This month's Guest blogger is Kevin Cain. Kevin became the first President and CEO of the John Rex Endowment in 2001. He also serves on the board of NC Child and the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers.
“Persistence is the twin of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time” Anonymous. At the John Rex Endowment we believe in the close relationship between the two.
Last month we awarded eight grants worth about $200,000 to support capacity building in non-profits here in Wake County. Capacity building has been an important focus of our work for several years now with a growing list of accomplishments. Eighty- four capacity building grants have been approved since 2009. Several agencies have been funded more than once, and I think the repetition is good for everyone involved.
In a survey of organizations that received two or more capacity building grants between 2009 and 2014, half of them reported they fully achieved or exceeded their goals. Two-thirds were ahead of or right where they thought they would be in long-term impact on their organizations. (Keep in mind, these are grants that run for less than a year.)
The evaluation also showed agency growth in four important elements of capacity. Across the board, agencies rated themselves stronger in leadership, management, adaptability, and technical capacity after their grants were finished.
That’s a very encouraging report. But none of those organizations rated themselves in the highest ‘4’ category. And that’s encouraging too, because it recognizes room for improvement.
No surprise then, it’s not unusual for an organization to follow an assessment grant with an implementation grant, or to follow one implementation with another, or to see the need for a fresh assessment grant from time to time. It’s not unusual to find organizations that have completed three or four with us. Capacity building can be a long-term project broken into incremental steps towards high performance. It can also be a style of management and governance. Rigorously pursued, it can transform an organization
Capacity building is not for the faint of heart. Agencies we work with tell us that it’s time consuming and labor intensive. But based on the experience of agencies that witness improvements, once they work the process they find plenty of motivation to keep coming back.
As for the endowment, the experience of engaging in assessments and capacity building efforts contributes to our appreciation of the issues an organization faces and our capacity to help address those issues. Fair to say, that’s an ongoing process too.