Capacity builders provide invaluable support to foundations and nonprofits all over the world. While there are many providers doing good work with foundations and nonprofits, as the TCC Group identifies in Building the Capacity of Capacity Builders, quality and quantity problems within the capacity-builder marketplace also exist.
If you’re like those interviewed for this guide and believe, whenever possible, it’s better to hire local consultants to support capacity-building work, you’ve likely experienced the extremes of local nonprofit consulting marketplaces. Some regions and countries are nonprofit capacity-building consultant “deserts,” places with few who possess the skills and experience to work on capacity-building in general, much less within certain fields, or with groups that require a particular language or cultural proficiency. Then other markets are flooded with consulting “dilettantes,” those professionals who advise nonprofits on capacity-building and organizational development but have no firsthand background or experience from an on-the-ground perspective. As one funder bluntly said, “There are too many consultants who have run a nonprofit for two years, who then make exaggerated claims about what they did, and then, all of a sudden, they’re a management consultant.”
“While outside consultants can bring expertise that doesn’t exist locally, too often they end up doing more harm than good. And, these outside consultants aren’t cheap. Parachuting in talent can get awfully expensive.”
— Anonymous funder
Because these extremes exist, it can be hard to distinguish the high-quality capacity builders from the rest. For those who have experienced difficulty navigating local capacity-building marketplaces, here’s some advice from grantmaker colleagues on how to engage the right capacity builders.
Before you engage any capacity builders, consider:
Once you’re considering potential capacity builders, ask each being considered:
Once you’ve selected a capacity-building partner, determine:
Seeking answers to these questions can help you better match individual capacity builders with specific assignments. You might also consider ways to “build the bench strength” of capacity builders, as some funders are doing.
Ways Funders are Building Capacity-Building Bench Strength
Associations like the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG) vet consultants and offer learning opportunities to strengthen the practice of their member consultants. Individual foundations are also taking steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of consulting provided to grantees.
“There are scores of generic capacity-building providers out there who may be very, very smart in technical assistance services, but if they’re matched with the wrong kinds of groups, they have no credibility and no ability to understand the particular challenges those groups face.”
— Anonymous funder
Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.
This takeaway was derived from Supporting Grantee Capacity.