Defining, Building, and Measuring Capacity

Findings from an Advocacy Evaluation

Capacity building is the practice of strengthening nonprofits through activities intended to increase the effectiveness and impact of the organization, rather than through development of new programs.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Consumer Voices for Coverage supports consumer health advocacy coalitions in 12 states. The program identified the following six core components of advocacy, and directed funds for capacity building towards each:

  1. coalition building,
  2. generating grassroots support,
  3. analyzing health policy proposals,
  4. designing and implementing health policy campaigns,
  5. crafting media and communication strategies,
  6. fundraising

The evaluation by Mathematica Policy Research found that funding capacity building increased five of the six core advocacy components measured. Fundraising was the least-improved advocacy component, and the authors conclude increasing levels of fundraising may require different strategies.

The authors propose that funders need to address three main elements of organizational capacity: knowledge, infrastructure, and resources. Each requires different types of interventions.