The Four Core Capacities

The Core Capacities are  based on the research of Peter York and Paul M. Connolly of the TCC group to identify core capacities that contribute to nonprofit effectiveness.  Their research report, "Building the Capacity of Capacity Builders: A Study of Management Support and Field-Building Organizations in the Nonprofit Sector" (June 2003) identified four core capacities that contribute to nonprofit effectiveness.


Leadership Capacity

Leadership Capacity is the ability of organizational leaders to inspire, prioritize, make decisions, provide direction, and innovate.  Key Elements of Leadership Capacity include:

  • Vision
  • Internal Leadership
  • Influence
  • Board Leadership
  • Leadership Sustainability

Internal Leadership Capacity includes:

  • Organizational leaders frequently communicating the value of each individual staff member.
  • Motivating staff
  • Staff being able to clearly articulate the mission, vision and organizational goals
  • Strong working relationship between the board and staff
  • Grounding all decision-making in the mission and vision of the organization, including fundraising decisions
  • Willingness to make changes
  • Willingness to seek help
  • Involving staff in decision-making

At the board level, Leadership Capacity includes:

  • Holding organizational leaders accountable for mission-focused progress
  • Showing up and following through
  • Clear understanding of organizational programs
  • Clear understanding of the environmental context in which the organization works
  • Ability to clearly communicate mission, vision and goals
  • Engaging the community to invest in the organization
  • Reaching out and inspiring the community
  • Being passionate about the mission
  • Addressing and eliminating financial management problems
  • Fulfilling governance responsibilities

When thinking about Leadership Capacity in terms of the Board-to-CEO relationship, it can mean:

  • Frequent interaction between board members and staff leaders
  • Strong working relationship between senior staff leaders and all board members
  • Shared understanding of the mission, vision, goals and strategies
  • Trust

Adaptive Capacity

Adaptive Capacity is the ability of a nonprofit organization to monitor, assess, and respond to internal and external changes.  In broader terms, this really means learning as you go and adapting to change.

Qualities of strong adaptive capacity include:

  • Having & Using Good Decision-Making Tools
  • Learning About Your:
    • Programs
    • Organization
    • Environment
  • Having Resources That Are:
    •  Sustainable
    • Adaptable/Flexible


Management Capacity

Management Capacity is the ability of a nonprofit organization to ensure the effective and efficient use of organizational resources.  The translation?  Having the systems, routines, practices and procedures that enable you to be efficient and cost-effective.

Key Elements of Management Capacity include:

  • Staff Performance: Clear Expectations, Good Performance Reviews, Regular Staff Development
  • Managing Staff & Volunteers
  • Matching Staff With Programs
  • Communicating & Solving Problems
  • Conveying Unique Value of Staff
  • Providing Staff With the Resources they Need
  • Managing Finances


Technical Capacity

Technical Capacity is the ability of a nonprofit organization to implement key organizational and programmatic functions.  Simply put, it’s the having the right people, skills, space and stuff. 

This includes:

  • Technology and technology skills
  • Service Delivery
  • Program Evaluation
  • Appropriate Facilities and Facility management skills
  • Outreach
  • Marketing
  • Legal
  • Fundraising
  • Financial Management

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