Nonprofit Capacity Building in Central New York: Assets, Needs and Opportunities


The Health Foundation of Western & Central New York commissioned the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) in partnership with the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo (CHWNB) to conduct a study to identify the assets, needs, and gaps in capacity building resources for nonprofit organizations in Central New York. The study included eight Central New York (CNY) counties (Cayuga, Cortland, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and Tompkins) and is a replication of a study conducted in Western New York (WNY) for the Western New York Nonprofit Support Group.

To help illustrate the broad range of assets and gaps/needs identified through this study, we created an interactive Asset Map (click to view). The asset map is designed to present a comprehensive picture of the assets and gaps/needs for each of the six domains identified in the capacity building framework.

The funders and researchers adopted three guiding principles for the study:

  • A diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) orientation, both in our conceptualization of capacity building and in soliciting a broad band of nonprofit insights with a special emphasis on capturing and highlighting the voices of frequently marginalized groups that often do not have access to traditional philanthropy.
  • An asset-based approach to the exploration of capacity building resources. Building capacity is at the core of asset-based community development, which is a community development framework that draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities (ABCD Institute, 2019).
  • An iterative approach to conducting the study with frequent communication and check-in points with stakeholders to explicitly call out opportunities to jointly discuss and shape the various elements of the study.

A few notable highlights from survey findings:

  • Survey participants felt strongest in the areas of Vision and Mission and Alignment and Collaboration and named Resources as the domain with the most challenges and need for support.
  • Within the Resources domain, survey respondents identified fundraising and development functions, forecasting changes to the funding landscape, and human resources as key challenges and priorities for external support.
  • Challenges related to Leadership were next most common (in particular, board governance, work/life balance, and the leadership pipeline), followed by DEI (particularly recruiting and retaining diverse staff and board) and Research, Evaluation, and Strategic Learning where organizations lifted up struggles with measuring, evaluating, and understanding the value of their programs and services.

Overarching themes and opportunities:

  • Promote regional learning/sharing across CNY
  • Continued support for collaborative infrastructure across counties
  • Provide and advocate for flexible funding

Focus Area: Community Health Capacity

Category: Evaluation, Infographic, Report, Toolkit

Date Published: September 6, 2019