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Crack the Capacity Building Nut: Fresh Breakthroughs from Chicago

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 -
2:00pm to 4:00pm PDT
Northern California Grantmakers
160 Spear St.Suite 360, San Francisco, CA 94105
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Trying to do right by grantees hasn’t always worked out the way it’s intended. Why do philanthropy’s well-meaning capacity building efforts so often result in scowls, or worse, wasted time for the grantees and wasted money for funders?

Learning for Action, a strategy, research, and evaluation consultant group, looked into this question with a deep dive into 400 Chicago nonprofits, capacity building providers and funders and emerged with some rich insights into long-term support that really works.

Learning for Action’s results shed light on experiences at all points in the cycle: those that use, deliver, and invest in capacity building services. Their study revealed insights into the benefits of long-term capacity building as a developmental process and offers examples of innovative approaches happening right now.

The problem’s roots run deep into the funding structure and organizational culture of the nonprofit sector, and in the design and implementation of capacity building support.

Join a lively discussion to find out why it’s been so hard to help grantees do their work better and what funders can do differently to get it right. Experts will offer successful regional models, current trends, and best practices for funders, nonprofits, and consultants to successfully support nonprofit capacity in all aspects of their work. We’ll dig deep into these learnings and explore our region’s needs, capacity, and how we can better support the nonprofit sector.

Join Us To:

  • Get the latest trends in nonprofit capacity building
  • Find out what really works to build nonprofit capacity
  • Walk away with better models to support nonprofits to do their best work


Jeanne Bell, Chief Executive Officer, CompassPoint 

Jeanne Bell is the Chief Executive Officer at CompassPoint. As CEO, Jeanne leads an integrated practice who use teaching, coaching, consulting, peer learning, and research to advance social equity work in the Bay Area, throughout California, and across the country. She is a leading thinker and engaging national speaker on nonprofit finance and strategy. She supports CompassPoint clients as they set and adapt strategies to better respond to their constituents and to a dynamic operating environment.

Jeanne is also very active in the nonprofit sector’s infrastructure—committed not only to the success of CompassPoint and its clients, but to the vibrancy of the progressive sector's essential scaffolding. To this end, Jeanne serves on both the board of directors and the editorial advisory board of The Nonprofit Quarterly and has contributed numerous articles on finance and strategy to the publication. She is also the immediate past chair of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, the national association of nonprofit capacity builders, researchers, and funders. She also serves on the board of directors of the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC), a nonprofit insurer of more than 9,000 California nonprofits. Further, she is a frequent keynote, panelist, and committee member to efforts that advance the work of social equity leaders, their funders, and her fellow capacity builders.

A native San Franciscan, Jeanne’s degree in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley gave her a foundational perspective on racial justice—more broadly, social justice—that continues to inform her work today. She is driven by CompassPoint’s commitment to work with social equity organizations that in turn work with their communities to creative positive social change.

Emily Boer Drake, Managing Director, Learning for Action

Emily Drake brings deep experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to her consulting practice. She strives to empower clients with information so they can positively impact their communities. She believes that organizations can be strengthened by developing and nurturing organizational learning and feedback systems, and endeavors to build organizational capacity building into all of her engagements. During her time at LFA, Emily has worked with a diverse array of clients spanning different sectors and fields, including leadership development, public media, policy advocacy, early childhood education, environmental education, and housing and homelessness. As a Managing Director at the firm, Emily is responsible for providing strategic leadership, overseeing financial systems and reporting, developing and executing business development strategies, and leading project staffing and workload planning systems.

Prior to joining LFA in 2006, she was a management consultant at Technical Development Corporation (TDC) in Boston where she provided strategic planning services and technical assistance to nonprofit and foundation clients throughout New England. Emily also worked at the Central New York Community Foundation where she reviewed proposals and coordinated school-based initiatives in Syracuse, NY. She has had direct service and administrative roles within nonprofit organizations, including in women’s health, legal services, and mental health counseling. She was also a founding board member of Fitness Forward, a nonprofit focused on improving health outcomes for children.

Alex Hildebrand, Director of Strategy Consulting, Senior Consultant, Learning for Action

Alex Hildebrand has been a consultant since 2004, and before that worked in the nonprofit sector. The common thread is his passion for helping social sector organizations deepen their impact through mission clarity and building a culture of performance that continuously drives both results and strategy. At Learning for Action, Alex partners with nonprofits, foundations, and public agencies to improve their capabilities for continuous improvement. Combining experience as a nonprofit manager with that as a consultant, he brings a broad toolkit – including strategic planning, strategic restructuring, organizational and board development, organizational learning, and organizational change – to every engagement. This ensures that client organizations receive guidance that is informed by a broad range of organizational expertise and a full array of options for how to act on that guidance. As Director of LFA’s strategy consulting practice, Alex focuses on the continuous improvement of our consulting product – including LFA’s staff capacity to deliver it – so that it meets the evolving needs of our clients and sector. Prior to joining LFA, Alex worked at two peer consulting firms, La Piana Consulting and Informing Change. Before his transition into consulting, Alex spent nine years in various management and leadership positions in the nonprofit sector, including Executive Director of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Program Director for a transitional living shelter for homeless youth in Portland, Oregon.

Safi Jiroh, Director of Programs, LeaderSpring 

Safi brings more than 25 years of experience in the public and nonprofit sectors as a leader, grantmaker, nonprofit consultant and certified integral coach. Her Oakland-based leadership positions have included: Executive Director of the Marcus Foster Educational Institute; Community Faculty Fellow with the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts; and Grants and Nonprofit Management Analyst for the City of Oakland’s Cultural Arts Department. Safi has served on national, state and local policy advisory boards, commissions, and task forces. She is an excellent trainer, facilitator and program designer. She is widely regarded as a highly engaging community builder and for successfully advancing equity and inclusion in public policy and organizational and program practice. In her role as a grantmaker with the City of Oakland, Safi created several programs and initiatives to strengthen the arts infrastructure including; a capacity building multi-year grant and technical assistance program, a neighborhood cultural arts investment program, a youth to youth arts policy and grantmaking apprenticeship, and an individual artist fellowship. As a consultant, she has work with numerous organizations to build capacity of leaders and organizations in the social and public sectors. Safi is an alumna of the LeaderSpring Class of 2008!

Byron Johnson, Capacity Building Initiative Officer, East Bay Community Foundation 

Byron is the Capacity Building Initiative Officer at East Bay Community Foundation and leads EBCF’s “Black-Led Organizations Initiative” (BLO). Prior to EBCF he spent 12 years at CompassPoint, designing and delivering cohort-based leadership development programs such as the Fundraising Academy for Communities of Color, Bright Spots Fundraising Academy, and the STRONG Nonprofits Program for East Contra Costa County.

As a certified coach he’s worked with individuals, boards, and teams to increase trust and accountability during times of change and transition and to deepen the impact of strategic leader development, succession, and transition plans. His coaching practice was informed by over a decade consulting and training nonprofit leaders, networks, and teams in executive transitions management and succession planning and is centered on fun and risk-taking that inspires bold, confident, and creative actions.

Prior to CompassPoint, Byron spent over ten years in leadership and senior fund development positions for Bay Area nonprofit organizations, including San Francisco State University and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC). A proud Oakland native and graduate of Oakland Tech, he currently lives in Richmond, CA.

Byron brings a passion for stemming the tide of violence and exploitation; particularly in disenfranchised communities, promoting individual and collective health, and striving for economic and social equity. His vast professional experience will be an invaluable addition as the foundation works toward advancing a just East Bay.

Target Audience 

This program is open to NCG members and non-member funders.