How to Engage the Right Capacity Builders: Questions to explore (or use to shape an RFP)

Let these questions guide you in selecting the right consultant for capcity building work.

Before you engage any capacity builders, consider:

1. Overall, what are you trying to accomplish as a result of engagement with a capacity builder?

2. What expectations do you have for what will happen (e.g., in t erms of activities, deliverables, outcomes)?

3. What type of expertise do you think is needed (e.g., more a generalist organizational development expert or a capacity builder with deep experience in one area)?

4. What’s the marketplace of capacity builders available in the region in which you’re seeking support and how do they match up with the scope of work you’re seeking?

5. Should the grantee (or grantees) be part of setting this scope and vetting who gets hired?

Once you’re considering potential capacity builders, ask each being considered:

6. What is your overall background and experience working on nonprofit capacity-building?

7. How well do you know the local context and issues facing this group of nonprofits? For example, whom have you worked with on capacity-building issues and on what kinds of capacity-building projects?

8. What scope of work do you recommend for this project?

9. What do you think are reasonable expectations for what capacity can be built given this scope?

10. How would you define the roles — of the grantee(s), the funder, the capacity builder — and boundaries between your work?

Once you’ve selected a capacity-building partner, determine:

11. How will we work together — funder, capacity builder, grantee(s) — to execute the planned scope?

12. What are the best ways to ensure open communications while respecting boundaries in roles?

13. Who gets to decide what gets shared and with whom?

14. How and with whom will success be assessed and communicated?

15. How might you incentivize this capacity builder to participate in professional development and learning opportunities that build the local “bench strength” of capacity builders?

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.

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