May 26, 2009

Laying the Groundwork: Capacity Building Opportunities Abound

The last couple of weeks have seen a few grant opportunities come down the pike that are related to bolstering nonprofits for the long-term – aka “capacity building.” Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or stimulus bill, three RFPs are currently out that will help local nonprofit organizations through training, technical assistance, and financial awards. This article describes the three RFPs and how this funding could affect New Mexico nonprofits, either as an intermediary organization or as a sub-grantee as part of a local competitive process.
Two of the three open RFPs are part of the new Strengthening Communities Fund (SCF) administered by the Administration for Children and Families. Both programs are designed to increase the capacity of nonprofit faith-based and community organizations to serve those in need while increasing the nonprofit’s involvement in the economic recovery of the nation.

The first, the SCF Nonprofit Capacity Building program will make one-time grants of up to $1,000,000 to experienced organizations that will provide training, technical assistance, and competitive sub-grants to local organizations to bolster the following:

  • organizational development;
  • program development;
  • collaboration and community engagement;
  • leadership development; and
  • evaluation of effectiveness.

Examples of funding possibilities included in the RFP are such things as creating a directory for individuals to find out about local and governmental programs, performing a local workforce assessment, helping connect individuals to employers, compiling online information about state and public benefits, and the like. Note that these are examples of uses of the money for sub-grantees – the funding will first need to be awarded to an intermediary organization that has experience in providing training and technical assistance and the know-how to administer a sub-grant program.
The second, the SCF State, Local, and Tribal Government Capacity Building program, will make awards to governmental offices (or their designees) to build their own capacity as well as that of local faith-based and community organizations for the same purposes – to better serve those in need and increase economic recovery.  Grants in this program will be one-time awards of up to $250,000. However, there will be no sub-grants. Instead, the grantee will “increase the involvement of nonprofit organizations in the economic recovery by facilitating partnerships (e.g., informal networks, coalitions, or more formal financial relationships) between and among nonprofits and other government agencies.”

Many of you may be familiar with the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF), the goals of which are very similar to the new Strengthening Communities Fund. In the past, the CCF has funded three projects: Demonstration Programs, Communities Empowering Youth, and Targeted Capacity Building. While all have been capacity building projects, the difference is that the Communities Empowering Youth and Targeted Capacity Building programs funded local nonprofit organizations directly, and the Demonstration Program funds an intermediary organization, similar to the SCF grants, that provides technical assistance, training, and sub-grants to selected local nonprofit organizations.

CCF’s new RFP is a Demonstration Program that will assist nonprofits in the following capacity building activities:

  • leadership development (board composition, staff training, success planning, etc.);
  • organizational development (board governance, fiscal controls, nonprofit training, etc.);
  • program development (curriculum development, program monitoring, evaluation); and
  • community engagement (asset mapping, needs assessment, community outreach).

CCF grants will serve individuals in “distressed communities” – defined as a neighborhood or other well-defined geographic community with an unemployment rate and/or poverty rate greater than the State or national rate. While New Mexico as a whole does not experience unemployment rates greater than those at a national level, certain localities do. And most places in New Mexico can be demonstrated as having a poverty rate greater than that of the nation, making these areas eligible for assistance via the CCF.  The CCF focus area is now designed to benefit:

  • low-income individuals seeking to gain greater access to State and Federal benefits and tax credits;
  • low-income individuals seeking to secure and retain employment, earn higher wages, and obtain better quality jobs;
  • low-income individuals and families in need of financial education, credit counseling, and access to individual development accounts and other asset building strategies;
  • the homeless;
  • elders in need;
  • at-risk youth, including Native American youth; and
  • families in transition from welfare to work.

To recap and delineate potential funding availability, the three current RFPs include the following, with due dates and approximate funding amounts. Monitor the Administration for Children and Families website and the local news to find out who in New Mexico was funded as an intermediary and then watch for competitive local RFPs to be released or training and technical assistance opportunities to be provided.

  • Strengthening Communities Fund Nonprofit Capacity Building Program: Expected Federal awards total $34,000,000 ($1,000,000 to each site) with 55% of the award required to be expended in sub-grants to local organizations within 24 months. The deadline for this grant is July 7, 2009, and awards are expected to be made in September, 2009.
  • Strengthening Communities Fund State, Local, and Tribal Capacity Building Program: Expected Federal awards total $12,000,000 ($250,000 to each site). The deadline for this grant is also July 7, 2009, and awards are expected in September, 2009. There is no sub-grant option for this announcement.
  • Compassion Capital Fund Demonstration Program: Expected Federal awards total $17,500,000 (capping at $500,000 to each site) with 40% of the award required to be sub-granted to local organizations within 12 months. The deadline is June 22, 2009, with awards expected to be made in September, 2009.

So opportunities abound to fill the capacity building needs for local nonprofit organizations and those governmental agencies with a purpose to help or provide outreach to nonprofits. Many organizations will be eligible to apply for direct Federal funding either in June or July – others of you should keep a watchful eye on opportunities opening following announcement decisions in September. The Grant Plant will do its best to publicize any opportunities available at that time – stay tuned!

Contact: Erin Hielkema, Vice President,

Administration for Children and Families at

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