How to Write a Capacity-Building Grant Proposal

A capacity-building grant is a specific type of award meant to strengthen an organization’s internal systems and thereby increase its effectiveness. The focus is on building the ability of an organization to vigorously and successfully pursue its mission. 

“There are two structural differences between a capacity-building proposal and a proposal for a program that will directly address a community problem,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, the problem and the outcome.

The Problem – Rather than describing and documenting a troubling community situation, the proposal will describe and document an internal organizational need that is preventing maximum effectiveness. 

“It’s fine to acknowledge the need for improvements and upgrades,” said Floersch. “But take care that the proposal doesn’t indicate that leadership has been asleep at the wheel. There’s a difference between the need for improvement and the need to salvage something that’s been neglected.”

The Outcome – Rather than direct changes in a community situation, the outcome of the grant-funded project will be a product such as a strategic plan, a new database, upgraded technology, a fund development plan, or a succession plan. 

“Even though the outcome is a product, be sure it’s S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited). For example, what type of database will be in place? By when? What information will it capture and manage? Be sure that what you plan to achieve is realistic.

As nonprofit managers struggle to deal with the complications of service delivery during the COVID Pandemic, funders are turning a focus to helping nonprofits shore up operations to survive myriad and unprecedented challenges. If you haven’t already done it, step back and consider the new systems that could help you move successfully into a changed environment. 

Also, study existing infrastructure and assess what needs a boost to keep your organization viable and moving forward. Once you know what’s required, reach out to those funders with whom you have relationships and talk with them about your organization’s capacity-building needs to see if your needs align with their current plans. © Copyright 2020 The Grantsmanship Center.