Nonprofit Capacity Building: Tips to Get Creative

by | Oct 17, 2022 | Strategic Planning

A New York Times article about grandparents and their adult grandchildren becoming roommates recently caught our eye.

Termed “grand-mates,” it’s a creative idea to address thorny problems, like housing affordability and companionship. And it provides a great lesson for nonprofit leaders about how capacity building can be accomplished in unexpected ways.

In the case of grand-mates:

…both sides of the age divide come to the table armed with their own skill sets. The grandchildren can demystify smartphones, Twitter and paying bills online. …In turn, their grandparents can share family lore and recipes, give the grandchildren a sense of their roots—and a sense of perspective.

Both grandparents and grandchildren gain resources and capacity, while saving money.

So, how can your nonprofit do the same?


Assess your nonprofit’s current strengths and weaknesses

Consider leveraging a SWOT analysis that maps your organization’s internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Here at Funding for Good, we like to go one step further and do a SWOTA analysis with our clients—adding an “achievements” section to the end (because who wants to end on threats?). Your SWOT or SWOTA analysis may reveal some positive surprises.

For example, you could find your program team feels overburdened and is struggling to track and manage data for funder reporting. At the same time, your operations team feels underutilized. Bingo! You’ve just identified free capacity.

Or perhaps your development team is constantly scrambling on grant deadlines, never leaving enough time to draft planned monthly donor impact reports. Yet your executive assistant is itching to get more nonprofit writing experience. Again, more capacity!


Consider new ways to use existing resources to increase capacity

One creative approach the Funding for Good team has seen work is a staff swap. In this case, two staff members partner up to tackle the sort of important tasks that there never seems to be time for, like a major filing project. Working together, team members learn from each other, expand their knowledge of the organization, and get critical work done much faster.


With a strategic plan, nonprofit capacity building doesn’t have to break the bank

Now that you’ve mapped your current resources, it’s time to take a step back and assess how to best deploy them. A strategic planning process enables your board and staff leadership to frankly assess which programs and activities are building toward your organization’s mission, and which aren’t.

Perhaps that program team that feels strapped is conducting too many activities at once. By analyzing what’s most critical, you might discover you could discontinue some activities and still maintain the same level of impact.


So, the next time your organization is struggling with capacity, remember the grand-mates. Like grandparents and adult grandchildren moving in together, there’s a good chance that a dose of creativity and strategic planning can boost your nonprofit capacity building.

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