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Capacity Building Initiative

The Capacity Building Initiative is a three year, comprehensive program of the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network that provides support to watershed organizations and Riverkeepers through grants, one-on-one training, networking, and tailored technical assistance to increase the operational effectiveness of these organizations.

The Capacity Building Initiative (CBI) will be bolstered by the establishment of a new network of watershed organizations coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network (CBFN). Goals of the program include:

  • Sustainable Watershed Organizations
  • Strong Watershed Network 
  • Measurable Change for the Bay

Watershed organizations play a vital role in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay by increasing awareness on issues, advocating sound policies, procuring resources for restoration, and implementing restoration and protection programs.

The focus of the Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection effort is becoming more and more localized. As the adoption of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requires the development of Watershed Implementation Plans by state and local governments, watershed groups are poised to play an even greater role in the Bay’s recovery.

Given their growing importance in efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers and streams, increased levels of financial and technical support to river and watershed organizations is imperative. The CBFN Capacity Building Initiative will provide grants and technical assistance to increase the effectiveness of organizations that protect and restore rivers and watersheds, increasing their power to advance local watershed protection priorities through collaborative strategies.

This program is provided through the generous support of the following CBFN members:  Chesapeake Bay Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and Rauch Foundation.

Who is eligible to participate?
The next phase of the initiative will invite the participation of watershed and river organizations from all Bay jurisdictions (VA, MD, DC, WV, PA, NY, and DE). Criteria described below and in the RFP will be used to evaluate proposals submitted to the Chesapeake Bay Trust on behalf of CBFN. CBFN anticipates 15–25 organizations will be selected to receive capacity building support for three years, with second and third year participation contingent upon available funding. To be eligible to participate in the Initiative, an organization must:

  1. Have current 501(c )(3) status
  2. Provide services in one or more of the Chesapeake Bay region jurisdictions: VA, WV, MD, DC, DE, PA and NY
  3. Have a primary mission to protect and preserve rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and established programs to support that mission
  4. Have a minimum of two (2) staff (at least one position must be paid with total hours equaling 35 hours or more per week; other positions must be at least 20 hours per week, paid or volunteer)
  5. Have an active board that provides leadership in governance, community outreach, and fundraising
Eligible watershed organizations will be selected to participate in the program based on additional criteria including:
  • The significance of their watersheds to the overall Bay TMDL implementation process
  • Their ability to play an effective role in the implementation of Phase II WIPs
  • Their readiness for capacity building
  • Their leadership capacity
  • Their willingness and ability to participate in collaborative initiatives.
Once selected you are eligible for assistance for up to 3 years; however, funding is not guaranteed for 3 years so levels of assistance may vary year to year. If more funds become available, additional opportunities to participate in the initiative may be announced.

What if my organization does not meet the eligibility criteria?
CBFN is committed to offering capacity building support to as many organizations as possible. Whenever possible, any interested organization may participate in trainings and workshops offered through this initiative. CBFN also hopes to offer capacity building mini grants on an as needed basis if funds are available. More information about other forms of assistance will be shared through the Chesapeake Network as they are available.

What types of assistance will be provided?
CBFN will provide participating organizations with three forms of assistance:
  1. A third party assessment of organizational and programmatic capacity building needs most critical to their ability to advance local watershed restoration priorities. This confidential assessment includes completion of an on-line questionnaire, an in person interview and development of a capacity building work plan.
  2. Capacity building grants will be provided based on the organization’s existing capacity, experience with capacity building as well as the potential for their increased capacity to affect significant change in their watershed. Grant funds can support specific tasks that will increase organizational capacity and programmatic effectiveness. (Examples provided below.) Grant award amounts will be based on the organizations existing capacity, potential to leverage support and available funds. CBFN anticipates award amounts to range from approximately $15,000 to $50,000.
  3. Trainings and technical assistance will be offered throughout the 3 years of the initiative. Training topics will be determined by the participating organizations and 3rd party assessment outcomes.
Examples of capacity building activities that could be supported through this initiative:
Participating organizations will prioritize their capacity building needs through an organizational assessment. This will inform the development of an annual capacity building work plan. The work plans will identify how capacity building activities will increase the impact of the organization’s programs on the successful implementation of watershed action plans (or WIPs).

Examples include: strategic planning to prioritize programs, constituent/membership development in targeted regions/jurisdictions, program development assistance, enhancement of constituent management and organizing capacities, leadership and board development, assistance to assess programs and increase their effectiveness, and other activities to address high priority capacity building needs.

Questions and Technical Support
Kacey Wetzel