Nonprofit Capacity Building Tool #2 – Action Planning

Nonprofit Capacity Building Tool #2 – Action Planning 1 Developing a Capacity Building (CB) Action Plan is the second in the sequence of four steps designed to engage nonprofits in systematic capacity building. Reminders: • Utilize a Team Approach . Associations are strongly encouraged to convene a capacity building team of board and staff leaders to engage in action planning, as well as other capacity building activities. • Complete Capacity Building Tool #1: Assessment and Benchmarking . This is the basis for developing your CB action plan. Action Planning Instructions Step 1: Identify CB Focus Areas. Based on your completed Capacity Building Tool #1 : Assessment and Benchmarking , identify up to six capacity assessment categories for special attention. In doing so, consider the following: • NOTE: In the CB Tool #1, there are 58 capacity building categories organized under six elements of capacity building. • Start by looking at the capacity assessment categories with the lowest scores. (For example, categories you rated a “1” -- clear need for increased capacity). • Give added weight to the assessment categories listed in the capacity building element: Mission, Vision & Strategy because these are the driving forces that give the organization its purpose and direction. • Trust your team wisdom and intuition about what is important to focus on. • At the same time, avoid focusing on things that might be symptomatic of deeper issues. Step 2 below will help you think about “root causes” or underlying capacity building issues that deserve your attention first. • Select up to six capacity assessment categories for special attention. These will become the “ Capacity Building (CB) focus areas” for action planning. • If appropriate, you may group several related assessment categories together as one CB focus area. For example: the two related assessment categories of Board Composition and Diversity and Board Recruitment and Development could be clustered as “Board Development” focus area.

1 *This Capacity Building Action Planning Tool was originally developed by Frank Martinelli and Shelly Schnupp for use by local associations of the Great Lakes Alliance of the YWCA () as part of the GLA Capacity Building Project.


Now list your CB focus areas (up to six) here: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

3 Step 2: Prioritize CB Focus Areas. Using the Interrelationship Diagram tool, analyze the relationships/interplay among the capacity building focus areas you listed in Step 1 above. “Focus” is a best practice concept associated with capacity building efforts. Good capacity building efforts do not try to address all areas at once; instead, attention is focused on several areas, especially the right areas where attention, if given, can have an impact on others. These are often called “high leverage” areas. Therefore, an important step toward capacity building action planning is determining priorities among CB focus areas identified as needing attention. The Interrelationship Diagram is a tool that can be used to prioritize capacity building focus areas. In Step 1 of capacity building action planning, your association identified up to six CB focus areas for attention. These were determined by analyzing the results of the capacity assessment and considering the importance of the capacity building model, which emphasizes Mission, Vision and Strategy as a key driver of other capacity elements. Now your team will develop an interrelationship diagram for its CB focus areas, identifying and analyzing the cause and effect relationships that exist among these priority areas. This will help you focus on the “driving forces” among the CB focus areas. Driving forces are those that have the greatest, fundamental impact on the association’s capacity to achieve its mission. The logic of this process leads us to focus on the driving forces because actions that reinforce or increase the impact of the drivers can do the most to improve capacity. 1. Arrange your CB focus areas, identified for attention and listed in Step 1, in a circle using the format of the “Interrelationship Diagram Worksheet” on next page. 2. Then, taking the CB focus areas one at a time, look for “cause and effect” relationships between items. Beginning with one focus area, compare it to each of the other focus areas asking the following question: "Does this CB focus area drive or is it driven by the other areas displayed in the worksheet?” Draw a one-way arrow from the area that is the driver to the area that it influences. The arrow originating from one area and pointing to another indicates the first is the driver. Do this repeatedly until you have gone through all of the CB focus areas displayed in your interrelationship diagram. NOTE: It’s important to define the cause and effect relationship between each pair of CB focus areas. Also, you can only draw one arrow in between any two areas. (And there can only be a point on one end of the arrow!) Two-way arrows would lead to an endless loop that really doesn't provide new information. Make a decision as to which area is the driver. This is often the most valuable outcome of the interrelationship exercise. 3. After completing the Interrelationship Diagram, briefly discuss your results. Look to see which 2-3 CB focus areas have the most arrows originating from them. These are the drivers and will be considered as “top priority CB focus areas” in the action planning process. See the example of a completed Interrelationship Diagram on the page after the worksheet that follows.

4 NOTE: In some situations, after your capacity building team has completed Step 1 of the action planning process, it will seem so clear to everyone what the 2-3 driving forces are, that completion of the Interrelationship Diagram may seem like an unnecessary step. This may be true, especially if your focus areas are from CB element Mission, Vision & Strategy . As mentioned earlier, these are the driving forces that give the organization its purpose and direction. If focus areas from the Mission, Vision & Strategy element show up in your short list, your priorities may already be clear. HOLD ON! : Don’t decide to skip the interrelationship diagram step too quickly. You run the risk of rushing to “put out a brushfire” instead of focusing on “root causes”. And root causes are what effective capacity building is all about! Most of the time, going through the process of completing the interrelationship diagram leads to valuable insights about the real capacity building issues facing your association

Interrelationship Diagram Worksheet


Ask of each CB Focus Area: “Does this area drive or is it driven by each of the other areas displayed in the worksheet?” Draw a one-way arrow from the area that is the driver to the area that is influenced by the driver. Do this repeatedly until you have gone through all of the CB focus areas. (NOTE: If this document is open in Microsoft Word, you can use the line draw with arrow function to





accomplish this electronically.)



Interrelationship Diagram Example

In this Interrelationship Diagram, CB focus areas that have the highest number of arrows out are the "driving forces". In the example, areas 1, 3, and perhaps 4 are therefore the "drivers" in the system we are examining.

5 out 0 in

CB Focus Area #1

1 out\ 4 in

0 out 5 in

CB Focus Area #6

CB Focus Area #2

2 out 3 in

CB Focus Area #5

CB Focus Area #3

4 out 1 in

3 out 2 in

CB Focus Area #4

Interrelationship Diagram Example

Step 3: Action Plan. In this step you will develop an action plan for addressing the priority CB focus areas identified in Step 2. 1. Using the results from Step 2, list your 2-3 prioritized CB focus areas in priority order in the Column 1 cells in the form on the next page. 2. For each CB focus area, note the movement from current assessment level to desired level in the Column 2 cells. If you have grouped two or more assessment categories into one CB focus area, note the level changes for each separate assessment category. 3. Summarize the major actions needed to achieve the CB changes desired for each CB focus area in the column 3 cells. Refer to and relate the actions to the capacity description for this category in the CB Tool #1 Assessment and Benchmarking. Note any special issues (causes, contributing factors or barriers) that need to be considered in taking action. 4. Ideally, your action plan will incorporate a range of capacity building strategies, resources and activities that reinforce each other. Review the following list of options. Draw from it when you complete the “Capacity Building Resources Needed” Column 4 cells in the Action Plan Form. Give special attention to the following resources: R A good source of information is the Capacity Building Resource Inventory which offers associations an extensive collection of resources that will support capacity building efforts. The resources are organized according to the six capacity elements listed earlier. The Inventory will be very useful in creating and later implementing your capacity building action plan. Also consider: R Education and training program (Possible sources: staff and capacity building consultants, local United Way, state association of nonprofits, university-based training resources, etc). R Technical Assistance (Possible sources: staff and capacity building consultants, other consultants, local United Way, state association of nonprofits, university-based consulting resources, etc). R Peer exchanges (with other nonprofits). Example: Meeting with Executive Director of a nonprofit that has developed an exemplary new staff orientation program. R Research on and referrals to existing resources. Example: capacity building consultants or others identify a nonprofit technical assistance provider that offers risk management training. R Print, audio, web, and/or video self guided resources. Example: staff and capacity building consultants or others assemble package of resources on leadership succession planning R Field trip. Example: Visit another nonprofit to observe a new initiative in action; gather information and ideas for implementing a new service/program.


Step 3 CB Action Planning

Column 1. Priority CB Focus Area

Column 2. Proposed Capacity Level Change(s) over the next Year

Column 3. Summary of Actions Needed to Achieve the Capacity Level Change(s) ( see CB Tool #1 Descriptions for Needed Changes ). Example: Develop new vision and strategic plan

Column 4. Capacity Building Resources Needed to carry out the Action, including assistance from the region, other Associations, other resources, etc. Examples: Attend Live Meeting on Strategic Thinking and Planning. Secure skilled planning facilitator—from university? Get samples of vision statements from other associations. Funding to support plan process—apply for GLA Empowerment Fund

Example: Strategic Thinking and Planning

Example: Mission, Vision, Strategy,

Category 5 -- Progress from Capacity Level 1 to Level 2

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