Capital Grants

Helping Funders Avoid Pitfalls and Reach Results

Capital grants* are a big part of philanthropy, with more than a billion dollars awarded by foundations each year to construct or improve buildings to help nonprofits fulfill their missions. When well planned and executed, these projects can be transformational – enabling organizations to expand programming, forge partnerships, increase revenue, and strengthen work culture.

However, grantmakers and their nonprofit partners alike often lack the knowledge and proven skills to limit cost overruns, stay clear of schedule delays, and address other threats that can cause them to fall short of achieving the potential of capital projects.

The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation has a history of capital grantmaking that spans many decades and hundreds of millions of dollars. As the Foundation approaches its sunset in 2020, we are committed to sharing knowledge generated through our experience, and through the experience of others, with capital grantmaking. We anticipate adding to the set of resources that follow.

Capital Grant GuidelinesCapital Grant Guideline Examples

The Foundation is sharing these materials to offer thought starters or templates for funders creating guidelines for capital grant proposals, interim progress reports, and final reports. This content can also be applied to foster candid conversations with grantees about critical questions: why a capital grant is needed, how the project will unfold, how the grantee will diffuse likely challenges, and what impact the project is likely to produce.

 

Purpose Built

To help funders and their nonprofit partners make the most of capital projects, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation partnered with MASS Design Group to conduct a multi-faceted research study, which included an examination of completed capital projects around the world to understand what makes these projects successful. MASS created Purpose Built tools and resources to help funders and nonprofits seeking to invest in, create, and evaluate capital infrastructure.

 

The Four Horsemen of the Nonprofit Financial Apocalypse

In this article from the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Clara Miller discusses four pre-existing conditions that make nonprofits particularly vulnerable to financial shocks, including overinvestment in capital assets. She encourages nonprofits to rethink their capital investment strategies and embrace new business models better suited to their unique circumstances.

 

  
* Some capital projects are for land acquisition and restoration – particularly in the environmental field. However, this toolkit is focused on capital grants for facilities, including new buildings and renovations.

Image of the Summit Bechtel Reserve courtesy of MASS Design Group.