What is capacity building?

Lego bricks to demonstrate capacity building
Image Credit: 
Iker Urteaga via Unsplash
3 April, 2019


Capacity building is the kind of phrase you hear a lot in the VCSE sector, but it can take a while to get your head around. What exactly is capacity building and why is it relevant to your organisation?

What we mean by capacity building is using the different abilities, skills and resources in your organisation to meet your goals, expectations, funding regulations and so on.

If you have good intentions but not enough capacity, you may find staff and volunteers are overstretched and unhappy, resources are limited or temporary, and you can’t grow your organisation.

It’s frustrating not to reach your full potential – you feel you’ve let down colleagues, funders and the people you want to help. That’s why Voscur will deliver a capacity building training session next month, to help you get back on track.

Examples of capacity building

Capacity building for your voluntary organisation, community group, social enterprise or charity might involve:

  • Training for staff, trustees and volunteers, to fill any skills gaps. Click here for a list of upcoming Voscur training courses.
  • Getting better and more diverse leadership in place.
  • Boosting your team’s confidence - increasing staff retention and offering mentors.
  • Creating or improving your business plan.
  • Working more in the community and engaging with a wider audience.
  • Improving your organisation’s standards on safeguarding and equalities.
  • Building up your network of contacts – other groups you could collaborate with; peer support; talking to potential funders; building relationships at specific networking events and meetings.
  • Developing your finance resources and funding options – looking beyond the obvious ways of fundraising and towards ideas like asset transfers, hiring out space in your building or selling your skills to others. Our 2020 project helps inspire organisations who might want to do this.

Capacity building in Bristol and beyond

Let’s take building relationships as an example. One of Voscur’s current projects involves VCSE organisations focused on health and wellbeing and Healthier Together, the STP for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Voscur has worked with The Care Forum and VANS (Voluntary Action North Somerset) to interview health professionals, run focus groups and record the results. This will lead up to an engagement event in May 2019.

Each VCSE organisation that takes part will be able to meet people from the public sector that they might otherwise struggle to make contact with. They can voice their opinions on working together, to make sure those in the public sector see things from another perspective. VCSE organisations work at a grassroots level and are often vital in their community, but their contribution can be overlooked at times, especially if they don’t have the training or connections to do their own PR and marketing.

There’s also a focus on groups often neglected by mainstream networking events or meetings: those from marginalised communities and smaller organisations find it particularly difficult to be heard, and may not have the staff numbers or budget to send people to attend every relevant local or national event. This kind of opportunity is great for capacity building.

When you build capacity, you help your organisation grow. What could be better than that?