Organisational Development & Capacity Building

The Challenge
In 2011 Oak Foundation commissioned a Grantee Perception Survey  carried out by the Center for Effective Philanthropy. The survey indicated that Oak grantees have a strong interest in receiving more capacity building support and “assistance beyond the grant” to strengthen their work and outreach. 

The challenges for Oak were to: analyse what this actually meant to our grantees; review what we have done in the past; and see how we could be more proactive in the future.

What we’re doing
In response to the Grantee Perception Report, we established a working group to conduct a wide range of consultations, involving staff, peer foundations and partners in every programme. As a result of that research and analysis, we decided to:

  • strengthen existing practices at Oak Foundation and foster cross-foundation learning on the types of capacity building and organisational support we provide in our grants;
  • provide greater flexibility in awarding small grants (under USD 100,000) for capacity building purposes and in investing in the use of new tools, assessments and regional work;
  • perform a mapping of our grant-making to assess the type of capacity building and organisational support we provide to our partners (see an executive summary of that research conducted on 2013 grant-making); and
  • hire a Senior Adviser on Capacity Building and Organisational Development to help staff develop the abilities to support organisational sustainability and capacity building and to reinforce our internal grant-making mechanisms to facilitate this work.

We believe that these measures are improving our ability to provide support to partners in becoming stronger, more robust organisations. Nonetheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that Oak’s core business is grant-making and there will always be limits on the level and depth of capacity building that we can provide.

What we fund
The types of organisational development and capacity building activities integrated in our grant-making include providing: advice to our partners in project design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation; support to strategic planning processes; assistance in developing evaluation and learning systems; strengthening financial planning and controls; developing/expanding communications and outreach, marketing, branding and public relations; and improving governance, including the structure, membership and operations of governing boards.

We are also increasingly involved in supporting partners to improve their advocacy and campaigning activities and to understand the dynamics of policy change and formulation. In this way, we hope to strengthen partners - individually and collectively - to increase their understanding of and influence over the environments in which they work.

Moreover, in 2014, Oak has invested more into supporting leadership development, including the leadership of Boards. Read our article in the 2014 Annual Report on page 8 with examples of our support to leadership.

How to get involved
Our organisational development and capacity building support is integrated into our grant-making.

If you are an Oak partner and want to know more about these initiatives, please consult with the Programme Officer responsible for your grant. He/she will contact the Senior Advisor on Organisational Development and Capacity Building, as appropriate.
If you are not an Oak partner, please read the What we fund page in detail to know more about our grant-making process and criteria.

The following are a set of principles that guides our work:

  • We strive to foster collaboration and partnership with other funders, as well as among partners.
  • We seek to ensure that organisational development and capacity building efforts are owned by our partners and that there is an iterative process between Oak and the partners receiving such support.
  • We view capacity building and organisational development as an on-going process that requires persistence, patience and flexibility.