With 14 years of experience at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, heading the economic development granting program, I’ve been advocating for multi-year funding and support for capacity building activities for several years. So, I am super exciting about the recent Capacity Building Fund and Call for Proposals from Status of Women Canada.
For women centred organizations that fit the eligible criteria, I urge you to considering applying, and more importantly to reimagine your definition of capacity building. During my time at the Foundation I reviewed numerous capacity building grant requests. The Foundation applied a very broad definition of capacity building: “it is whatever is needed to bring a non-profit to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future” (Chandler and Scott Kennedy, 2015, p. 3). In addition, the approach to capacity building was founded on the fact that organizations and leaders have strengths, assets and skills to leverage, and that capacity building activities should be responsive, context specific and customized to meet organizational, community or systemic issues.
I’ve read through the applicant guide (and suggest that you do to!) and based on the assessment process and criteria, the definition of organizational capacity building can also be reframed to include funding to support the resources, time and space to reflect, assess and explore your current activities and their impact, its affords organizations the opportunity to connect with others, co-create and collectively develop the next big thing (Wow! How great to have the resources and supports to stop and think!). And with multi-year capacity building funding, you are encouraged to build in learning, evaluation and sustainability components.
We know that the women’s sector is underfunded, fraught with restricting funding structures, competition, and lack of funding for innovation and renewal. That’s why this funding opportunity is so valuable and important. To help you reimagine your understanding of capacity building and the potential benefits, consider some of the outcomes that I have witnessed from organizations that have strategically taken the time to stop, reflect and invest in organizational capacity building:
Contributes to the overall betterment and strengthening of the women’s social services sector
Accelerates learning and increases efficiency
Fosters organizational learning, innovation and enables risks/piloting of programs and activities
Builds connections with participants, staff, funders and other critical stakeholders
Encourages staff retention, job satisfaction, personal growth, leadership and skills development
The applicant guide included a “non-exhaustive” list of eligible capacity building activities, I am happy to add more options and suggestions for you to consider based on my experiences:
Consider placed-based collaborations and partnership opportunities aimed at removing specific barriers experienced by women locally, and how you can create and foster an environment for enhanced service delivery and access
Explore issue-based partnerships, campaigns, data collection initiatives etc. Ask yourself, how can your organization lead a collective effort to move a gender equality issue forward?
If appropriate, include site visits, mentoring and coaching opportunities with other organizations (locally or nationally) to accelerate learnings and program effectiveness
Identify your current “pain points” and map out how capacity building activities can help you solve a problem or address gender equality issues
How can you build capacity to engage and develop partnerships with key and critical stakeholders such as employers, unions, mental health and other social supports, like-minded organizations and funders etc.
Consider how capacity can be built at the organizational, community and systemic levels, take advantage of the multi-year opportunity and bundle several activities together that lead to your ultimate impact
Look at gaps and opportunities to address and build the capacity of gender based intersectional analysis, and diversity, inclusion and belonging practices
Are there tools, resources and awareness building materials that you can develop or co-create in order to shift behaviors, mindsets and beliefs related to gender equality?
Improve your ability to tell your story and share your impact by documenting your processes, sharing your learnings and creating a dissemination strategy
There is no hiding it – I’m excited and thrilled about this funding opportunity.
Check out part 2 of this blog that outlines how I would plan and prepare for a grant request.