity building. 

There are many grant-making organizations that understand the importance of funding capacity building projects – you just have to know how to find them.   

How to find capacity-building grants  

There are websites dedicated to helping you locate grants for programs and projects in all areas, and you are probably already aware of a lot of them:  

  • 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 funds or not. 
  • 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. 

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. 

Implementing new technology to help you search, apply, and manage your awards can help your organization build capacity before you even get a grant. With AmpliFund’s Research tool you can search for relevant awards right in the software, which saves your team a lot of time and effort before you even win an award. You can even use capacity-building awards specifically to procure supportive technology 

How to write a capacity-building grant application 

Finding capacity-building grants is only the first step. Now you must successfully convince funders that they should give your organization funding by writing an effective application.  

We have a few tips that can help you show grant makers that they can have confidence that funding capacity-building activities for your organization is a good investment.  

When you are applying for these funds it’s best to write your grant applications as if the funder does not already understand the importance of awarding funds for capacity building. Make your case about why this funding is important for your organization and the impact it will make. 

Make sure you understand your organization’s strengths and focus on them in your application materials. Leading with your best foot forward can only help improve your chances of getting funding. Susan Chandler from 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, which you may be short on if you’re looking for capacity-building awards. To help you avoid some common pitfalls, here are a few suggestions on what 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 impact you have made for the community or issue you are focused on. Showcasing your previous performance data allows you to present concrete evidence that your organization is capable of spending grant funding appropriately, and that you understand what maintaining compliance requires.

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. 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. Evaluate your organization after the fact

State the internal outcomes that will be a direct result of the grant funding, and how the improvements to your systems will result in a more robust organization. This will continue to show that your long-term goal is to become sustainable and ensure the future of your organization.


Capacity-building can help make an organization more efficient, productive, and focused. Your organization can introduce capacity-building activities at any point in the grant lifecycle, so you don’t have to wait for a specific time of the year to get started.  

Finding the funding you need can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help 

If you’re looking for more step-by-step advice on preparing a successful grant application, we have more tips for you in AmpliFund’s “How to Write an Effective Grant Proposal” guide.

Download the Guide

Photo by tumsasedgars from Canva