Building Capacity In The Community

Date:20 January 2017. Posted: John Coxon

When we think about building capacity it is easy to become wrapped up in thinking primarily about how we can build a sustainable organisation - from the inside. Nothing wrong with that, there are internal stakeholders with interests and needs to be met.

Outside of the organisation there are other stakeholders that also contribute to our sustainability. Building capacity within our organisation is critical to remaining relevant, which in turn provides you with evidence of community need and access to funding.

The challenge is building an understanding of your community. This may be simpler than it may appear as you already have access to the knowledge. Most nonprofit organisations simply fail to capture this information in any structured manner.

The key is to listen to clients, volunteers, service delivery people and the community itself. Then capture the feedback. Once captured the picture needs to be shared back with the community and other stakeholders. From this process will emerge opportunities.

Why don't we capture this information in a structured manner. There are many reasons, including lack of resources, a focus upon meeting service delivery targets and a 'write a funding proposal' and the revenue will flow mentality.

The world is changing. Competition is intense for a static pool of funding. Funders and trusts are looking for evidence of need within the community along with evidence of results and outcomes. Accessing and analysing data is expected to become increasingly critical to nonprofit organisations as they seek to meet multiple needs of diverse stakeholders

Interestingly, building capacity within a community may need to start with board composition. Does the composition of your board reflect the diversity of the community you serve? Are board members able to reflect upon and respond appropriately to community feedback?

Many community organisations form network relationships with other providers, with government and even with the commercial sector. Often these relationships form in an ad hoc manner. Again, these existing partnerships contain a lot of information about future potential and understanding your network should become an integral part of your capacity building initiatives.

Ignoring capacity building creates risk within your organisation. If you are not engaging in building capacity when others are, then you forego a competitive advantage and may find yourself on the recieving end of an unwelcome takeover or merger - or find yourself being defunded because funders cannot find a reason to continue with funding.

I'm John Coxon, principal consultant at JoiningTheDots. When working with nonprofit organisations seeking to develop capacity I am guided by the McKinsey Capacity Building Model. This framework looks at seven aspects of capacity in your organisation, including, your aspirations, strategies/outcomes, organisational skills, people resources, systems and infrastructure, organisational structure and culture. Using the McKinsey assessment tool I can tap into the collective wisdom of your stakeholders to identify gaps in capacity and then help you prioritise capacity building activities. Email me now to indicate your interest in discussing this process.

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