The Lab Capacity Building Program

Ensuring nonprofit leaders can innovate and succeed

The Lab Nonprofit Capacity Building Program is a seven-month leadership and innovation program intended to accelerate new ideas in the Sacramento region's social sector, build nonprofit innovation skills and capacity, and strengthen and support nonprofit leaders so that impact-driven organizations are maximized to their fullest potential for communities to benefit and thrive. 

The Lab was launched in 2019 after a needs of assessment of local nonprofit stakeholders revealed that a significant number of nonprofit leaders feel isolated in their roles, struggle to diversify their governing boards, and lack the resources to build capacity in their organizations. In fact, 38 percent of respondents reported their operational needs are not being met—that is, they do not feel equipped with the appropriate resources and skills to fulfill their organizations’ missions and respond effectively to our community’s needs.

The Lab provides a hub for established and emerging leaders from local nonprofits to innovate and problem-solve. The program’s curriculum is a rigorous undertaking for cohort participants. Each cohort is made up of Executive Directors and emerging leaders from organizations serving the Sacramento region who attend sessions every month to identify and address a specific challenge that has stymied their organization’s ability to increase its community impact.

The Lab is a seven-month cohort model, and it is offered at no-cost to the nonprofit leaders who participate. The program is divided into two separate focus areas:

Leadership Development

We believe that in order to truly embrace the innovation process, leaders must prioritize growing their inner capacity to lead and navigate change. By integrating leadership development group curriculum and 1:1 sessions with an executive coach, we provide the space and the tools for leaders to embrace the changes that will take place as a result of the process.


We create space and support for leaders to innovate solutions to barriers they encounter in their work — and leverage opportunities. We work with participants to understand their target audience, clarify underlying challenges, rapidly develop prototype solutions, test those solutions, analyze test feedback and data, and use the data to improve the prototype.

Members of the 2019 cohort

The Lab aims to maximize the potential of impact-driven organizations so that local communities benefit and thrive. 

Learn more about the application

As a result of this curriculum, past participants have noted that they are better able to collaborate with their own leadership teams, they are more motivated to grow their leadership skills, they have stronger peer network, and that they are better equipped to generate solution to their organization’s challenges.

"Most leadership development programs cater to an individual, rather than an organization. Experiencing The Lab together with my organization's emerging leader — being able to learn about ourselves and each other as individuals and leaders, while also working through organizational challenges with input from other community leaders — has been an awesome experience."

— Tara Taylor, Founding Executive Director, Single Mom Strong 

The fourth cohort of The Lab is comprised of leaders from Capitol Creative Alliance; Davis Arts Center; Food Literacy CenterGreater Sacramento Urban LeagueMeals on Wheels by ACCOrangevale-Fair Oaks Community FoundationProject Optimism, Inc.; Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera; Sacramento Youth Center; Unseen Heroes for Creative Community Development; and WEAVE, Inc.

Meet the Fourth cohort

Participants of the 2021 Cohort
Participants of the 2021 Cohort

The third cohort of The Lab is comprised of leaders from: Breathe California Sacramento Region; Center for Land-Based Learning; Hmong Youth and Parents United; Mandarins of Sacramento Inc.; Meristem; NAMI Sacramento; Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates; Sacramento History Museum; Sierra Service Project; Single Mom Strong; and The GreenHouse


  • “[It was valuable for me to] learn from other heart-smart leaders about the joys and successes of their programs, and how they overcame challenges… [I am hopeful] that we will continue to come together long after the Lab is over, so that we can support each other in our similar efforts for years to come.”
Participants of the 2020 Cohort

The second cohort of The Lab is comprised of leaders from: American Leadership Forum - Mountain Valley Chapter, Cristo Rey Sacramento, Headwaters Science Institute, My Sister's House, Organize Sacramento, RISE Incorporated, Sacramento ACT, Sacramento Splash, Teach for America, The Library Of MusicLandria, Women's Empowerment, Yolo Food Bank, and Yolo County Children's Alliance.


  • “I have a desire to pass these insights along to my team and create an environment where they feel genuinely heard, respected, and encouraged to act from a place of courageous authenticity.”
  • “The Lab helped me see the big picture through a clearer lens. I feel as though I have more structure and authority around making positive change in the workplace and pushing for progress in creative ways.”
  • “The sustainability and growth of [my organization] is beyond important to me, so gathering practical skills/techniques and perspectives to ensure that my organization thrives (even through a pandemic) is absolutely key.”
  • “I became more aware of how my external environment sees me as a leader and where I have room to develop.”
Participants of the 2019 Cohort
Participants of the 2019 Cohort

The first cohort of The Lab is comprised of leaders from: 916 Ink, Alchemist Community Development Corporation, Capital Stage, CAIR Sacramento Valley, CLARA - E. Claire Raley Studios for Performing Arts, Health Education Council, Improve Your Tomorrow, Rebuilding Together Sacramento, and Sacramento SPCA.


  • “Working with other nonprofits to explore new ways to infuse innovation and impact into the region’s nonprofit sector is an exciting opportunity. We are generating new ideas for collaboration and for measuring impact as we move through The Lab, expanding our vision for creating change in Sacramento communities.”
  • “The Lab has been a premier catalyst to my personal and professional growth.”
  • “I feel more energized after meeting with a group of wonderful, giving people who are trying to make this a better world...It is reassuring to learn that we all struggle with similar challenges.”
  • “I think the greatest benefit has been the opportunity to get away for a day each month to reflect on the organization and strengthen my relationship with my emerging leader. The conversation with the emerging leader and sharing a commitment to the organization has been invaluable."

The Lab is coordinated through a partnership between the Foundation and Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies.

For questions about The Lab, contact Monica Haulman, Senior Program Manager, at



Throughout the year, the Foundation launches competitive grant opportunities to fund the worthy work of local nonprofits. For the most current information for each granting programs, view our Grants Calendar and sign up for the Grants Registry.

View the Calendar and Registry