• Description

The Building Movement Project (BMP) surveyed leaders in the nonprofit sector to find out what they needed to maintain and build their organizational infrastructure in order to fulfill their mission. Our interest was two-fold. We targeted leaders of smaller community nonprofits that are often left out of national discussions on building nonprofit capacity. We also wanted to understand whether challenges differed when comparing organizations with Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders and white-led groups.

The findings—from over 800 survey respondents, including extensive write-in responses, as well as four focus groups—show the capacity issues nonprofit leaders face are similar across race. Nonprofit leaders want help growing their organizations, raising money, and addressing staff issues, especially burnout. Despite these similar needs, there are differences between white and BIPOC leaders when it comes to finding the capacity-building supports they need to address these challenges.

The results reflect recent critiques of the capacity-building field in three ways:

  1. Our findings call into question the assumptions that BIPOC-led groups have greater needs for infrastructure supports than white-led organizations. The data shows that BIPOC and white respondents faced similar infrastructure challenges across a variety of indicators.
  2. BIPOC respondents reported a harder time than white respondents in finding providers that understood their organization and the communities they served. BIPOC leaders were also less likely to rate the support they received as adequate, suggesting that capacity builders were less able to offer the help BIPOC-led groups needed.
  3. Respondents told us their greatest challenge to stabilizing and growing their organizations was funding. The mostly small community-based organizations that responded to this survey were in a bind. Addressing their infrastructure issues would help them grow as an organization, including raising more funds.

But money for capacity-building did not necessarily lead to funding for doing the work. BIPOC participants were especially concerned that they received grants to hire consultants instead of, rather than in addition to, funds that would help them build and operate their organization, or even support to implement the recommendations made by the infrastructure providers.

As we enter a period that many worry will see an even bigger decrease in giving to nonprofits, especially for groups with small budgets, it is important to reflect on how capacity building can provide the best added value to help nonprofits in local communities survive and thrive.