By Investing in Capacity, a Texas Foundation Helps Nonprofits Succeed

Nonprofits need more than money to be successful. They also need knowledge and support.

That’s why many community foundations actively invest in programs that help nonprofits build their capacity. Rather than simply writing grants to support individual programs, these foundations instead actively work to help nonprofits become more self sufficient and productive.

Leaders of the Communities Foundation of Texas’ Data Driven Decision-Making Institute gather during a recent reunion. Photo courtesy of CFT.

Leaders of the Communities Foundation of Texas’ Data Driven Decision-Making Institute gather during a recent reunion. Photo courtesy of CFT.

At Communities Foundation of Texas, this means helping nonprofits in North Texas improve their knowledge about and use of data. CFT’s Data Driven Decision-Making Institute offers grantees a graduate-level course on how to collect and use data more strategically to make a bigger difference for the families they serve.

The program gives leaders a full day of training each month for nine months.

It comes with a grant of $10,000 to offset the costs of leaders taking time away from work, along with 20 hours of individual consulting with a data coach to help the leaders and their staff apply what they are learning, taking into account each organization’s specific needs, abilities, and circumstances.

And the results have been transformative for nonprofits across North Texas.

“Organizations across our community are now using data to inform budgeting, staffing, and programs in new ways,” CFT Chief Philanthropy Officer Sarah Cotton Nelson said in the report. “We’ve seen impact across the whole community… from the participating organizations learning together and from those same organizations sharing their enthusiasm for data and its many uses with their peers.

CFT is one of four foundations profiled in Understanding and Sharing What Works, a new report by The Center for Effective Philanthropy that takes a deep dive into how they are learning about best practices and sharing the knowledge they gain with other organizations in the social sector.

The report, which was underwritten by the Fund for Shared Insight, aims to encourage foundations to assess what’s working — and what isn’t — as they aim to achieve their missions.