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SVP International

The organizations SVP partners with are tackling some of our society’s most entrenched problems – and they are ready to take their work to the next level.

They’ve recognized ways that their organizations could be stronger and are working with SVP to make that happen. In any given year, SVP engages with local nonprofits, providing two kinds of support.

Multi-Year, General Operating Support

We believe that change takes time, and that those closest to the work are best equipped to make important decisions. Our Grantees can depend on 3 years of funding, and they are free to spend that money where they see fit. Learn more >>

Nonprofit Capacity Building

Things like sound financial systems, effective board governance, and up-to-date technology can make the difference between serving hundreds versus thousands of kids in need. That’s why we strengthen organizations from the inside out – matching them with volunteer and paid consultants who can help amplify their impact. Learn more >>

What It Looks Like on the Ground


Trust. Between funders and nonprofits, it’s key to a successful relationship. 

Power dynamics can get in the way. That’s why SVP gives multi-year grants. Building trust takes time, and change doesn’t occur without trust.

We ask a lot of our nonprofit partners. We ask them to show us where they need help. It’s not usually the side you show a funder. But when we finally have the conversation – that’s when we all know we’re getting somewhere.

Trust also allows us to get out of the way when we’re not needed. SVP is not in the business of telling nonprofits what their mission should be, or what their programs should focus on. Our Grantees are the experts. Likewise, they know where they need to spend their money.

Most grants nonprofits receive are restricted. Nonprofits have to spend the funds on specific programs (e.g. providing backpacks for students in need). They can only use a small percentage – if any – to cover their “overhead,” which can include anything from rent to the administrative assistant’s salary.

We believe that this distinction is unnecessary and hamstrings nonprofits. (And we’re not alone on this.)

What impact is the organization having on our community? Can they demonstrate it? Have we built a relationship on a foundation of mutual trust? These are the questions we focus on. If the answers are solid, where our Grantees spend their grant dollars is irrelevant.

What Is Nonprofit Capacity Building? 

At SVP we define capacity building as the development of core skills, management practices, strategies, and systems to enhance an organization’s effectiveness, sustainability and ability to fulfill its mission.

What’s Our Approach?

#1 Offer Resources

SVP builds organizational capacity by providing general operating funds, skilled volunteers, professional consultants, and leadership development/management training opportunities.

#2 Listen

We recognize that nonprofit practitioners are the program experts, and we aim to complement that expertise by working in partnership with those organizations. Therefore, the first step is listening to what they need.

#3 Provide Tools

All Grantees use the SVP Boston Capacity Building Rubric upon receiving a grant. The Rubric can be self-administered (completed by the Executive Director and key leadership from the staff and board) or administered together with SVP Partners and Grantee senior staff. Grantees are also asked to review the tool annually so that progress can be measured over time. The Rubric helps SVP and the Grantee identify and prioritize the capacity building areas to focus their efforts. These areas include:

  • Mission, Vision, Strategy, and Planning
  • Leadership Development
  • Staff Development
  • Program Outcomes and Evaluation
  • Governance
  • Fund Development
  • Systems Development

#4 Develop a Plan and Implement It

After the Rubric, Grantees develop an Annual Work Plan to define their goals and provide a roadmap for their partnership with SVP. From there SVP matches each Grantee with Partner volunteers or paid consultants who can help them reach those goals.

#5 Check On Progress

Each year our Grantees revisit their work plan and set new goals. They meet regularly with a Lead Partner from SVP who helps to manage volunteer projects and acts as an advocate and liaison for the organization. Each Grantee also meets semi-annually with the SVP’s Portfolio Grant Committee, which reviews work plan progress and helps identify ways to optimize the 3 year funding relationship.

#6 Report Capacity Building Changes

After 3 years, we ask our “graduating” Grantees to complete the Rubric once again – measuring progress in each of the seven capacity building areas.