Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Assess Capacity?

Capacity Assessment can be scary; many nonprofit leaders don't want to learn the truth about their own organizations, while others simply don't know what capacity assessment means or implies. In a nutshell, capacity assessment refers to a determination of the current level of effectiveness of a nonprofit.

So why are we so scared to take a look at ourselves in the mirror? Isn't seeing a pimple on the face only going to push one to apply acne medicine? Or is it going to make one hide in the closet and cry?

Capacity Assessment can be a valuable tool in organizational development. It can often lead the way to positive change within a nonprofit. By involving key leadership and staff members, it can help create a dialogue and spur them into action. Unresolved issued often come to the surface, whether in programs, fundraising, administration or elsewhere.

Capacity Assessment can assist in identifying an organization's strengths and weaknesses and determining external threats and areas of opportunity. At the same time it identifies staff and volunteers who possess the relevant skills and knowledge base to best fit those areas of need.

The most effective Capacity Assessment is one which is tied to planning and goal setting. Its results can be used to shape strategic plans, development procedures, capacity building activities, and much more. It involves the highest levels of leadership as well as the field staff and volunteers for the best results.

The grant professional may or may not be involved in Capacity Assessment within their organization, but the results can be invaluable in shaping future grant proposals. The issues that are highlighted in these assessment sessions can form the basis of organizational readiness in terms of grant writing, and can also allow for improved program and evaluation from a grant seeker's perspective. Most importantly, results can be shared with local funders to encourage host dialogue about the capacity building strategies of the organization.

Capacity Assessment doesn't need to be costly or time consuming. However, it does require commitment from all levels of the organizational hierarchy. Several tools are available for Capacity Assessment including:

  • Marguerite Casey Foundation Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool - a self-assessment instrument that helps nonprofits identify capacity strengths and challenges and establish capacity building goals.

  • McKinsey Capacity Assessment Grid - a practical assessment tool for nonprofits as a complement to their report Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations.

  • Simple Capacity Assessment Tool (SCAT) - includes seven organizational categories which are further broken down into sub-components.
If any readers have used the above tools and would like to provide feedback, please write your comments. You may also share your preferred tools here. Happy assessment!

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