More than a decade ago, Venture Philanthropy Partners – then as now a leader in social entrepreneurship – commissioned McKinsey & Co. to develop a tool to help nonprofits assess their organizational capacity. The resulting report, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, has subsequently been used by dozens of NGOs around the world, is cited in courses and textbooks, and still gets downloaded 1,200 times a month.
It is nonetheless long overdue for revision. Since the original analysis was done – back at the height of the internet bubble – so much has changed about the way that nonprofits deliver value and measure results. Partnership has become even more important. The original report did not adequately address the funding model, nor the importance of good marketing and communications. And some of the technology and systems sections sound dated. (Fax machines? Who uses fax machines anymore?)
The good news is that VPP and McKinsey are teaming up again to refresh, revise, and improve on the organizational capacity assessment tool (affectionately, OCAT), a central component of the report. They are actively seeking feedback on a new version of the tool and I would encourage anyone – NGO managers, board members, donors, consultants – to participate. You can learn about version one and take their survey. The more data, the better result, and because of the mission of VPP, results will be available to all on the open-source principle.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am hardly a disinterested observer here. While on sabbatical from The Nature Conservancy in 2001, I had the privilege of working with Lynn Taliento, Heiner Bauman and the rest of the McKinsey team in drafting the original “Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations” report. It was a great collaboration, and all of us have been (pleasantly) surprised by OCAT’s success. Here’s hoping that v2 meets the same tests of longevity and relevance.