Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nonprofit Capacity Building / Organizational Development

Organizational development has been defined as the process through which an organization develops the internal capacity to be the most effective it can be in its mission work and to sustain itself over the long term.

It should be clear that just providing money to help solve problems that exist is only part of the solution. To truly strengthen the nonprofit organization there has to be active involvement by all concerned to establish ongoing organization development within itself. This continual involvement in improving the overall internal and external structure was not only crucial to growth but also the over all chance of survival.

You would think that if a nonprofit's survival depends on their ability to adapt, grow and change they would embrace the ongoing task of organizational development i.e. building capacity.

Likewise, it would be logical to think that this might also be seen as a high priority for people funding them! Regretfully, however, regardless of all the studies showing how important this concept really is, the people giving out the money don’t see it as their role to accept this responsibility making sure that nonprofits can sustain themselves. Basically nonprofits are left to do it themselves!

On one hand foundations and grant funders expect all nonprofits to be strong both in organizational structure and their ability to accomplish the mission set before them. They expect nonprofits no matter their size or budget to have the best trained staff, a fully vested volunteer board that gives both money and time freely, and have complete community support i.e. raising most of the money on their own via fundraisers. Lastly, it is expected that organizations should be able to show impressive quantifiable results when it comes to serving their clients!
Unfortunately, some funders are also jumping on the bandwagon creating elaborate evaluation methods for nonprofits when it really amounts to just pushing lots of paper and creating more pressure on an already over burdened staff.

The reality is running any organization with a volunteer board of directors in almost all cases creates some problems that are not easy to handle. Second, in order to run a business, and that is what a nonprofit is, it helps if you have some experience to know what you are doing. Understand the service delivery end is only one part of the puzzle for a nonprofit. It also helps greatly if the staff also fully understand basic business principles found by running a for profit company.

Today nonprofits are turning over every rock possible to find money to carry out their program. Unfortunately there are only so many places money can be found! Likewise it needs to be noted that there are three main spheres of influence that basically control and direct our lives daily i.e. the government, businesses and nonprofits; with each one of these groups having a specific set of goals and objectives that guides them. In short, the long term success of each depends greatly on their ability and willingness to take responsibility!

Who will take on the task that needs to be accomplished and who has the resources and the ability to do what is needed to be done? We see a constant pushing and pulling from the government and business sectors. In many ways the nonprofit sector is the safety net that catches the things not profitable for business to do nor acceptable for government to take over. So it exists…it struggles…it grows!

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DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice, or to address specific situations. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor to supplement and verify what you learn here.