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The Importance of Capacity Building and How to Get Started


Capacity building is the term used frequently by foundations and nonprofit leadership to ascertain the ability of an organization to effectively achieve it s mission. This article describes capacity building, and why it is important in addition to offering a starting point for engaging in capacity building.

Definition of Capacity Building

Capacity building is defined as the ability of an organization to achieve their mission in an effective manner. It can also be described as the strategies or actions that an organization takes to ensure that it has the resources needed to succeed. These actions can include: resource development, financial management (diversification of funding sources), organizational learning, leadership development and other activities. In other words, capacity building is any set of actions that an organization takes to improve its ability to perform successful in its chosen area.

The term or concept also relates to the commitment of foundations and other entities to help nonprofit organizations to become high performing entities by supplying information, instruction and guidance.

Importance of Capacity Building to Future Success

Nonprofit organizations occupy an invaluable niche in a community. These entities provide needed social services, education, health care and the arts that improve the well being of the community and on which many people depend. The environment in which nonprofits operate has become increasingly complex and challenging as demand for their services increases while their conventional funding streams become more limited, and new technologies emerge that offer new venues for fundraising or interacting with potential and existing supporters.

Capacity building is important because it encourages the leadership of a nonprofit to evaluate their abilities to perform in a complex environment. For example, is the organization missing potential fundraising opportunities by not having a website with the capacity to solicit and receive donations? Should the organization develop its staff so that they can provide a new service that is complementary to their existing array of services?

In addition, capacity building is important because the evaluation process coupled with the implementation component help ensure organizational success and sustainability.

How to Get Started

Deciding change is needed is the first step. Once the need for change has been agreed upon, board members and management should undertake the following (most commonly done as part of their strategic planning process):

1. Evaluate the environment (external) and organization (internal)

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Your company and social media.


After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, oil giant BP experienced a backlash via social media, becoming a victim of “brandhacking”. A source unaffiliated with the multinational company created the Twitter handle @BPGlobalPR, gathering more than 137,000 followers while sending out satirical tweets about the multi-billion-dollar disaster, such as “Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy.” The account is still in existence and has almost double the followers of the actual corporate BP account.

Even the world’s savviest corporate executives can be caught off-guard by the power regular consumers wield when it comes to expressing their thoughts on social media, said Paul Armstrong, founder of UK-based Digital Orange Consulting, who has worked with giants like Google and Mindshare. “Many brands are simply not prepared for the worst-case scenarios,” he added. Only 12% of the 2,100 global companies interviewed in a 2010 Harvard Business Review survey said they were using it effectively, but two-thirds of those companies say their social media use will grow.

Social media is still in its infancy, which is something acknowledged by social media executives and the companies that employ them. In fact, employees on the social media front are the most powerful–and therefore vulnerable–asset a company has when it comes to brand perception. The people charged with maintaining a company’s persona need as much support as those companies can give, both in training and resources.

Crafting a roadmap
To avoid gaffes such as BP’s social media debacle, marketing directors are getting smarter about using tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to their advantage – even if they cannot always control the message. Social media strategies can be even more effective once they move outside of the marketing department and start quantifying results, said Steve Nicholls, UK-based author of Social Media in Business. “Companies need to think about how to use social media to gain competitive advantage,” explained Nicholls, whose clients include British Telecom and Ciena Corporation.

Communications professionals should focus on a few social media platforms, rather than tackling them all. “What works for one company won’t work for another,” said Nicholls. For example, encouraging public Facebook comments for a company such as a financial institution “where customers hate their guts” can magnify complaints, he added. Many of those companies are better off growing their presence on LinkedIn or Google+ where comments are less prevalent. Continue reading “Your company and social media.”

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