© Julie Bernard


Why do we support capacity building and organisational development?

Organisations can face a range of internal and external challenges that can undermine their effectiveness. External factors such as availability of funding or restrictions on civil society groups require specific, targeted efforts often beyond the scope of a single organisation. On the other hand, internal factors such as leadership, strategic vision and clarity, management systems or processes can often be addressed through capacity building and organisational development.


Resolving these issues enhances an organisation’s chances of success. Oak’s capacity building and organisational development support enables grantees to have the greatest possible impact by improving their leadership and management skills and developing a more robust structure. Stronger organisations achieve better social justice outcomes and are more sustainable, resilient and effective.


We hope to enable organisations to better address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have the greatest impact on the most disadvantaged. We also help Oak strengthen its own staff’s ability to support capacity building and organisational development.


How do we define organisational development and capacity building?
Building stronger organisations can take place either through specific activities that develop skills and strengthen how an institution functions (capacity building) or by improving an organisation’s overall effectiveness (organisational development). While capacity building addresses specific problems, organisational development helps organisational evolution.

How to get involved

Oak partners and grantees interested in capacity building and organisational development should contact their responsible Programme Officer directly. If you are not a grantee, please to visit the page Our Grant Making for more information.

Organisations that are effective in achieving their goals have a few things in common:

  • Strong leadership
  • Clear strategies
  • Sound financial systems
  • Robust fundraising plans


Three distinct groups have a stake in capacity building and organisational development: Oak staff, partners or grantee and practitioners, those who facilitate/assist in the capacity development process.


Oak provides four different levels of support, with most funding going to the foundational and direct response levels.


Foundational support

This includes the bare minimum as an organisation needs to be able to exist and sustain itself. At this level, grantees learn to comply with basic requirements such as legal, financial or fiscal rules, or other state-imposed norms.


Direct response support

Much of Oak’s capacity building work falls into this category. Oak responds to specific challenges organisations face in their daily work, such as fundraising, strategic planning, leadership strengthening or programme design.


Organisational development support
For some instances, Oak funds organisational transformation for institutions undergoing significant change due to a shift in programme focus, expansion to new regions, changes in leadership or the impact of external factors. This is demanding for all stakeholders; our response typically involves an assessment, a development plan and support for the implementation of the plan. Given the complexity and resource-intensive nature of this work, we can only offer it to a small number of grantees each year.


Field building support

Oak sometimes funds organisations that offer capacity development to other not-for-profit groups. We also support organisations that develop resources, such as research or tools, which benefit civil society as a whole.


The following are a set of principles that guides our work:

We strive to foster collaboration and partnership with other funders as well as among partners.

We seek to ensure that organisational development and capacity building efforts are owned by our partners.

We view capacity building and organisational development as on-going processes that require persistence, patience and flexibility.

Our mission

Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.


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