The Nonprofit Capacities Instrument

Michelle Shumate, Katherine R. Cooper, Andrew Pilny, Macarena Pena-y-lillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Nonprofits are guided by internal efforts and external mandates to build capacity. However, scholars and grant makers are hampered by varied definitions of the concept, competing but untested models, and the lack of a reliable and valid measure. This research defines nonprofit capacity as the processes, practices, and people that the organization has at its disposal that enable it to produce, perform, or deploy resources to achieve its mission. An inductive-confirmatory two-study approach introduces and validates the Nonprofit Capacities Instrument, a 45-item measure of eight nonprofit capacities derived from existing instruments. The capacities are (1) financial management, (2) adaptive capacity, (3) strategic planning, (4) external communication, (5) board leadership, (6) operational capacity, (7) mission orientation, and (8) staff management. Intriguingly, this research demonstrates that nonprofit capacity is not a singular or second-order concept, but better described in its plural form, nonprofit capacities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-174
Number of pages20
JournalNonprofit Management and Leadership
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ari Sahagun for her help with data collection during the last year of the project and helping compile a portion of the literature review. This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-1264417). This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • instrument validation
  • nonprofit capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management


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