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Investing in Organizational Strengthening - Designing an Investment that Aligns with Your Foundation and Grantee Partners Aspirations

  • Social Sector Accelerator 2345 Crystal Drive Arlington, VA, 22202 United States (map)

“Organizational strengthening.” “Capacity building.” Most of us have complex relationships with these terms. On the one hand, we intuitively know that the nonprofits we work with need support to strengthen their organizations. On the other hand, these terms have lost their meaning. We want proven approaches support our partners and ways to better understand whether our investments are making a difference.

The Social Sector Accelerator is hosting a 2-day Organizational Strengthening Design Workshop for Foundation staff. We will introduce you to an organizational strengthening design cycle, and support you to collaboratively develop a strategy and implementation plan for building and accelerating nimble, dynamic organizations that deliver measurable impact. Throughout the workshop, we’ll be helping you think through how to develop a strategy that is well tailored to the needs and interests of your existing and future grantees, and that is centered around the change your foundation hopes to bring to the world. The facilitators of the workshop will be drawing on their backgrounds in human centered design, so expect two full days of productive, interactive, fun!

Our workshop builds on the Grantmakers for Effective OrganizationsA New Vision for Comprehensive Capacity Building,” workshops which introduced the core concepts of capacity support. However, prior participation in a GEO workshop is not a prerequisite.

Who: Our workshop is designed for program directors, grants officers, learning and evaluation officers from foundations who have learning questions that include:

  • How does “organizational strengthening” or similar support to building organizational capabilities help us achieve our mission and maximize our impact as a foundation? Is this the most impactful and cost-effective use of our money? 
  • How can we better understand the aspirations of our grantee partners and help them to make greater progress toward these aspirations through our support? What’s the most effective way to offer support?
  • How can my foundation effectively invest in newer, more emergent organizations that are doing critical work, but may lack experience? How do I reduce risk while maintaining a forward leaning grantmaking strategy?

The 2-day workshop will introduce you to a model for designing, launching and evaluating an organizational strengthening program grounded in the specific aspirations of both your foundation and your grantee partners. Led by experienced facilitators the hands-on workshop will include expert speakers on key topics, introduction to practical tools and templates and the design and prototyping of individual program strategies.

Pre-Workshop Activities: Prior to the workshop, you will receive support to develop a Learning Agenda. Your Learning Agenda will help you develop a set of learning questions, test your assumptions and build a feasible action plan. You will emerge with an actionable, realistic and well-developed plan to implement or improve your foundation supported organizational strengthening strategy.

Key Learning Questions


Illustrative Agenda Outline


The final version of the agenda and content of the modules will be developed in consultation with the participants and after the formulation of their Learning Agendas to ensure the workshop meets the needs of the participants.

Lead Facilitator:

Teresa Crawford – Teresa brings over 20 years of practical experience working directly with organizations in over 50 countries to improve their effectiveness and their impact.  A skilled facilitator and trainer she utilizes human centered design techniques and dynamic approaches to learning. She advises foundations and organizations on how to align their programs with their missions, resources and purpose. Teresa has a degree in nonprofit management and policy from NYU with a concentration in international development.

Speakers (invited):

About the Social Sector Accelerator: The Accelerator, founded in 2014, is the innovation lab of Counterpart International and a member of the Counterpart Network. Each year, Counterpart, a 51-year-old development organization, coaches over 2,500 nonprofits and provides over 900 grants to organizations around the world. In 2014, the Accelerator initiated research into the Capacity Surge – what are their expanded capabilities to execute their programs and manage and grow their organization and the Capacity Dividend – what was the impact of these investments on their mission? We are committed to sharing our learning with our peers and helping others to develop new investments in organizational strengthening programs. This design workshop builds on what we are learning with our clients and partners.

Details: The workshop will be held February 1-2, 2018 from 9am – 5:00pm at the conveniently located Social Sector Accelerator Offices - 2345 Crystal Drive, Crystal City, VA 22202.

The program fee is $1,300 if paid before January 1st, 2018. Registrations paid after January 1st are $1,500. A 10% discount is offered to GEO members.

  • The program fee includes catered lunch and snack breaks for both days.
  • Participants will receive a printed manual and access to a training website.
  • Participants are expected to arrange for their own hotel and transportation to/from the workshop.
  • Our offices are conveniently located in Crystal City, VA and a short metro or taxi ride from Reagan National Airport.
  • We are happy to provide accommodation recommendations within walking distance to the workshop.


To learn more about the program, discuss your participation, access our online application and sign up please contact:

Teresa Crawford
Executive Director
Social Sector Accelerator
+1 571-447-5748