Capacity Programs


ATLAS, is a Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust program designed to increase the operational capacity and organizational resilience of select nonprofits in Maricopa County. ATLAS is a stage-based approach to building capacity and developing organizational resilience. Dr. Susan Kenny Stevens, founder of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute, designed and developed ATLAS in partnership with Piper Trust. The ATLAS framework considers that organizations at various stages of development have different capacity needs—this is known as the “life-cycle approach” to capacity building. For example governance, management, financial, and human resources systems present challenges requiring discretely different strategies at each stage of an organization’s development.

ATLAS assesses organizational operating capacity, addresses current critical challenges, and facilitates development of a plan to move forward. Participating organizations assemble a leadership team which is assisted by a specially trained organizational lifecycles consultant supported by Piper Trust. The consultant guides the team through a highly individualized program designed to strengthen the organization. In addition, participating teams join a cohort which provides a robust peer learning experience. Participating organizations also receive $100,000 in grant funds to support organizational sustainability and capacity improvements. Leadership teams of ATLAS organizations may also join ongoing facilitated peer learning that continues beyond the two-year program term.

Participant selection is based upon a number of factors including: the critical nature of the organization’s services, requisite staff and board for a sufficient leadership team, and the organization’s current lifecycle phase. Selection for the program does not imply the need for capacity building, but rather reflects the Trust’s confidence in an organization and its team.

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The Embracing Disruption Cohort is a 15-month virtual cohort program developed to support organizations as they navigate the ever-changing environment through a Lifecycles approach to organizational development.  Based in the Nonprofit Lifecycles model developed by Susan Kenny Stevens, PhD., this program is designed to host 5 organizations through a brief self-assessment, planning process and capacity implementation period. While similar to POWER and ADVANS, the Embracing Disruption Cohort program focus is building organizational resiliency in the ever-changing environment.

The program design uses similar concepts from the ADVANS and POWER programs developed under the direction of organizational consultant Dr. Susan Kenny Stevens. This “meet them where they are” approach is known as the Lifecycle Approach to capacity building. The Gifford Foundation launches this new capacity building initiative with lead consultant, Jennifer Bonnett, MPA, CLCC, CEO & President of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute.

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