June 19, 2024

transformational capacity building

a city street in Kandy, Sri Lanka
photo caption: a busy street in kandy, sri lanka. vans and cars line the side of the road. a jeep and a trishaw travel near each other. in the middle distance: a pizza hut.

I had the pleasure of writing a blog post with my friend and former colleague Sarah Benner-Kenagy. We wrote about Transformational Capacity Building for Community-Centric Fundraising. CCF is one of my favorite sites that explores and reimagines practices in the world of funding. Our article is about our experience funding a grant using TCB principles. Our editor, Chris Talbot-Heindl did a great job focusing our sprawling ideas down into one readable essay. I’m super proud of our article and I am so excited to share it.

Please take a moment to read! I’d love to know what you think.

Leading with trust: Our (successful!) experiment with Transformational Capacity Building

One of the biggest stressors in the world of social services is money. Who has it? Who needs it? What does the person who has it want in return for giving it to the person who doesn’t? On a person-to-person level, most people don’t attach strings to the dollar they give to someone on the street (and if you do, please stop!). But on a funder-to-organization level, we have strings a-plenty! Why is that? What if there was another way?


This funder-to-organization funding is sometimes called capacity building. In short, it’s making investments in systems intended to help people. Say an organization is doing great work, but they only have one paid staff member and a bunch of volunteers. Capacity building might pay for staff time that can expand their work. It might pay to help an organization move into a real or larger office. Capacity-building funds might help nonprofits offer services that they couldn’t otherwise afford. Capacity building is money intended to help an organization do more.


When we do capacity building right, it can supercharge really great work. Unfortunately, those funds often come with a litany of requests: an inflexible application process, kickoff calls, monthly reports, and more. In the world we live in, needed funds often reside with the largest and most visible organizations. In the United States, these are usually white-dominant organizations with a limited mindset and worldview. Often, we can get so caught up in our own vision of the future that we restrict the visions that others may have. We make our funding too restrictive, or the grant award is too small to make a difference compared to the work we expect from our partners.

You can read the rest of our essay here.

photo of josh martinez

my name is josh martinez. i have always loved trying to understand systems, and the systems that built those systems. i spend a lot of time thinking about how to get there from here.

i own and operate a consulting practice, Future Emergent.

say hello: josh[at]bethefuture.space