Comprehensive Organizational Assessment & Reports (COAR) Grant Program

The goal of the COAR program is to strengthen nonprofit infrastructure and leadership.  Nonprofit organizations grow and mature through a series of stages in their life cycle – from “simple” at start-up through a “moderately complex” growth stage and on to a “highly complex” organization.  One type of capacity building is the organizational assessment. The organizational assessment provides a systematic analysis of the current state of the organization in its key capacity areas.  The assessment can help nonprofit leadership and staff take an in-depth look at where the organization stands in its developmental journey and how it can improve its management and governance practices to sustain and grow its work in the future.  Moving successfully through the lifestyle stages requires that organizations not only operate its programs well, but also continue to strengthen other aspects of infrastructure – from board and human resources to fundraising and planning.  The assessment evaluates strengths as well as areas that need improvement.   This work sets the stage for the board and staff to lead the organization to the next level of growth and development in the future.

MMF approaches this work through a systems-theory lens. With the help of a specially trained cohort of consultants experienced in organizational development, the MMF Comprehensive Organizational Assessment & Report (COAR) grant program is available for agencies serving any one of the MMF focus areas, even if not previously funded by MMF. These are shorter (4-6 months) capacity building projects designed to jump start change.

The COAR process includes

  1. Preliminary interviews with board chair, Executive Director, and senior staff
  2. Other interviews as needed
  3. Financial analysis to determine financial health
  4. 360-degree evaluations with peer or colleague organizations to determine external perception
  5. One 3 -4 hour-long full group interview with key stakeholders

The Report identifies

  1. Key strengths and competitive advantages
  2. Organizational challenges
  3. Areas of opportunity
  4. Recommendations for strengthening management, governance, and operations

From the assessment process and report, the agency will have a sense of the functional areas in which it is strong and those areas which inhibit its effectiveness in accomplishing its mission. In addition, the organization's stakeholders are more likely to be prepared to engage in the planning process because they were involved in the assessment process.

Some of the systems-based information learned from the assessment process includes:

  • How does the organization learn?
  • How does the organization make decisions?
  • How is the organization situated within the sector?
  • How does the organization respond to outside influences?
  • What phase of development is the organization in and what are the stories it tells about itself?

MMF Cohort of Consultants

Having the right consultant is very important to the project’s success. Consultant “fit” with the board and leadership staff is required to build trust and confidence in the capacity work ahead. Once the application is approved, the grantee organization will be matched with one of the MMF’s COAR consultants. The MMF COAR consultants are highly experienced professionals with demonstrated proficiency in organizational development and system-theory based approach to conducting assessments.  

Key Responsibilities of the Consultant and Executive Director

The Executive Director is responsible for overseeing the project, updating the Fund on the work’s progress, paying the consultants and submitting the final report(s) at the end of the grant period. At the first few meetings, both consultant and executive director will establish clear and specific expectations and communicate freely to maintain open, honest communication.

It is the responsibility of the organization’s Executive Director to ensure the stated expectations with MMF are met throughout the consulting process and that the desired outcomes are produced. The executive director is responsible for arranging the interviews.  Further, the executive director should provide consultant with all necessary phone numbers and addresses for interviews as needed and verify who will schedule group and smaller interviews.

The MMF Consultant is responsible for managing the project’s timeliness for all agreed deliverables. The consultant will provide a professional notetaker during group interviews to help capture important shared information.  To ensure that information shared with the consultant remains confidential, the MMF staff will refrain from discussing details of assessment learnings with the consultant.  MMF will receive a final executive summary from the grantee organization after the project is complete. Both grantee organization and consultant can terminate the contract if its determined necessary by either consultant and/or organization. The Fund should however, be notified in advance.

COAR Capacity Building Grant Application Requirements

  1. Before applying, the nonprofit leadership staff and board should first discuss the organizational readiness for the assessment process, grant purpose, expectations and process and timing for requesting and implementing the capacity building project.  It is highly recommended that you reach out to MMF staff in advance of applying.  
  2. Applications for COAR Grants are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.  A preview of the application form is available here.
  3. Eligible nonprofit organizations must have been in operation for at least three years and have annual revenue of at least $75,000, excluding in-kind donations and services.
  4. Applicants DO NOT have to be a previous grantee, however they must be able to demonstrate that a significant percent of services offered are aligned with any one of the MMF Focus areas:
    • Older Adults Living Independently - Placing a high priority on providing services to older adults, ages 65 and older
    • Immigrants & Refugees
    • Human Trafficking Prevention
    • Veterans - Placing high priority on providing services to post-9-11 veterans
    • Advocacy & Coalition Building
  5. Allowable funding for the COAR grant program is up to $9,000 which is restricted to pay the COAR consultant and note-taker expenses.
  6. Decisions on COAR Grants are generally made within six weeks from submission.
  7. Tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  8. Located in Greater St. Louis Bi-State Region (7 counties in Illinois and 8 counties in Missouri)
  9. Submit a final status report within 30 days of the end of the grant period (preview of form here).