William Penn Foundation: Summary of Findings from an Assessment of Capacity Building Services 2005-2010

Despite billions of dollars of investment over many years by philanthropic institutions in capacity building supports for grantees, no clear blueprint has yet been discovered for the most effective strategy to do so. Pressures introduced by the recent economic downturn are adding to the imperative for capacity building; at the same time they are reducing the slim margin most nonprofits have for investing in their own effectiveness.

In this context, the William Penn Foundation retained LFA Group: Learning for Action to conduct an evaluation of capacity building services provided to more than 300 nonprofits in the greater Philadelphia region between 2005 and 2010 to gain a deeper understanding of what is and is not working. The mixed-method evaluation was designed to explore the following questions:

  • How effective are capacity building providers and consulting firms at management of services, including the pairing of organization and consultant, assessment of organizational capacity needs, delivery of quality services including use of best practices, and follow-up as appropriate?
  • How are capacity building providers and consulting firms currently monitoring and evaluating their services? To what extent do they incorporate lessons learned from both internal and external review?
  • How has the capacity of service recipients improved? Are improvements long-term organizational change or short-term fixes?
  • Are there types of capacity building services the Foundation should consider supporting, based on best practices or emerging interest from nonprofits?

Published: March 2012
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