Capacity Building Funding

Wilson Foundation strategic focus area #1: Capacity Building will enhance the needs of the community and non-profits to better support families and youth in relation to trauma supports and housing issues.

The funding community asks a lot of non-profits—change the world but don’t spend any money on staff in order to do it. The Wilson Foundation thinks that’s an impossible task, and we aim to change our funding structure to support organizations’ internal strengths. There are different impression on what capacity building means. I will try to elucidate what we mean for our funding area.

To put it simply, capacity building strengthens an organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. Let’s pretend your non-profit is a ballet dancer. It may seem the essentials are about things like flexibility and grace; but in reality, the dancer won’t be able to do that well if he or she doesn’t have a strong core. So you may spend all your time trying to point your toes, and you may be excellent at that, but the goal is to dance, not just point.

Our funding strategy will focus on internal needs for staff and leadership development. For instance:

  • Internal needs for staff and leadership development—what do staff need to do their jobs well, and how can they grow as leaders in the organization and the community.
  • Institute a learning culture—you grow by learning, and that is true not just for the staff, but for your clients and your peer network.
  • Support leaders in the community—community building will be enhanced by helping future leaders grow. We want to see new opportunities for board positions and career advancement.
  • More vibrant organizations—better finances, stronger internal policies, better governance and increased client involvement.
  • Enhanced local resources—if training options are limited here let’s solve that and create a rich community of knowledge and sharing.

What we don’t mean intend to fund with our capacity building strategy:

  • Capital improvements
  • Capital campaigns
  • Short-lived interventions that won’t be imbedded into sustainable implementation

With these types of investments, we predict that agencies serving children and families with housing and/or trauma related needs will be stronger and more responsive to the community. We think more children and families will receive support from organizations that are trauma-informed. When we’ve asked for so much in past—parent engagement, community engagement, data usage, trauma informed care—now we are helping you do all those things we expected, but this time we are giving you the resources to be successful.

How do you know what you need?

  • Do an organizational assessment
  • Ask your clients for feedback
  • Ask your staff for feedback
  • Are you doing things because they are required but don’t fully integrate or understand their purpose?
  • Have you learned about new ways to do your work that requires new training?
  • What skills do your staff need to keep current on trends and to do their jobs effectively?

The Council of Nonprofits is a great resource for thinking about this more:

We don’t have all the answers for your next steps, but we are here as a resource and will do our best to guide you. Your organization’s success starts from within, which is the hardest place to start. Let’s not be a community of excellent toe-pointers—join us in performing the dance.

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