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Conference Speaker Blog: A Capital Idea: Reframing Capacity Building as Capital Building

Thursday, October 4, 2018   (0 Comments)
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A Capital Idea: Reframing Capacity Building as Capital Building

By Gayle L. Gifford, Cause & Effect Inc.; co-presenter with Dr. Elizabeth Castillo, Arizona State University


A recent study in the Chronicle of Philanthropy announced: “the nonprofit sector as a whole is fragile and profoundly undercapitalized.” But is that true?


Studies that focus solely on financial capital reveal a grossly undercapitalized sector. Yet financial capital is far from the only capital resource that nonprofit organizations can draw upon.


My aha moment was the illuminating presentation on the much bigger scope and impact of nonprofit capital resources by Dr. Elizabeth Castillo of Arizona State University at the Alliance/ARNOVA conference in Washington D.C.   Her brief but powerful case study of capital building through the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership left me hungry for more—and led to the workshop we are co-facilitating at this year’s conference. 


The workshop challenges the limited definition of nonprofit capital as merely financial or even social. Elizabeth’s research resulted in a typology of six categories and 20 types of capital resources she unearthed in the literature.[1] Among them we find creative, political, reputational, process, intellectual, and even moral and spiritual capital.

Her subsequent research and framing shed light on how many nonprofit organizations that otherwise meet the definition of profoundly financially undercapitalized may survive month to month, year to year, decade to decade, especially as capital changes from one form to another or latent capital is mobilized into productive capital. This framework can even the playing field for power imbalances that arise when financial capital is privileged above other types of community and organizational resources.

As capacity builders, we may struggle to present the value of our work processes. Yet, if we can link coaching, training, stakeholder engagement, policy development, executive transition, racial equity and inclusion, or strategic thinking and planning to capital formation or its mobilization, we can reframe undervalued capacity-building into valued capital-building that strengthens the resources of our clients, their organizations, and their communities.


Join our workshop of practitioners and researchers to explore the relationship of capacity building to capital building.

[1] Castillo,E. Beyond the Balance Sheet: Teaching Capacity Building as Capital Building. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership 2016, Vol. 6, No 3.