Capacity Building Overview

After investing $10 million over eight years to build the capacity of Southside Virginia nonprofit organizations, in 2014, The Cameron Foundation sought ways to fine-tune what has worked and to pursue new approaches. Foundation staff and board members, nonprofit leaders and peer foundations were engaged to ensure that the redesigned program met Foundation goals, community needs and proven approaches. The capacity-building program was redesigned with elements offering support to organizations across a range of sizes and levels of sophistication – all aimed at improving performance for greater impact. The redesigned approach to capacity building has six elements:

  1. Nonprofit Resource Center and Connect VA: These resources offer access to information aimed at improving management, governance, operations and programs and serves both small and emerging organizations aligned with Cameron priorities as well as those organizations not aligned with the Foundation’s goals.
  2. Duke University Nonprofit Management Classes: This highly regarded program has been used with good results by the Danville Regional Foundation and Harvest Foundation to increase capacity and improve performance among its grantees. Topics are matched to community needs and tailored to meet organizations at their level of sophistication.
  3. Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence (PNE) Resources: PNE manages multiple programs to provide Central Virginia nonprofits with the tools they need to improve their effectiveness and efficiency for greater impact. The Cameron Foundation has engaged PNE to provide capacity-building services to selected grantees through two tracks:
    • The Organizational Improvement Process provides a deep dive assessment, working one-on-one with a consultant to determine organizational strengths and to create a comprehensive capacity building plan. This more intensive track is being implemented with a cohort of organizations chosen by The Cameron Foundation each year.
    • Standards for Excellence is a national initiative to promote the highest standards of nonprofit governance, management, and operations. The Standards for Excellence provide organizations with a framework for self-assessing their needs based upon a best practices model and include tools and model policies to assist with implementation. Each year, the Foundation also supports a cohort of its grantees to undertake this work.
  4. Recast Recognition Awards: In addition to continuing to offer the Cleveland A. Wright Award for Outstanding Community Service, the Cleveland A. Wright Lecture program was introduced in 2015 as a way to bring the community together to learn from national experts in areas of nonprofit practice. The Handy L. Lindsey, Jr. Award for Excellence in Organizational Management celebrates organizations moving toward Standards for Excellence Accreditation, national recognition of an organization’s use of the highest standards of practice.
  5. Learning Communities: Collective learning among nonprofit leaders in the same field has proven to be an approach to improve practice and develop peer relationships that spur greater collaboration. Learning communities can be a follow-up to events like the Foundation-sponsored 2014 Regional Health Summit, or organized separately to focus on a community issue.
  6. Evaluation: To ensure that the capacity building program is working, its effectiveness will be measured in several ways. Participants will assess classes, consultation and learning communities. Progress in achieving improvement goals of participants will be measured. In the long-term, effectiveness will be reflected in community impact.