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Building Non-Profit Capacity

Page history last edited by Andrew 16 years ago


Background and Purpose | Benchmarks or Guidelines | Examples of Excellence | Campus Examples and Resources | Action Steps


Background and Purpose 

Again, because of the sustained involvement supported by an intensive developmental model, each campus-based Bonner Program can offer something unique to community partners with whom we work. We can offer students who, particularly as they progress over time, can take on more complex or challenging types of work. Besides directly serving a population (such as children, youth, families, homeless individuals, and so on), the student can be involved in research, fundraising or garnering resources, project coordination, new program design, and even strategic planning. In addition, through connections to coursework, faculty involvement, and support and work from other divisions and individuals on campus.


Understanding the needs and complexities of how nonprofits function can give us a broader view of the myriad roles that students can play. By mapping those needs and wants against the resources and assets that a campus-based Bonner Program, academic departments, and others on campus could play, new ideas about more fully engaging with community partners emerge. We begin to find ways to enrich our placements and partnerships.


Benchmarks or Guidelines

  • Understand the types of challenges and main tasks that nonprofits are usually facing. Often in nonprofit management literature (such as the Peter Drucker Center for Nonprofits) these can be grouped in five main areas:
    • Vision & Mission
    • Leadership
    • Resources
    • Outreach
    • Products & Services
  • Then, do some thinking about the types of work that students, on-campus staff, and faculty could be doing to serve these various needs. Think creatively. For example:
    • Are there specific faculty with areas of interest or expertise that could serve the agency’s work well? Perhaps a connection could be made individually (e.g., by connecting this person to the organization as a volunteer, advisor, or board member) or through a course or academic component.
    • Are there specific courses or courses of study (interdisciplinary programs, innovative institutes) that could be interested in being involved in a sustained partnership with a given community or set of agencies?
    • Are there students with particular areas of interest or abilities, especially those that are moving through later stages of the developmental model, that might craft their placement or position in such a way to include more complex tasks and responsibilities?


    This table below provides an illustration of how you might approach this task:

Vision/Strategy ·       Students involved in strategic planning, visioning for future work ·       Steering a five-year strategic plan for the school’s immunization program
Fundraising ·       Students involved in grant writing, financial partnerships ·       Writing a Healthy Start grant; creating a corporate partnership
Research / Writing /Academic Work ·       Students involved in community-based research that meets an identified community need ·       Interviewing families about health care needs and developing a written paper
Outreach/Public Relations ·       Students involved in broader community development work ·       Brokering relationships with other nonprofits for expanding health services for children
Project Coordination ·       Students involved in managing other volunteers or staff ·       Managing a corps of regular volunteers
New Program Development ·       Students involved in creating a new program or service ·       Creating a Family Involvement Program
Improving Existing Services ·       Students involved in expanding or improving a key service area ·       Curriculum development
Regular Volunteer Work ·       Students involved in sustained volunteer activity over a semester ·       Tutoring a child in the classroom
One-time Service Projects ·       Students involved in short-term service project or meeting a need ·       Playground Build or Family Fair


  • Use this worksheet as an additional illustration of the types of projects that students and others on campus could be involved in. This worksheet was developed by Middlesex County College’s Bonner Program (Democracy House) as a way to approach this planning.
  • Develop a coordinated list of trainings that staff (and student leaders and other volunteers) from the various community partner agencies could offer to each other. Don’t forget to include your own program’s strengths in this mix.


Examples of Excellence & Innovation

One campus that has been direct about articulating this multi-dimensional model toward community partnerships and exploring the linkages between student development and capacity building is Middlesex County College, a two-year college in New Jersey with an innovative institute called Democracy House. Democracy House is the home of the Bonner Leader Program. The attached article by Pat Donahue describes the approach of Middlesex County College and its relationship to the Bonner Program model, developed for upcoming publication of Diversity Digest. Structuring its direct service around the involvement of the Bonner Leaders (a corps), Democracy House also makes an effort to understand the internal challenges (such as staffing and money) and external challenges (such as climate and policy factors). Then, they work to identify higher-level projects, CBR courses or research agendas, and even policy work that the college students and faculty could be doing. Review the attached power-point slides that describe how this work comes together and intersects with the needs of both Bonner and the partner.


Campus Examples and Resources

  • Article by Pat Donahue describing the approach of Middlesex County College and its relationship to the Bonner Program model:  DonahueCPArticle.doc

  • Integrated Community Partner Capacity Building Work Example, based on work by Middlesex County College:  IntegratedCPModelExample.ppt

  • Illustration of Partner Training Coordination to help you think through training strategies:  PartnerTrainingCoordGrid.xls

  • Illustration of Types of Capacity Building Projects to give you ideas for various service placement:  IllustrationProjectTypes.xls


Action Steps to Get This Started

  • Review theses tools and do an inventory of your own major (committed) nonprofit partners, their needs and their assets.

  • Identify 1-2 partners with whom to pilot this approach. Those may also be the agencies that you have or are piloting Project Coordinator positions.

  • Share this information with those agencies in writing and in person. Engage in a dialogue and idea generation.

  • Begin to identify 1-2 innovative ways to start.


Back to Community Partnerships Implementation Guide.

Back to Implementation Guides Index.


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