Blog: Amplify

Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity

This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.

See where it all began at our
Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Cleveland this October!

“It goes without saying that increased technology has allowed us not only to stay in operation but to thrive and therefore to continue to meet the needs of children and families.” – Executive director

This testimony is one example of how executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Greater Hartford, CT believe the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving helps strengthen their agencies.

The Hartford Foundation provides capacity building assistance to 60 percent of its grantees. The Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) is the backbone of that assistance. In 2013, NSP awarded 76 grants totaling $1,595,331.

Through a robust array of services, including programs providing help with strategic planning, board leadership, financial management, technology, executive transitions and evaluation, NSP helps enhance strong, flexible and sustainable organizations and encourages connections among nonprofit leaders.

NSP is nationally known for its comprehensive approach to nonprofit capacity building and is committed to providing nonprofit leaders with timely and relevant information to keep them abreast of key issues and trends in management and governance. NSP gives agencies the support they need through assessments, grants and executive workshops, and its programs offer the most current thinking on how best to help nonprofits meet their goals.

“We provide the tools and knowledge for agencies to build strong boards, plan for their futures, evaluate programs, improve finances, and update technology so that they can better serve the community,” said Annemarie Riemer, director of NSP.

Participants in the Nonprofit Support Program’s Building Evaluation Capacity program showcase and discuss their agency’s work.

Technology can be an effective tool in helping an agency achieve its mission. The Nonprofit Support Program’s Strategic Technology Program focuses on the creation of a multi-year strategic technology plan. The program consists of three elements: a “Technology Strategies for Nonprofit Leaders” workshop, development of a technology plan with the assistance of a technology consultant, and an opportunity to apply for a Strategic Technology Grant for technology needs established in the plan.

Last year, NSP awarded nearly $800,000 in strategic technology grants. One of the grantees was FOCUS Center for Autism in Canton, CT, which received funding to implement a strategic technology plan developed to better serve clients.

FOCUS is a grassroots, community-based nonprofit whose mission is helping children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders achieve their full potential. The organization provides a continuum of services to children, adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, attention and anxiety disorders and learning and processing difficulties, and to their families.

In recent years, FOCUS has grown considerably to meet the growing demand for services for children on the Autism Spectrum. The agency’s communication technology was stretched beyond its ability to communicate effectively with clients, families, donors and other major stakeholders.

The executive director and three other FOCUS staff members participated in NSP's technology training program. The organization then worked with one of NSP’s technology consultants to develop a three-year technology plan that included detailed information on technology goals, current and future needs, and a time line for implementation of planned upgrades.

FOCUS credits the Hartford Foundation’s NSP Strategic Technology grant for providing the upgrades that will solve many of its communication problems. “Our staff is being trained in new software and hardware, which will help improve the delivery of the care and service [our clients] have come to expect.”

Michelle C. Mays is Communications Manager for the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

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