Interestingly, for some organizations, the capacity building does not necessarily require outside support or assistance, commonly referred to as self‐directed capacity building. This would include professional development opportunities that the organization offers in‐house, engaging the pro‐bono support of stakeholders (including board members in non‐board roles), and informal mentoring activities. Strategic planning seems to be one area of capacity where organizations tend to self‐direct, engaging in the planning process without the help of outside support or assistance. However, there is research to suggest that:
Intentional and formal capacity building conducted by non‐profits on their own (without engaging outsiders) is not typically as impactful as similar capacity-building efforts facilitated by outsiders.
Outsiders may bring an objective perspective and assessment to the activities and may have specific and in-depth content knowledge of a particular area. While there are many exceptions to the above research finding, it is worth noting and perhaps exploring further as the field of the capacity building grows in importance over the next decade.
While the factors above are essential to success, the literature identifies champions, culture, and readiness as three that warrant greater attention and explanation.
• Champions: All capacity-building activities require the identification and involvement of influential champions engaged in guiding the efforts to implement the change strategies. These champions can be either internal staff or members of the board who help drive the change forward. These individuals need to have the capacity initiative at the top of their agenda, planning the overall approach, going through the implementation timetable, and promoting it to everyone affected. One of the biggest reasons why capacity-building change efforts often fail is that it lacks a champion with the skills, time, and resources to make the initiative a success. Change steps need senior people who have the time and resources to “own” the capacity-building industry and ensure the change is driven within the organization.
Culture runs like an invisible thread through the entire subject of capacity building. Any capacity-building effort must take into account the current organizational culture. However, this is easier said than done.