New federal funding for capacity building

The federal stimulus program announced a new set of grants for capacity building.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced this week the Strengthening Communities Fund (SCF).  The SCF seeks to build the capacity of nonprofits and government agencies.  The programs are part of the federal stimulus package's goal of investing in the recovery of local communities.

Two major grant types comprise the program:

1. Awards up to $1M given to a "lead organization."  The "lead organization" can be either a nonprofit or government agency.  This type of award requires the "lead organization" to adminster grants to multiple nonprofits and deliver capacity building training and technical assistance to those nonprofits.

2. Awards up to $250K grant given to a local government agency. This type of award funds the building of both the internal capacity of the government agency as well as partner nonprofits.

The grants are competitive in nature, with 34 of the first type and 48 of the second type granted across the country.

Capacity building is defined to include:

  • organizational development
  • program development
  • collaboration and commmunity engagement
  • leadership development
  • evaluation of effectiveness

Key to both awards is that the required "technical assistance" be delivered via customized consulting for each partner nonprofit.  This can be done by the agency receiving the funding or via contracts with other organizations and consulting firms.

Also, both awards require a 20% cash match provided by the applicant or its partners.

In essence, both awards will require some partnership that can produce the needed combination of initial financial investment, cooperation of multiple nonprofits, and consulting expertise around capacity building.

As such, we believe the Capacity Collaborative is uniquely positioned to respond to this timely announcement.  Government funding is generally targeted at direct service delivery and not capacity building, so the SCF represents a rare opportunity.

We are analyzing the program more deeply, and have already begun conversations within the Collaborative and with other stakeholders in our sector.

Stay tuned for more!  If you have questions or comments, please email Curtis Chang at