Capacity Building (Part 2): Three Activities Your Organization Needs

A sapling emerges from the soil

Peter Gamache
Peter Gamache, PhD
Jackie Griffin
Jackie Griffin, Turnaround Life, Inc.

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. and Jackie Griffin, Turnaround Life, Inc.

This is the second in a multi-part series from Turnaround Life, Inc. on the issues nonprofits face in building capacity. You can read the first installment here.


As the most critical process that ensures the long-term success of an organization, capacity building is not something nonprofits should ignore. Quite the opposite — the capacity building, should be a priority for every organization looking to grow.

However, it can be challenging to determine where to start. Since any activity that improves an organization’s ability to pursue its mission more effectively can be considered capacity building, setting priorities is a challenge.

However, there are certain capacity building activities that every organization will need at some point. Let’s have a look at the three most significant capacity building activities for your organization:

  1. Peer Learning

Peer learning is one of the best ways for organizations to improve their capabilities. However, for it to be effective, organizations taking part in the peer learning process have some conditions to fulfill. The most important one is setting up a peer learning community where all of the participants can benefit. That usually means having one common cause and one area where their activities converge.

Other than having common ground, it’s also critical to build trust as quickly as possible between the organizations. Only that will ensure that all participants are sharing knowledge freely and that the primary dedication is to learning.

  1. Leadership Development

Without proper leadership, it’s hard to imagine an organization doing well. Most organizational decisions come from its leadership, as well as its processes. As such, it’s essential for an organization to continuously improve in this aspect so that it could recognize if its needs are being met in other areas as well.

The process of leadership development doesn’t only include improving existing leadership through training, although that is a significant portion of it. Capacity building through leadership development also means an organization should strive to secure high-quality recruits and educate them. By nurturing leadership, nonprofits ensure that they’ll be adequately managed and sustainable for years to come.

  1. Collaboration Planning

Even though they mainly help with growth, collaborations aren’t only suited to smaller organizations. Even bigger ones can use it to scale up, learn, and reach new supporters. Nonprofits that could benefit from collaboration should take collaboration planning seriously and include it in their capacity building activities.

The right collaborations could make a difference between increased growth and stagnation. An organization that recognizes growth opportunities stemming from collaboration can make maximum use out of it. That is why collaboration planning is an integral part of capacity building for any organization. This activity ensures that an organization will be able to correctly determine when they need to come together, as well as how and with whom.

Capacity building is critical for the success of a nonprofit owing to its capabilities to improve almost every process in an organization. It’s invaluable when it comes to preparing an organization to scale up efficiently. Collaboration planning, leadership development, and peer learning might be the most necessary capacity building activities because they help organizations tackle the most critical areas responsible for growth and sustainability.


Peter Gamache, PhD, is a research, development, and evaluation specialist for health services  organizations, private foundations, and federally-funded public service organizations. His current research interests include disparities in health and mental health, integrated care, program fidelity, and program outcomes. He advocates for a collective understanding of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and culture to prevent and address marginalization of people living with disease, illness, injury, and disability.

Jackie Griffin serves as the development director, systems analyst, and director of evaluation for Turnaround Life, Inc. She has more than 26 years of experience dealing with nonprofit management, overseeing operations, grant development, grant management, capacity building evaluation, and performance assessment. Ms. Griffin manages the overall operations and resources of the company and works to enhance and sustain customer relationships and capacity building with stakeholders. She has worked to secure more than $69 million in government grants and expanding systems of care and behavioral health treatment in Florida, Mississippi, New Orleans, Maine and Virginia. Of that total, $22 million was awarded in the past three years in partnership with Turnaround Life and Turnar ound Achievement Network, LLC.  Ms. Griffin is a Certified Recovery Coach, and the former vice president of development of Operation PAR, Inc., and executive director of the LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County. She earned her master’s with a concentration in nonprofit management and master’s  in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies, Tampa Bay campus. Ms. Griffin has taught graduate and undergraduate students as an adjunct faculty member for Springfield College Tampa Bay campus and currently serves as the president of its Community Advisory Board. Ms. Griffin founded Jackie Sue Griffin & Associates, LLC in 2013 to provide nonprofit organizations, health and human services and government agencies consulting expertise and technical assistance in fund development and philanthropy and capacity building. 

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