An organizational capability statement can be a vital tool for business development, networking, and partnership formation among international development organizations. Especially if you are seeking subcontracts, you will want to have a polished capability statement on hand to share with potential prime partners (i.e., those directly receiving funding from USAID). Read more below to find out why this tool is so valuable and to learn how to write one for your organization. We’ve also provided sample templates and examples to get you started creating your own capability statement.
What is a capability statement, and why does my organization need one?
Your capability statement is like a personal curriculum vitae (CV) or resume for your organization. It summarizes your strengths, skill sets, and experience and helps to set you apart from competitors. Your capability statement is a gateway to your organization that you can share with prospective partners, including potential prime organizations. Similar to an elevator pitch, your capability statement is an efficient way to communicate how your firm can add value to international development activities. Capability statements also are often a required element (usually referred to as a capacity statement) in USAID solicitations and also can be useful to have available at USAID Industry Days. While your statement should be tailored for every opportunity, having a baseline capability statement on hand will save you time as you develop proposals.
What information should I include in my capability statement?
While the exact headings will vary, a typical capability statement usually contains the following general sections:
Organizational Information: This section typically includes a brief (1-2 sentence) overview, including your tagline, mission, vision, history, staffing, revenue, and any geographic focus. You should also include basic contact information (contact name, address, phone number, email address, website, and social media), as well as common federal codes. If you already have your System for Award Management (SAM) Universal Entity Identifier (UEI), it is good to include on your statement. This preparation will show that you know the registration process and that you “speak the language” of federal funding.
Core Competencies: Include a short introduction with bulleted keywords. Remember, “core” is the focus. You don’t need to include everything your organization can do, just the key focus areas related to a particular development opportunity. Focus on those core capabilities that relate to the work that USAID is doing. You can learn more about USAID’s priorities in your country and sector by reviewing USAID’s Country Development Cooperation Strategies.
Past Performance (and Partnerships): In this section, you should list relevant experience on related activities. Include the name of each organization or donor that you worked with, the dates, and a short description of your impact or outcomes. If your organization is new, you can list the relevant experience of key staff. Once again, “relevant” experience is what is important here. Only include activities that are related to the project you hope to support.
Differentiators: This section is one where you can make your organization sparkle! Describe how you will add value to the activity of the prime partner or USAID. Make an argument for what sets your organization apart from the competition, whether it’s specialized expertise, technologies, or even softer skills and abilities. Ensure that the differentiators you identify relate to the anticipated needs of the specific organization you seek to engage.
What should I know about writing my capability statement?
First, keep it short. Most capability statements are 1-2 pages, but some can be longer, especially if they include photos and other visual elements. Remember that potential business partners will likely skim your statement, so use bullets when possible. Review your text to ensure that it is lean and concise and that it uses keywords that are familiar within your sector. Do your research by exploring the language and keywords used in your sector by reviewing documents like the USAID Country Development Cooperation Strategy for the country where you seek to work.
Second, know your audience – and your competitors. There are typically two audiences for capability statements: (1) USAID staff evaluating proposals, which could include individuals from technical or management offices, and (2) potential prime partners. Before you write, assess how other organizations – your competitors – talk about themselves and their work. Your capability statement should illustrate how your organization could bring unique skills and abilities to an activity, or how you could complement the skills and abilities of a potential prime partner.
How should I format my capability statement?
Your capability statement should be visually appealing and well-branded. Make sure to feature your logo and branded color palette along with any images or graphics that describe your work. It’s worthwhile to consider hiring a graphic designer to develop an attractive design, but if your budget is limited you can utilize and modify templates. Finally, save your statement as a PDF with a file name that includes your organizational name.
Where can I find a capability statement template?
Professional graphic design is always best for a high-profile document like a capability statement, but, to get you started, we have created two basic free one-page templates that can be downloaded and modified for your organization’s use until you can have your statement professionally designed. Even these templates, however, should be modified to include your logo, as well as your branded fonts and color palette. (Please note: These templates are offered as a helpful starting point but do not guarantee applicability to individual situations.)
Should I modify my capability statement depending on whom I’m meeting with?
Absolutely! Just like a CV/resume, it’s essential to make sure that your capability statement is tailored for your audience and their needs. Keep a folder or database of capability write-ups for different audiences so you can easily refer back to which statements emphasized which aspects of a project. Just ensure that you proofread your statement thoroughly every time you make changes!
Where can I find examples of international development capability statements?
Below are some examples of international development capability statements that stood out to us. That said, each statement will differ, depending on the organization’s profile and intended audience.
For more information on developing capability statements and using them as a tool to develop partnerships, visit USAID’s “Building Strong Sub-Partnerships” training module.