Nonprofit "Capacity-Building Orientation": The Role of Learning in Building Nonprofit Performance

Oct 01, 2005
  • Description

Amidst increasing attention to nonprofit performance, interest in nonprofit capacity building activities has understandably intensified. A natural outgrowth of this interest is an expansion in the number and range of nonprofit capacity-building providers and approaches. In response to this growth,The Forbes Funds, in 2004, commissioned Judith Millesen, at the Voinovich Center for Public Affairs and Leadership at Ohio University, and Angela Bies, at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, to examine the quality of Pittsburgh's capacity-building industry and to identify the characteristics of effective capacity-building initiatives. This study expands on that earlier research by investigating questions of why and how nonprofit organizations engage in capacity building, as well as the ways in which organizational, managerial, and financial characteristics relate to capacity building.The current literature on nonprofits provides useful theoretical insight to understanding externally driven mechanisms for improvement, and, by extension, insight into incentives for engagement in capacity building.What is less well explored are the internal mechanisms that drive and motivate boards, managers, and key staff to pursue capacity building as ongoing and integrated processes of organizational change and capacity improvement. Learning theory provides such insight. This study addresses the following research questions:

  1. What factors predict higher levels of engagement in capacity building by nonprofit organizations?
  2. What factors predict higher levels of organizational capacity?