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Private foundations tend to award capacity-building grants to small or large organizations that have already-proven staying power. Such grants are not intended to rescue failing enterprises, nor are they intended to support delivery of direct program services.


Sometimes a pre-existing relationship with a specific funder is a prerequisite for being an eligible applicant; other times, it is not. Potential applicants should review each potential funder’s preconditions and verify that they satisfy them before they decide to apply to it for funding.


Purposes of Capacity Building:

Ultimately, capacity building proposals focus on an organization’s internal needs, particularly, on improving its ability to achieve and fulfill its mission and to deliver services. Proving a record of accomplishment in this area is essential. Other aims are to increase an organization’s long-term sustainability and effectiveness. Consequently, seeking a capacity building grant often follows upon an organizational self-assessment by board and key staff.


Uses of Funds Related to Grant Seeking:

As always, allowable uses of funds depend upon the purposes and priorities of each specific grant maker. Among the many potential uses an applicant may propose for a capacity building grant are:

  • Fund development planning
  • Revenue diversification
  • Fundraising (e.g., developing grant proposals, donor recruitment campaigns)


Other Potential Uses of Funds:

Beyond or in lieu of resource development, foundations also may favor:

  • Organizational assessment or self-assessment
  • Evaluation of overall organizational effectiveness
  • Strategic planning
  • Improving governance and management
  • Board/staff development (e.g., workshops or conferences)
  • Leadership development
  • Leadership succession planning
  • Marketing/community outreach
  • Volunteer management
  • Membership development (e.g., recruitment and retention)
  • External communications (e.g., website improvements)
  • Computer skills development (e.g., using donor databases)
  • Organizational mergers or restructuring
  • Financial management
  • Media relations
  • Technology integration (e.g., hardware or software upgrades)


This post is one of a series on Grant Writing as a Career. Earlier posts have discussed various business expenses and fees as well as arrangements for paying for grant-writing services.


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