“Innovate or die” has been the catchphrase of the 21st century and its applicability extends far beyond the corporate and commercial realm. Not-for-profits also reap the very real benefits of innovation.
One10 founder Geoff Gourley offers insight into the wide world of innovation strategy and tips for embracing its power.
Quite simply, with an increased playing field, innovation is the area where not for profits find the opportunity to engage an audience, embrace stakeholders, elicit funding and deliver in new ways.
With the end of year looming, now is the time for NFPs to look to innovation and strategic planning for 2018, so here’s a little insight into the wide world of innovation strategy and the tips for embracing its power.
It’s little secret that technology has driven major changes in the way we purchase, consume, and even live our lives over recent years. For not for profits that shift has also seen a move away from traditional methods of raising awareness, attracting funds and operating day-to-day.
Where once a NFP may have relied on advertising, mailouts and telephone contact, they are now required to use innovation to attract a share of the donor wallet, while looking to new funding models and ongoing strategies that engage a changing donor demographic.
Meanwhile, the innovation boom is allowing NFPs to undertake tasks more cheaply, expand into new areas, attract new clientele, and lure great staff into the fold.
The importance of innovation
For the past three years the Giveasy Innovation Index has tracked progress in the not-for-profit sector when it comes to employing innovation.
They look at eight major areas of innovation: technology, internal collaboration, external collaboration, innovation focus, openness of culture/vision, organisational velocity, rewards/ recognition and stakeholder centricity.
The index found: “Organisations with innovation embedded in the heart of their culture continue to outperform their peers on all measures, most critically in their capacity to attract funding.”
But while funding is critical, it’s not the only area where innovation plays a role.
A solid innovation strategy can:
- hone the future vision of a not for profit;
- allow a not for profit to operate more cost effectively and efficiently;
- engage stakeholders;
- elicit creative thinking in staff;
- open up new services or revenue streams;
- speak to a wider audience beyond the traditional boundaries;
- allow for the new delivery of services; and
- enable a not for profit to better support the individuals, families and communities they serve.
The key factors of innovation strategy
Innovation isn’t just about harnessing new technology it’s about creating a vision within a not for profit that utilises innovative tools as part of forward-thinking strategy to drive an organisation into the future.
Critically, any innovation strategy must be tailored to the organisation at hand with key objectives in mind.
An innovation strategy should:
- reflect the vision of the organisation;
- foster involvement from stakeholders and staff;
- foster, recognise and reward creative thinking;
- outline future aims and objectives;
- identify key areas of improvement and the tools available to assist;
- incorporate an action plan and steps for achieving innovation aims; and
- identify more than one singular innovation strategy.
“Our results show that NFPs with an explicit innovation strategy improve innovation performance year-on-year,” the Giveasy Innovation Index notes.
“Looking to the future, innovation strategy will be what separates the leading edge from the rest, providing a sustainable advantage in the sector.”
Not a one-off
Importantly innovation is not a one-off event for any not for profit. It involves a consistent commitment to harnessing the power of the technology and cutting-edge tools that are available to assist in achieving an organisation’s aims.
Like a business plan or strategic plan, an innovation strategy will need to be revisited, honed and restructured over time in order to elicit the best ongoing benefits for a not-for-profit organisation.
In essence a good innovation strategy is a living document that enables a not for profit to structure their activities around technology and new tools via innovative thinking and culture.
Now is the time for not for profits to consider their innovation strategy for 2018.
About the author: Geoff Gourley is a recognised global social entrepreneur and impact investor, founder and chairman of Impact Investment Fund and One10. In his spare time he enjoys writing about impact, social enterprise and innovation.
Story first published in Pro Bono Australia.