Childhood favorite toys like a box of LEGO® or Lincoln Logs gave many of us our first taste of complex thinking. Between sorting shapes, sizes, and colors, we also had to think in multiple dimensions by following a blueprint step-by-step to do something in the present moment that would result in something greater in the future.
Along the way we learned how to creatively stray from the original instructions to construct new, bolder combinations to reach that completed piece.
That is where our nonprofit sector is today: at the crossroads of imagination and opportunity.
For better or for worse, the coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to reconsider the best architectural plan for a new time. Fundraising, leadership and communication plans, evaluation metrics, and emergency organizational needs are all being revised.
These crucial building blocks for an organization’s long-term effectiveness and sustainability help our nonprofit partners achieve the greatest impact. At the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we’ve had to adapt as well. We’ve refocused our outreach efforts this year from training and workshops to grant support reserved exclusively for capacity building opportunities that could offer timely responses to thoughtfully support strategic objectives identified by the hundreds of cause-driven organizations we work with.
Since September 2020, the Capacity Building Grant program has invested nearly $140,000 in 17 distinct programs. Most lay the groundwork for future growth and success: website upgrades needed to offer digital programming (that is here to stay); consultants to navigate and plan around our new charitable giving landscape; software upgrades to support remote work transitions and move to serve and interact with clients virtually; and even staff training for new certifications.
Here are just a few examples from recent grantees that will surely light up your imagination:
- Through a text-to-donate and mobile messaging program, Lemur Conservation Foundation will be able to enhance its communications efforts and expand its network of donors by providing an effective way to immediately transform their enthusiasm for animal welfare and conservation into action.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast will undergo a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion assessment to inform and strengthen training sessions and focused workshops for mentors, board members, and staff on topics such as implicit bias and microaggressions, ultimately to effectively meet the mentoring needs of diverse and marginalized youth populations.
- For The Players, a year of conducting business entirely online highlighted the need for a responsive, user-friendly website to engage effectively and efficiently with the communities they serve. A Capacity Building Grant will enable them to begin a website redesign and continue sharing stories of their impact.
As you can see from these stories, capacity building is driving innovation as well as much-needed organizational support within our nonprofit partners who continue to be the best judge of what their needs are and how to best address them. I expect we’ll see similar trends in an upcoming report conducted by seven regional foundations, ours included, to better understand nonprofit recovery one year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay tuned for the full report and results later this month. (You can see previous assessments here)
Whether you’re thinking as a LEGO® builder or leadership executive, imagination must be combined with a plan to guide your hand. After all, together we are all building the community we want to live in. Don’t forget to add in your piece to the ongoing creation.
As always, I want to hear from you. What building blocks have you used to enrich your capacity – human, nonprofit, or otherwise – this year, and how have you sustained this growth? Have you supported any nonprofit capacity building efforts that you are passionate about? What were the results? I welcome you to share any thoughts or feelings in a personal message. Let me know. We’re listening.