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How Does the CCAT Work?

Built on decades of experience and research in capacity building, the Core Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT) measures a nonprofit’s effectiveness in relation to four core capacities—leadership, adaptability, management, and technical capacity—as well as organizational culture. In addition to your organization’s capacity scores, the CCAT determines your organization’s lifecycle stage, a development indicator that helps you identify and prioritize the most important areas for your organizational growth.


How do organizations take the assessment?

The CCAT relies on the input of senior leaders at your organization. Senior staff and board members familiar with how your nonprofit operates are invited to anonymously complete an online survey. No preparation is required and the survey takes approximately 40 minutes to complete.

Once all participants complete the assessment, the CCAT synthesizes the survey data into a detailed findings report that you can download. The CCAT report is designed to help your organization identify its strengths and target its areas for improvement. It includes an analysis of your organization’s performance across the four core capacities and your organization’s lifecycle placement, along with personalized recommendations to help address key challenge areas. See a sample report.

Once your nonprofit has completed the assessment, you’ll be invited to schedule an interpretation session with a certified facilitator. During this conversation, a facilitator will guide your leadership through the report to contextualize your results and identify where to prioritize building capacity.

The Core Capacity Model

Based on decades of research and many large-scale evaluations of capacity-building initiatives conducted around the country, TCC Group has identified four core capacities that all organizations need to be effective: Leadership, Adaptive, Management, and Technical capacities.

The Core Capacity Model include Leadership, Adaptive, Management and Technical capacity.

The core capacity assessment model also assesses a measure of organizational culture, since the unique history, values, and beliefs of each organization have a significant impact on each of the above core capacities.

The CCAT is a statistically validated tool that applies this model to assess your organization’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities. It assesses nonprofits on 5 to 11 sub-capacity areas within each core capacity. For more on the theory and development of the Core Capacity model, see “Navigating the Organizational Lifecycle: A Capacity Building Guide for Nonprofit Leaders” (2006) by Paul Connolly, a joint publication between TCC Group and BoardSource.

Determining Your Lifecycle Stage

Nonprofit organizations, like people, experience a lifecycle of progressive stages and developmental milestones. A nonprofit’s lifecycle stage contextualizes its capacity building priorities and guides the development of a capacity building plan to move an organization through this cycle. Continually advancing through lifecycle stages allows an organization to maximize its effectiveness and avoid stagnation. TCC Group labels the growth stages according to three milestones of organizational development: Core Program Development, Infrastructure Development, and Impact Expansion.

Every nonprofit that takes the CCAT receives a lifecycle stage placement. An organization looking to advance in its lifecycle stage needs to build certain capacities—the CCAT report identifies these precise capacities and makes recommendations to move your organization to the next lifecycle stage.

Benchmarking effectiveness within the nonprofit landscape

A uniquely valuable component of the CCAT process is the option to benchmark your CCAT scores alongside peer organizations. All participating organizations have the option to download their CCAT report with comparison information using the data TCC Group has collected from thousands of organizations who have taken the CCAT. This comparison report allows a nonprofit to benchmark its effectiveness across organizations of similar geography, budget size, service sector, and/or type of programming, providing valuable insight into where an organization fits within the landscape of its peer organizations.

Ready to get started?

Purchase the CCAT


For Funders:
Learn more about offering the CCAT to support your nonprofit partners

For Consultants:
Learn more about becoming a CCAT Certified Facilitator

Questions? Contact us at or visit the CCAT Help Center.

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