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February 2014: How to Build Capacity within Your Organization

This month’s MECP newsletter continues last month’s examination of strategies for building sustainable faith-based and nonprofit organizations that serve missing and exploited children and their families. Based on the publication Faith and Communities in Action: A Resource Guide for Increasing Partnership Opportunities to Prevent Crime and Violence, developed by the Department of Justice’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, part 2 of our webinar series focuses on methods for building capacity within an organization, setting program goals, and developing strategic plans. (To learn more about the resource guide, please see last month’s MECP newsletter here.)

Our first article, contributed by Dr. Joel Littlejohn, retired faculty of the Springfield College School of Human Services, looks at community capacity development through the prism of organizational capacity development. She explains how collaboration, communication, and access to resources are fundamental to implementing positive change in a community. Our second article, by Kristen Staley, senior policy associate at the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, describes the community toolkit and resource guide her organization developed to help community-based programs address local needs by diversifying their programming using evidence-based practices.

We hope that you take advantage of the ideas from both articles and the webinar series to help you further your organization’s goals.  We also hope you share your experiences—both those that worked and those you learned from—with us. The one thing we do know is that organizational sustainability is a process, a journey, and is one that is never quite done.

3rd Wednesday at 2 p.m. Webinar Series: Building Capacity within Your Organization

This month’s webinar, part 2 of the Faith and Communities in Action series, featured Oscar Grant, coauthor of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership’s Faith and Communities in Action: A Resource Guide for Increasing Partnership Opportunities to Prevent Crime and Violence. Mr. Grant described specific tools for building capacity and outlined the process for developing strategic plans based on the needs of your community as well as your organization’s capacity. He emphasized short- and long-term methods for assessing and structuring your organization, such as establishing a board of directors, deciding to incorporate, and training staff to increase program quality.

To view the recording of this webinar, please visit here.

To register for the upcoming webinar or to view a previous webinar in this series, select the title below:

March’s Webinar

Making Dollars and Sense: Part 3 of the Faith and Communities in Action webinar series will feature Mike Zagury, who will discuss the foundations for successfully applying for grant funding, steps required to design an effective and fundable grant budget, and principles for measuring the performance of a sustainable program.

March 19, 2014

2:00 p.m.– 3:00 p.m. ET

More information about March’s webinar will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

January’s Webinar 

A Partnership Approach to Program Sustainability: Part 1 of the Faith and Communities in Action webinar series featured Jonathan Cloud, who discussed tools for sustaining programs through partnerships with public, private, civic, religious, business, and other sectors. Mr. Cloud emphasized how successful partnerships can build sustainability and described the phases in building or restructuring partnerships.

Building Capacity for Sustaining Programs to Prevent Community Violence

Dr. Joel Littlejohn (Retired), Springfield College School of Human Services, Wilmington Campus

Organizational capacity is the ability to sustain action through collaborative partnerships that promote change and benefit the well-being of invested community members.[1] When the primary goal is to increase organizational capacity, it is essential to use evaluative categories to track progress. Suggested categories include:

  • Organizational growth: measuring improvement through strategic planning, organizational structure and operations, technology, community assessment, and fundraising.
  • Organizational sustainability: network development, diversification of funding, and diversification of services.[2]

These two broad categories help to define capacity building for improved service delivery by identifying a framework that evaluates all program activities. A graphic format works well, particularly one that outlines the primary organization’s current work and requirements in terms of its need to improve organizational capacity, develop its range of services and network of community providers, and diversify its funding base.

Managers must understand the history and experience of their organization before expanding its work in the community. Strategic planning, including a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) may be helpful in reviewing the current level of capacity by examining the purpose, goals, and objectives of its programs and the efficacy of its outreach [3].  An example SWOT analysis is available on page 39 of the Faith and Communities in Action: A Resource Guide for Increasing Partnership Opportunities to Prevent Crime and Violence toolkit. This analysis may also include an appraisal of the organization’s human resources, program assessment and evaluation processes, network and resource development, communication style, fiscal information and technology management, marketing efforts, and board governance.

Implementing these steps encourages both the growth and sustainability needed to improve overall organizational capacity. Broadening the organization’s mission and goals, expanding the range of services currently offered in the community, and building management’s capacity will ultimately improve outreach.  The development of organizational capacity leads to the development of community capacity—that is, organizational capacity building results in the acquisition of skills and tools that can in turn help the community to make changes that improve quality of life. The next section of the article explores this concept.

Community Capacity Building

Capacity building in the community is the ability to empower communities to come together and share responsibility for developing and implementing change.[4] The capacity building process involves intensive, ongoing engagement of local resources, and relationships with both public and private organizations to help them respond to emerging needs and threats. It also involves an assessment of current assets in the community that can improve the quality of life for residents and foster the well-being of children, families, and institutions.

Developing a sense of community requires three things: a high level of commitment, an ability to solve problems, and access to resources. Successful organizations have found a collaborative approach to be most effective in building positive working relationships—both internally and externally—and nourishing productive communications that supplement shared goals.

As part of this collaborative approach, communication is essential. Good communication facilitates the development of compatible relationships and the attainment of organizational objectives. Without collaboration and communication, it is often difficult to develop a sustainable network of collaborative relationships that provide the community with the resources to seek solutions.  Moreover, positive communication links groups that might not ordinarily work together and conversations and negotiations become more fluid. Plus, it has the added bonus of enhancing the social and emotional lives of participants.

All relevant stakeholders must be included in the development of an action plan for change. The development process should encourage participants to work together to find viable solutions to community problems. The identification and involvement of stakeholders must occur early on to determine why there is a need for change in the community, encourage ownership in decision-making, and ensure that people feel included in the process.[5]

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) offers a resource for organizations working on the prevention of adolescent and young adult violence in their communities. The Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool, which measures three components of community policing, allows collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the individuals/organizations they serve to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police.  The assessment encourages problem solving utilizing systematic evaluation processes that support community partnerships and proactive problem solving [6].  Working through the assessment is an excellent way to collaborate, share power, and share decision-making efforts with law enforcement.

A Community Toolkit and Resource Guide Supporting Michigan’s Juvenile Justice Reinvestment

Kristen Staley, Senior Policy Associate at the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency

Over the last decade, a movement in the field of juvenile justice has taken hold—youth are being treated closer to home and in less restrictive environments.

National data shows that 44 States have reduced the number of youth in residential placement and secure detention. [7] Rather than sending youth to out-of-home placements, jurisdictions are opting for community-based programs because they cost less, reduce reoffending, and improve youth and family well-being. At the same time, the incidence of violent youth crime is plummeting dramatically across the country.

Michigan is among the States experiencing a decline in out-of-home placement. Within the past decade, the State has transformed its juvenile justice system away from harsh, punitive treatment into one celebrated for innovation and effectiveness. Large, overcrowded public institutions have closed, and the responsibility for treating and placing delinquent youth remains with the counties rather than the Michigan Department of Human Services—a change most States are striving to achieve. As such, many communities are achieving better results by offering more community-based options, such as day treatment and family therapy, which treat youth without removing them from their homes.

Responding to this trend, the State of Michigan created the In-Home Community Care Grant. Housed under the Department of Human Services, the grant will provide at least four awards of up to $250,000 to rural counties to create or enhance community-based juvenile justice programs for youth. Potential grantees were encouraged to apply in coordination with other rural counties, urban counties, universities, private juvenile justice agencies, or local State agencies to create a regional effect. To assist with implementing the project, the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD) was asked to provide technical assistance to eligible counties. MCCD created the Community Solutions Toolkit and Resource Guide: Launching and Sustaining Juvenile Justice Solutions Through Effective Community-Based Programs to give to participating groups. The Toolkit presents both national trends and best practices, with a focus on community-based programming. It is meant to aid Michigan courts and counties as they develop and enhance their array of community-based programs. The information is easily transferable to juvenile justice service providers and stakeholders nationwide.

The Toolkit provides an overview of community-based programs and step-by-step instructions on how to implement them. It clarifies the benefits of investing in community-based solutions and reviews the major concepts of evidence-based practices. It then lays out guidelines for implementation. Specifically, the Toolkit explores how to assess the current juvenile justice landscape in your community, ensuring that services are uniquely suited to the local population and existing array of services. It explains how to align case plans with a youth’s risk and needs and how to design community-based services to best meet those needs. Finally, it discusses evaluation procedures as a way to track program success. The Toolkit is complimented by a helpful Resource Guide, which provides an extensive list of State and national resources on assessment, implementation, and cross-system collaboration.

Both the In-Home Community Care Grant and accompanying Toolkit and Resource Guide are key parts of Michigan’s movement toward reinvestment in juvenile justice services. Reinvestment is a strategy aimed at increasing use of community-based options by offering financial incentives at the local level. With a small investment, like the In-Home Community Care Grant, and technical assistance from MCCD’s Toolkit and Resource Guide, Michigan counties are developing more effective community-based programs and serving more youth in the community who would otherwise be placed out-of-home.

MCCD is very excited about the future of Michigan’s reinvestment in juvenile justice. For more information about this work, please contact MCCD at (517) 482–4161 or visit MCCD here.

Additional Resources

Many agencies assist nonprofit and faith-based organizations in their quest to respond effectively to the threat of crime and violence in the community. The U.S. Department of Justice is helping to streamline the process. The Office of Justice Programs provides a fact sheet that lists available resources and describes how they work to combat the spread of crime. The fact sheet can be found here.  The National Criminal Justice Reference Service has put together a list describing the various resources and training opportunities available through the Federal Government. It can be found here.

Upcoming Events

March 3–4, 2014: 28th Annual Conference on the Prevention of Child Abuse. This statewide conference offers topical forums on model programs and quality training to leaders in child abuse prevention, including social workers, counselors, educators, child care and youth workers, law enforcement personnel, medical and legal professionals, foster parents, child welfare board volunteers, elected officials, and other interested child advocates. Participants may attend their choice of a variety of workshops on child abuse and neglect prevention and education programs, or may select specialized workshops for training credits and professional development.

For more information, please visit Prevent Child Abuse Texas.

March 11–14, 2014: 11th Annual Hawaii Conference on Preventing, Assessing, and Treating Child, Adolescent, and Adult Trauma. This conference presents the latest research on child, adolescent, and adult trauma as well as prevention, assessment, and intervention techniques. Conference tracks include child trauma; adolescent trauma and youth violence; adult and family trauma; prevention and early intervention; intimate partner violence; trauma in military personnel, veterans, and their families; healthcare professionals dealing with abuse and trauma; and criminal justice and legal issues.

For more information, please visit here.

National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) invites fifth grade students to participate in the National Missing Children’s Day poster contest. This annual contest gives teachers, law enforcement, and other child advocates an opportunity to discuss the issue of missing and exploited children with children, parents, and guardians and to promote child safety.

OJJDP will invite the national winner to Washington, DC, to participate in the National Missing Children’s Day commemoration in May 2014, at which time he or she will receive an award for the winning artwork. The submission deadline for the national competition has been extended to March 14, 2014. Please contact your State manager to see how this affects your State deadline. For more information, please visit our Poster Contest page.

MECP’s Training Center

Request Training and Technical Assistance from MECP. MECP offers training and technical assistance tailored to meet the specific needs of State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other juvenile justice practitioners. For information on how your agency or organization can receive training and technical assistance on missing and exploited children’s issues, please contact MECP at 1–888–347–5610 or [email protected] To submit a request for training and technical assistance, please complete a training and technical assistance form.



1. Chaskin, R.J. Defining Community Capacity: A Framework and Implications From a Comprehensive Community Initiative. Paper prepared by the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago for the 1998 Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting in Fort Worth, TX.

2. Popescu, M., et al. “Can Government Funding Strengthen the Third Sector? The Impact of a Capacity Building Program on Faith-Based and Community-Based Organizations.” Revista de Asistenţă Socială 4 (2010): 83–101.

3. Popescu, M., et al. “Can Government Funding Strengthen the Third Sector? The Impact of a Capacity Building Program on Faith-Based and Community-Based Organizations.” Revista de Asistenţă Socială 4 (2010): 83–101.

4. Chaskin, R.J. Defining Community Capacity: A Framework and Implications From a Comprehensive Community Initiative. Paper prepared by the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago for the 1998 Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting in Fort Worth, TX.

5. Stringer, E.T. Action Research, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2007.

6. U.S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services. The Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool [cited 2014 January 30]. Available from: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov.

7. Annie E. Casey Foundation. KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot: Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States. Baltimore: Author, 2013. Available from: http://www.aecf.org/~/media/Pubs/Initiatives/KIDS%20COUNT/R/ReducingYouthIncarcerationSnapshot/DataSnapshotYouthIncarceration.pdf.