pexels-photo-1081234How organisations can strengthen their ability to create lasting, positive change is a hot topic of discussion in nonprofit circles these days. Despite the increased attention, many in the sector fail to understand what building capacity truly means.

Capacity Building Requires Forward-Thinking Decision Makers

On one level, increasing your capacity to serve is about anticipating upcoming trends, and planning for unexpected events. It is the actions that you take today, the seeds that you plant, that will help you build a strong, flexible organisation that will be able to sustain its operations and grow, despite political changes or disruptions in one or more sources of revenue. It is quite literally taking the steps that are necessary to invest in and develop your organisation’s future so that you achieve more positive outcomes over the long term.

Are You Allowing Fear to Hold Your Organisation Back from Opportunities to Grow?

Capacity building can also be described as a mindset. Traditionally, nonprofit boards have felt a lot of pressure to try to do as much as they can with as little as possible. We place a significant amount of our energy and focus into providing as many services and programs as possible, and only think of things such as professional development, investments in facilities, IT and other infrastructure, as an afterthought.

While it’s important to be good stewards of all our organisation’s resources, this mindset comes from the viewpoint of scarcity, and can lead us to make decisions that actually hold us back from taking risks, innovating, and embracing changes that lead to greater impact.

Steps to Increase Capacity Building

Do you want to build a strong, vibrant NFP that can serve its community for many years? Consider taking some of the following steps to help your nonprofit develop its capacity to serve your community.

1. Focus on the Essential

Building capacity starts with changing your outlook. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, shift mental gears and concentrate on what your nonprofit specifically contributes to the community. What is it that you do better than other organisations? Have your board clarify your nonprofit’s primary purpose and embed your primary mission into every activity and level of your organisation.

2. Have Honest Conversations About Your Needs

To get all your supporters on board with increasing capacity, you need to start having more open and honest conversations about what your nonprofits needs to make a genuine impact in your community. Go to your major donors and talk about how central effective administration is in running programs and providing services.

Discuss the need to fund professional development for your boards, staff and volunteers, and how investments in IT, facilities, and even something as simple as your software and database systems, have such a massive impact on your efficiency and effectiveness. Discuss capital building projects that will enable you to do more in your community in the long-term.

3. Make Sustainable Leadership a Priority

One area of increasing capacity that is often overlooked is the need to identify and develop leaders at every level of your organisation. It is your leaders, after all, that define values, create culture, determine the mission and form your strategy. Therefore, you need to have a plan to recruit, retain and develop top talent in this area. Change in leadership is inevitable, so nonprofits should create plans for succession that will prevent it from losing its focus and direction when the top tier changes.

Build your capacity by creating a leadership pipeline that helps your organisation identify leaders at every level. Provide training and development opportunities to enable them to practice their leadership skills, so that you always have a deep pool of talent to draw from when key figures in your nonprofit leave or retire.

Don’t forget to provide regular training to others in your organisation as well. Healthy and robust nonprofits create a talent acquisition and management program that enables them to attract the best people and empowers them to serve your community!

As your nonprofit increases its capacity to serve, your efficiency and effectiveness, as well as your impact made by your NFP, grows as well. When others see the difference that you are making, it will lead to increased support for program and capacity building activities.