Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) play a critical role in delivering social services and addressing the needs of local communities and our nation as a whole. Through capacity-building activities in the form of grant funds, technical assistance and training, funders aim to enhance NPO functions and ultimately improve outcomes for the NPO’s clients. Despite a general consensus about the importance of capacity building, there has been little high-quality evidence about the impact of such activities.
A recent study in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly presents findings from the first random assignment evaluation of a capacity-building initiative. The Compassion Capital Fund Demonstration Program (CCF), funded by the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is one of the nation’s largest capacity-building initiatives. Under contract from the ACF to evaluate the program, researchers from Abt Associates randomly chose some organizations to receive capacity building through the CCF. Abt’s evaluation considered two primary research questions: How effective is the capacity-building assistance in increasing organizational capacity among NPOs, and in what areas of organizational capacity have these organizations showed the greatest improvement?