An idiot's guide to capacity-building

What it is and how many capacity-building organisations there are in the UK


- What is it?

It refers to activities that help front-line organisations to develop skills and resources that enable them to operate more effectively.

- How many capacity-building organisations are there in the UK?

According to the data services provider GuideStar UK, 5 per cent of charities - about 8,500 - are capacity-builders. They are also referred to as infrastructure organisations, second-tier organisations and support organisations.

- Why are they so common in the third sector?

Public and private sector organisations fund capacity-building from their own coffers, but charities are less able to do so because they lack funds. Some donors think money not spent directly on causes is wasted.

- What do capacity-builders do?

Services vary, but the areas in which they help include IT, governance, collaboration, generating income, financial and management issues, and volunteer management.

- How does Capacitybuilders help?

Besides funding national and regional projects, it funds more than 100 local consortia, led by a single accountable body, often a council for voluntary service. Each consortium devises schemes to improve infrastructure in its area.

- By doing what?

Two examples: the Birmingham ChangeUp consortium, led by BVSC, set up a Gateway2Volunteering brokerage project to match volunteers to organisations seeking recruits. The South Yorkshire ChangeUp consortium, led by Voluntary Action Rotherham, held sessions on issues such as 'skills for partnership working'.

- What will happen to such projects?

Most will close when funding from Capacitybuilders finishes at the end of March. This will mark the end of the government's £231m ChangeUp programme, which started in 2004 to improve the voluntary sector's weak and piecemeal infrastructure.

- What happens next?

The Cabinet Office, which published the consultation paper Supporting a Stronger Civil Society last year, will publish its proposals in the spring.

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