The Future of Grantmaking: How Capacity Building Organizations are Changing the Narrative

In our previous Future of Grantmaking pieces we established that traditional models are creating a system of scarcity and exacerbating inequality by operating in outdated, top-down approaches, and we began to examine how we can educate funders on the changing needs of the sector, reframing the discussion of funding on human terms. In this installment we will take a look at the other kinds of challenges facing nonprofits today, and how nonprofit support groups and organizations are finding new and innovative ways to change the narrative around traditional funding models. 

The Human Service Forum is excited to have Latesha Kelly, Marketing Strategist at Catchafire, join this discussion to share how Catchafire is moving to change the narratives around traditional funding and providing a platform for more complex support to the struggling nonprofit ecosystem. HSF is honored to provide its member organizations with access to Catchafire’s services as a benefit of membership


How Capacity Building Organizations are Changing the Narrative

By Latesha Kelly, Marketing Strategist at Catchafire

Nonprofit organizations work hard to accomplish a world of good, but running one is much harder than it looks. Aside from the common issues that face any company, like adapting to new technology and staying up to date with accounting and regulatory requirements, nonprofits face additional challenges specific to their sector. 

Catchafire exists as the connection point for nonprofits and volunteer professionals, where nonprofits can post (or list) the capacity building projects they need, and volunteers, who are skilled and seasoned in their professions, apply to complete the projects. Within an average of just three to five days, Catchafire nonprofits are matched with a qualified volunteer to complete projects related to operations, marketing, professional development, fundraising, finance, and more. Organizations like HSF and Catchafire unite to put nonprofits in control of what they need, and allow them to refocus their energy on the mission–and not the who, what, when, where, and how of grant funding. 

Most nonprofits, even those awarded the privilege of access to a resource like Catchafire, will face a long list of other challenges from quarter to quarter and season to season. What exactly are the challenges facing nonprofits, and how can they tackle them efficiently and within the limited resources they have? Let’s take a look at some of the most significant issues facing nonprofit organizations today:

Budget Challenges

In the Catchafire community, 47% of nonprofits have an average budget size under $499,000 and look to skills-based volunteering to supplement their operations and infrastructure needs. Small budget organizations are particularly effective at engaging volunteers to deliver custom deliverables that directly impact the mission while strengthening and scaling operations.

Many nonprofit organizations depend on financial assistance in the form of grants or fund matching, or it may merely serve as a safety net to fill the gap when funds are short. Hurdles met within the traditional grantmaking model means there is less to go around. Most nonprofits end up getting less funding than they want or need–while some are left with no funding at all.

Catchafire is tailored to and impactful for the most resource-constrained organizations, those often making $15,000 or less per year. On average, Catchafire projects are posted by nonprofits with budgets under $250,000 with each nonprofit listing an average of seven capacity-building projects per organization.

Rising Costs

Catchafire recently surveyed 320+ nonprofits that revealed they are experiencing unprecedented lower revenue and higher demand for their services. Almost 60% of the nonprofits surveyed reported that the funding they did receive was allocated for staff salaries, leaving little to no funds for general operating expenses. Catchafire nonprofits indicated that while they are grateful for the emergency funding and generosity they’ve received from foundations, a large subset are unaware of additional funding options that will help see them through long rebuilding phases and allow them to meet new staff salary needs correlated to the sustained increase in community demand. 

People working for nonprofits tend to wear many hats. Being generalists can mean no one in your organization has the dedicated knowledge that detailed business and finance functions require. It’s essential to find tools that empower everyone to analyze information and make data-driven financial decisions. Approaching an operational strategy from this perspective is essential to sustaining successful business operations.

Program Growth vs. Communication Impact

Cost and social impact must become aligned to deliver real life-changing results across all activities. To ensure they never lose sight of their mission, capability, and reach, nonprofits need the right tools. This will make sure their community and processes are agile, adaptable, and ready to meet changing circumstances within the existing resources–allowing nonprofits to track the bottom line in real-time.

Recruitment & Retention

Catchafire’s volunteer professionals come to the table with an average of 12 years of experience and a nonprofit often finds a volunteer on Catchafire in five days or less. But without a similar resource, many nonprofits struggle to win the battle for talent when competing with opportunities in other sectors. This leads to an equally important issue: are they attracting the right people? They need to look at what type of person is attracted to the sector, and why others are not.

People attracted to nonprofit work are generally very dedicated to the causes they serve and are an asset to the sector. However, the limited resources of many nonprofits have also made it tricky to recruit ‘top talent.’ There are those that are lured into more lucrative industries with bigger offers and opportunities. Is there a solution?

The solution comes in two parts. First, nonprofits must fight the fear. If these are the people they need, they must use their resources to invest in them. Nonprofits must fight the fear that they may leave or cost too much, and look at the bigger picture.

Second, when investing in new talent is not possible, they must believe in their top talent by providing engaging work experiences that allow their people to focus on why they love their work–the mission. They must help them flourish and take their undeniable passion further.

The Look Ahead

With a deeply rooted history steeped in politics, socio-economic disparities, and overall lack of resources, the not for profit sector is often lagging behind the for profit in technology and marketing efforts. This is why and partners like HSF are changing the traditional capacity building model and creating pathways for nonprofits to make an equitable impact. 

Amplifying the voices of those on the front lines of their communities is at the core of social organization From its inception, founder Rachael Chong sought to bridge the gap between nonprofits and volunteers by creating an online platform that connects skilled professionals to the nonprofits who need them.

While traditional capacity building can’t design a new logo for you or provide certification training for your new supervisors, Catchafire and HSF can. By forming a partnership, both organizations are working together to pull back the layers of the glass ceiling within traditional foundation grantmaking. Together we are able to create impact far beyond the traditional grantmaking model by giving nonprofits the freedom to choose where they invest.


We’re curious–What tools or partnerships does your organization utilize to support capacity building? Please share your thoughts by reaching out to us at We’re eager to learn from you all, and collectively move towards a more just and prosperous society. 

This blog is part of a series published by HSF exploring the state of philanthropy and the social good sector. Make sure to check out the previous piece, The Future of Grantmaking: Investing in Trust Pays Off for Nonprofits and Funders

Latesha is a Marketing Strategist at Catchafire. She developed a passion for communications at a very young age. Growing up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania as a person of color presented a unique lens for which she viewed and navigated through the world. Throughout her professional career she has used this lens to bridge communication gaps as a small business consultant and within community and non-profit organizations.