Capacity building and support beyond funding 

Reducing individual grant barriers is crucial, but Lucille Dabney, president and CEO of PACE, notes that organizations serving Black communities also need funding for capacity building. This refers to money that helps an organization grow, become more efficient and provide support or consulting to help build skills at smaller organizations.

Lucille Dabney

Lucille Dabney. Photo courtesy of PublicSource.

“We have to take the focus off the nonprofit who may have a great fundraising staff,” Dabney says. “We have to look first in the communities in need, see what those communities need and who is there, who is positioned and who is accessible to those communities in order to be able to help improve those communities.”

PACE’s 2020 study found that one in seven nonprofits that serve white communities in the region received capacity-building support, compared to the one in 20 nonprofits that serve communities of color that receive capacity-building support.

McMurray says The Pittsburgh Foundation is working on making sure they are doing more than just funding organizations but also providing support and resources throughout the process through their “more than money” model. This includes asking organizations what they are lacking and trying to provide support, which can range from technical skills and infrastructure development to operating support.

While philanthropic organizations are taking intentional steps toward equity, PACE’s research shows that broad disparities still persist, with a result being that some communities lack significant improvements in their health and well-being.

Pete York, a principal at BCT Partners and the lead researcher of the PACE report, says a key lesson is that foundations shouldn’t stop at making grants available — they need to recruit organizations that serve communities most in need.

“Be willing to work with those organizations, in spite of the fact that they may not be as strong as the ones that are on the surface,” York says. “The reason they’re not as strong is because they’ve been ignored.”

*PublicSource receives funding from The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Hillman Family Foundations, the R.K. Mellon Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

Danielle Cruz is a PublicSource editorial intern. She can be reached at

This story was fact-checked by Punya Bhasin.