Nonprofit Capacity Instrument

In 2017, we published the Nonprofit Capacity Instrument. It’s a self-administered survey 45 item instrument that reliably measures 8 dimensions of nonprofit capacity.  If you want to read the full article, send us an e-mail. Otherwise, we’ve blogged about the study. These are:

  • Adaptive capacity refers to the way organizations adapt to changes in their environment.
  • Financial management refers to a nonprofit’s competence in managing their accounts.
  • Strategic planning refers to the creation, follow-through, and evaluation of plans for the nonprofit’s future activities.
  • External communication capacity describes the ability of nonprofits to engage stakeholders, particularly through publications and marketing.
  • Board leadership refers to the board’s commitment, involvement, and decision-making within the organization.
  • Operational capacity includes the existence and use of documented procedures as well as program planning and evaluation.
  • Mission orientation describes stakeholders’ common orientation towards the organization’s mission and purpose.
  • Staff management reflects employee needs for information, training and mentoring, and management’s ability to respond to these needs.

We based the instrument on two studies that took all of the items from several existing capacity measures and subjected them to statistical scrutiny. We found that most of these measures had challenges with wording, we’re reliable, or didn’t measure what they were supposed to. The remaining items allowed us to predict nonprofit effectiveness, both as reported by the organizations themselves and effectiveness as assessed by peer organizations.

The Nonprofit Capacity Instrument is the only reliable and valid instrument available today. At NNSI, we’ve gotten a lot of requests from foundations and nonprofits who want to use the instrument. The good news is that it’s freely available. We offer it in two formats.

  1. You can complete a short form and download the instrument.
  2. You can answer the questions online, and see a report that scores your nonprofit against other similar nonprofit organization. (Coming soon!)

We hope that you find this instrument useful. The next question that we often receive after nonprofit complete the instrument is how do I improve my capacity. We’ve compiled a set of resources that you can use today. In addition, feel free to contact Prof. Michelle Shumate, our lab’s director. She’s available to provide training or consulting.