What does it take for foundations to be strong capacity-building partners to nonprofits? Over the past few months, we worked with GrantCraft to publish a series of case studies that provide an in-depth look at five foundations’ different approaches to supporting nonprofit capacity. The final two case studies in the series explore how foundations are building capacity to advocate effectively and innovate together. Take a look.
Public policy influences every issue that nonprofits seek to address, from education to food access. To more effectively achieve impact and transform communities, nonprofits can work to make sure that policies are helping, rather than hurting, their mission.
To help nonprofits do just that, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been working with a network of grantees to build their advocacy capacity. That network, KIDS COUNT, was created by the foundation and is made up of 53 state-based child advocacy organizations dedicated to ensuring that all children—regardless of race, class, and country of origin—have economic security, supportive communities, and stable families.
The foundation’s capacity building approach for the KIDS COUNT network includes three key components: an assessment that organizations can use to gauge their capacity in various areas, an online resource hub, and targeted technical assistance. Grantees seek to improve not only their advocacy capacity but also other capacities that affect their ability to make policy change, such as leadership. This approach is making a measurable difference in network members’ ability to influence public policy and reach kids and families.
How does a foundation spend down a $1.3 billion endowment in 20 years in a way that leaves communities stronger after the funding stops?
While there can be many approaches to spending down, for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, investing in the capacity of nonprofits to better equip them to innovate and collaborate around complex social issues is a key strategy for lasting impact.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation was founded in 2014 through the bequest of its namesake, the late long-time owner of the Buffalo Bills football team. Before his death, Wilson handpicked four lifetime trustees and set a 20-year lifespan for the foundation.
The trustees decided to focus the foundation’s philanthropy on two regions that mattered most to Wilson—Western New York, the home of the Bills, and Southeast Michigan, where Wilson lived. With support from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors—a firm providing philanthropic advising, strategy and consulting services—the trustees chose four core areas for grantmaking—children and youth, young adults and working families, caregivers, and livable communities. The trustees prioritized capacity building as a key strategy for supporting livable communities.
“Initially the trustees were thinking about capacity building in terms of increasing efficiencies, drawing from their experiences in private equity and venture capital,” said David Egner, president of the foundation. “Over time they came to understand that efficiency is the wrong metric in the nonprofit sector, and it’s really about impact and giving organizations what they need to be able to innovate.”