To build capacity, nonprofits first need to do a careful needs assessment, looking at the organization as a living system and figuring out a strategy for how to strengthen it. Basic questions about capacity building, which any nonprofit might use to start a discussion among staff or board, are the following:
1. What kinds of needs for improvement do we have at the present time?
2. Are we ready to build capacity to meet these needs better?
3. Who will lead the capacity-building work inside our organization?
4. How will we find the capacity-building information or technical assistance to help us?
5. How will we know when we succeed?
Specific subject areas in which capacity building may be needed include:
Other tools can help a nonprofit assess its needs for capacity building, develop a plan of action to do so, and measure progress over time. Some of these assessment tools are free of charge and relatively easy to use. Others must be purchased from their developers, are more complex, and may require a substantial financial and time investment.
The following chart features 8 self-assessment tools nonprofits may use as part of planning for capacity building. Information on cost, level of complexity (low-medium-high) and estimated time to complete are included for each. Most can be used by any type of nonprofit, though a few were constructed specifically for one area, such as the arts (titles indicate clearly which these are). To find out more about a tool, click on its title and you will be connected to the developer’s website.
No endorsement is implied for any of the tools listed below in alphabetical order, and there are many other valuable capacity-building assessment tools that are not mentioned here.
|Cost||Complexity||Time to Complete|
|BoardSource Board of Directors Self Assessment Survey||$749 members,|
|Low||5 - 15 hrs.|
|British Columbia Ministry for Children & Families Cultural Competency Assessment Tool||Free||Low||More than 15 hrs.|
|CompassPoint Board Self-Assessment Survey||Free||Low||15 minutes|
|Communications Effectiveness Quiz by Cause Communications||Free||Low/Medium||Less than 30 min.|
|Greater Twin Cities United Way Checklist of Nonprofit Organization Indicators||Free to download||Low||Less than 15 hrs.|
|Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Michigan||Free||Medium||2-3 hours|
|TCC Group Core Capacity Assessment Tool||$350 for one organization||High||45-60 minutes|
|Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory||Free online||Low||Less than 5 hrs.|
Note: Appearance of activities, publications or organizations in these website listings does not constitute any type of endorsement from the Dwight Stuart Youth Fund. These listings are provided solely for informational purposes.