This month we focus on “capacity building” an important term used by non-profits that may be new to most readers. It’s a phrase that speaks to how non-profits accomplish their mission by having the right skills in the areas of decision making, policy formulation, appraisal, and learning.
In nuts and bolts terms, that will include ongoing development in these important and diverse organizational areas:
- governance and leadership
- mission and strategy
- fund-raising/income generation
- partnerships and collaboration
- advocacy and policy change
Capacity building is necessary to ensure an organization is able to continue to meet its mission. Skilled-based volunteers who help in capacity building areas provide invaluable expertise to their organization’s success.
Susan Litka volunteers with HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC). After retiring in 2009 and marking off most of the items on her to-do list, Susan was looking for activities outside the house. She volunteered to stuff envelopes at HOSC, but was quickly recruited for a different task, when it was discovered she had worked as a Grant Coordinator. Grants are crucial for most non-profits’ financial health and long-term viability.
In her previous work position, Susan looked for grants that would fit her organization’s expertise, tracked the outcome of submitted proposals and calculated their success rate. She brings those same skills to HOSC, where she maintains the spreadsheet to track grant progress and outcome. She also provides editing and proofreading skills for several HOSC publications and organizes Excel spreadsheet data.
As Susan reflects on her time at HOSC, she notes, “Like many of us, it is not the work per se that I missed when I retired, as it was the workplace environment, the social benefits of interacting with others. Having been with HOSC for over six years, I’ve gotten to know the staff and other volunteers, many of whom I now consider friends. That, and the feeling of accomplishment when certain tasks are completed. Although my value is no longer measured in dollars, it is confirmed each day I spend at HOSC, as someone invariably says ‘Thank You’ as I walk out the door.”
“Susan looks for new challenges and opportunities to add value to HandsOn Suburban Chicago and its Senior Corps-RSVP program. In addition, she provides vision and advice as a volunteer with Senior Corps-RSVP’s Community Participation Advisory Group. We consider Susan one of our closest advisors and most importantly a friend.”
– Sarah Van Huis, Director, Nonprofit Development and Senior Corps-RSVP Director.
James Kennedy volunteers at the Children’s Advocacy Center. He also wanted to stay mentally and physically active after retiring and he saw volunteering as a means to that end. He began delivering weekly Meals-on-Wheels for the Kenneth Young Center, an opportunity he found through the HOSC website.
Buoyed by that success, he went back to the HOSC website and was surprised at the opportunities that needed the computer skills he used daily as an engineer. The Safe From The Start/Childrens’ Advocacy Center sought Excel spreadsheet expertise to better tabulate assessment data, an important aspect in capacity building. Since it used his existing skills, James says he didn’t have to think twice about it.
And what does James get in return for volunteering? “It’s a ticket to feel good about yourself every day you participate. To know you’ve done some good, contributed, maybe made some one’s life a little better. I also appreciate the exposure to people who are outside of my personal circle of colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. It’s a reminder about the less familiar facets of the world we live in.”
And that feeling of respect from James to the Children’s Advocacy Center is mutual.
“James is so knowledgeable in the skill set we needed help with – technology. He took into account the needs of our program and arranged our data in a meaningful way that we can submit to our funders. James makes a big difference for us and we look forward to engaging him in more projects!”
-Carrie Estrada, Safe From the Start Program Coordinator (a program of the Children’s Advocacy Center).
Please check out these important capacity building opportunities with area non-profits:
Governance and Leadership: